A day in the life of a CyberMasochist- by Jonathan Reason

I still fondly remember my first "real" computer and how proud of it I was. A real, True Blue, IBM AT with 256k RAM and a 10 Meg hard drive. I also remember how scared I was of delving into the secret world of DOS 3. Still, with a little help from my friends and a subsequent purchase of an all singing, all dancing 386, resplendent with MS Windows 3.0, I thought I had really arrived. I soon started playing and rapidly formed an opinion, which I still hold as a truism:

You have to do something pretty bloody stupid to do any lasting harm to a computer.

Hmmm. If only I'd stopped there.

Soon I was doing things at the dear old command prompt that, only months before, I'd watched in awe as others performed such miracles.

Later--via Windows 3.1 and WfWg, and a Pentium 100 with more RAM than I used to have hard disk--I got bored with Windows and so I started looking around for something else to take to pieces and put back together (and then count the number of screws left over). And so I stumbled across Warp, which I now love dearly.

But soon (and I won't pretend I didn't know the moment would arrive some day) I found I could delve into the depths of OS/2's config.sys and twiddle and tweak without trepidation. And whilst I still had a lot to learn about Warp, I was generally unafraid of it.

Then, and I rue the day, I saw a posting about FixPaks, a phrase which still sends shivers down my spine. But being basically brave (read: foolhardy) and remembering my trusty truism, I downloaded FixPak 16 and was ready to set about the install when I read about the problems with it and decided to wait another week until FixPak 17 was available. In retrospect I think this was an omen. One which I duly ignored.

Cut to: One week later. Machine in front of me. Cup of coffee. Cigarette. Logged into Hobbes FTP site. I start the download.

Having spied the self-extracting versions in .exe format I decided these were the ones to get, rather than the zipped ones. Mistake number one. The first three downloaded well, but slowly. Numbers four onwards steadfastly refused to come when called. Another cup of coffee. Another cigarette. OK, so download the others in zipped format. No problem. Mistake number two.

Ten floppy disks worth of FixPak17 in one hand and a fresh mug of coffee in the other, I did a chkdsk/f on all drives before I started anything. All went well (another omen?). And so to the install--or so I thought. I read the read.me file (you see, some people do) and decided not to print the 72 pages. Mistake number three.

I also decided, for some unknown reason, to install from the command line. Perhaps I felt a little safer there. All went well, but rather alarmingly the screen did some very strange things. The message boxes didn't line up with the text that I presume was meant to go in them. I started thinking, "Here comes another reinstall," but that holds no fear for me now. After the first three disks the computer came to a grinding halt. An internal processor error.

But all was not lost. At this stage I could still boot to the old setup and retrieve the first three disks again, this time in the same zipped format as the others.

More coffee. Re-read the read.me. Start again. This time, I decide to install from the PM install application that comes with the FixPak. Perhaps this is safer after all. In go the kicker disks. In go the rest of the disks, one after the other. The text that was all over the screen before is now lined up in neat little boxes. I even managed to drink a cup of coffee, make a phone call and watch the install progress at the same time, proving I can multitask as well as Warp. I felt as if another milestone had been reached. But my feeling of well being was short-lived. For some reason disk 7 was not called for and so not used.

At last a little box popped up informing me that the install was successful and I should now reboot. I did. It lied.

Yes the boot time was quick, much quicker than it had been before. Unfortunately it only booted to a blank desktop and an error message (SYS 2070 WPPRINT -> PMSPL.616. Type help SYS 182 for more information). The problem was, I couldn't easily get to a command line to type "help SYS 182".

Ah. Well there's always the Maintenance desktop, isn't there? No, not this time there wasn't. Just the same error message.

Never mind, simply reboot to a command line, yes? No. My computer seems to dislike Alt-F1 boots. (I subsequently found out why--I was trying to press Alt and F1 at exactly the same time. You have to hold down Alt, then press F1, of course. I told you I still had a lot to learn. So much so, that during software upgrades the first thing I do is go to the Desktop Settings notebook and check the "Display recovery choices at each system start" checkbox.)

Eventually I managed to get to a command line using rescue disks, but typing HELP SYS182 shed little, if any light on my problem. Time for more coffee. Oh well, never mind, just reinstall and start again I thought. Wrong again. Out came the trusty Warp CD and the install went smoothly (I'm getting almost as well practiced at installing Warp as I had become at reinstalling Windows). Reboot. Same blank desktop. Same error message. Time to buy shares in a coffee company.

My OS/2 system is installed on drive D: which is an HPFS drive in order to keep it separate from DOS (Drive C:--FAT) and all the data and programs, etc. on drives E: and F:. So all I needed to do was to reformat drive D: and re-re-install Warp. Simple right? How can one averagely intelligent man be so consistently wrong?

By now it was about 5 o'clock in the morning, but I would not be beaten. Not by a mere machine. After reformatting Drive D: and another install, I sat staring again at the same old familiar error message, lonely on a blank desktop, sipping coffee nervously. Had my truism been proved a falsehood?

I discovered some time later that FixPak17 writes a file to the root directory of drive C: which tells subsequent installs the status of the current system level (even if you don't boot Warp from C:). Of course whatever I did to drive D: had no effect on this file.

It was at this time that I was glad I didn't completely wipe DOS and Windows. After a brief bit of culture shock trying to get back into the swing of the antiquated ways Windows tries to do things (I was right clicking on "objects"--Doh!), the members of the OS/2 Support forum on CompuServe suggested a fix. It appears that I was not alone with my problems. Apparently there is a DLL on disk 4 of the FixPak which the install routine does not update. By now I was willing to try anything, so I did. I unpacked the relevant library and, holding my breath, rebooted. And, wonder of wonders, into life sprang Warp, well and truly FixPak'd!

Do I like it? Yes. It's quicker. The SIQ fix doesn't seem to have solved the problem entirely, but it is an improvement. Was it worth the hassle? Well...

By the way, last week I had reason to reinstall Warp yet again because my PMMERGE.DLL seemed to be causing odd and erratic crashes, so I had to reinstall FixPak17. No problem. Straight in, no hangs, no copying odd files manually, it even used disk 7 this time. Hmmmm. Who ever said these things were just machines? This one definitely has a mind of its own. Perhaps it wanted its own cup of coffee. Java, anyone?

Jonathan Reason is a full time professional actor and as such has plenty of time to play with his computer. Casting Directors feel free to e-mail.

Send a letter to the editor.

Our Sponsors: [ScheduPerformance] [SPG] [Surf'nRexx] [BMT Micro]

Back to Contents |  Previous Article | Next Article

This page is maintained by Falcon Networking. We welcome your suggestions.

Copyright © 1996 - Falcon Networking