Help is on the way: OwenHelp that is....

The world has been waiting ... and now at last it’s here: a Windows help package for the rest of us. ... No idiotic half-an-hour compiles; no cryptic weirdo file standards. ... No sirree, owenhelp is for the common folk; use a harmless HTML editor like Kompozer along with the numerous supplied bizarre programs, and you will have beautiful help for your project — in a trice! ... For free! Like it says, BSD license. ... Do not be deceived; this is not that tricky Microsoft-style CHM html help which is it itself already obsolete. ... No this is a stand-alone help program — well it uses a Microsoft browser component I suppose, but it seemed to work in W98 through Vista — that’ll render your desired help for your software with just a few simple contortions. ... Including complete Delphi and C++ source!

As a special feature, the owenhelp package is supplied with Visual Basic Version 5 source for a demo project using the help. ... Basically your software would have to Winexec owenhelp with an argument or so, and then occasionally send it a file, like the demo does — and, of course, you have to write the original HTML help....

Also: Pure HTML Help

And then I realized I didn’t need no stinkin’ Owenhelp program! ... I made my little command-line indexhlp gadget produce an additional HTML “frames” version of the help, so you just shell your help with a few random HTML files. ... An example is provided, of course, in the supplied Visual Basic 5 demo program. ... And because it was so cute, in my precious OwenShow project — including the Linux flavor! ... And now with context-sensitivity! Right there in HTML+javascript!

So download the two-meg-or-so file here and try and make your users understand what you think you’re doing. ... And/or why not examine the thing itself, owenhelp’s very own HTML help?

— the public-spirited programmer
Friday, November 30, 2007 12:49 pm


How to Win32 RS232 in C++

Head over to http://sourceforge.net/projects/cx777es-rs232 and download Harold Howe’s program. It talks to some gadget I don’t know and I never compiled it, but his “comm.cpp” and “comm.h” along with my 16-bit (!) source I’ve been using for years seemed to compile OK in C++Builder version 5, with no stinking custom libraries or DLLs. ... It was all relatively painless! Aside from dumping/translating all my 16-bit port-level comm junk, the only changes I had to make were (1.) renaming my source from “.C” to “.CPP” — a generally good idea to flush-out bugs, and necessary to work with his TCommPort class — and (2.) commenting-out the Microsoftish “stdafx.h” include in his source. ... Howe explains his “object ... encapsulates the win32 serial port routines” and that’s exactly what it seems to do. ... Quite helpful and instructive....

I only bother to mention this helpful source because I went through 5 or six google pages looking for “win32 rs232 library” and finding the most astonishing drivel. ... I’ve used the Marshallsoft WSC4D library for Delphi since around 2001, but it costs money and apparently more money to upgrade and, really, just adding this source file was much more fun. ... Although I’ll doubtless stick with WSC4D for the ongoing Delphi projects. (But I changed my mind, and concocted a “Howe” DLL for a Delphi project q.v.)

— the ever-delving programmer
Monday, July 7, 2008 6:36 pm

Polaroid Land Camera Model 195; et al

Well I’ve finally gone ’round the bend; scrounging in the basement I found a nest of Polaroid cameras, and while the various obsolete SX-70-style machines — including an actual SX-70 — were charming, the fully-manual 1977 mostly-black-&-white model 195 whimpered at me. ... These are all the Donation of the Father, who in the golden distant days would wreak reality-challenging pointless magic with his Polaroid menagerie, and aside from the cameras, he left an assortment of film including 3 or four black & white 665 boxes with which the Model 195 took at least one beautiful pointless black & white image! ... I’ve been keeping the film in the attic refrigerator for decades, and finally thought I’d sweep it out — but instead reveled with the rediscovered cameras! ... However, all the film is apparently obsolete; the two kinds of color film for 2 or three kinds of SX-70ish things I had, and the 685 b&w and 668 color film for the 195. ... I think there’s a 669 that’s still available — wait, through the miracle of modern synchronicity, Renninger’s Antique Guide, 4/21/08, page 9, in an article by Linda Rosenkrantz, informs me “The Polaroid Era Comes To An End”. ... Sorry folks, that’s all: “the company has announced that it will discontinue production of its film”. So the pitiful little film boxes in my fridge are the end of their era. ... In the antiques bazaars of Pennsylvania, I actually came across some Spectra film in boxes for $4 each — but dated 1994, almost a decade older than mine! ... The web suggests there’s a maybe compatible Fuji film, but presumably not long for this vale of tears either....

And please note the up-to-date automatic flash I’ve attached to the 195, thus neatly defeating the whole total-manual point of the thing! ... And I must say, based on a random collection of ridiculously-outdated instant film, the black & white pictures I’ve taken look much better than the color things from the other cameras! ... Better detail, less washed-out. ... I suppose if you’re going to systematically abuse film, the b&w takes it better....

... Anyway, as usual I couldn’t figure-out how to open the thing, and today you lucky pilgrims you can download a 195 manual I eventually found in the basement and laboriously scanned, so the world may at last be safe for the Polaroid Land Camera Model 195. ... Right here (7 meg?) is the beautiful man195.pdf; and if you want the pictures as graphics files, I just recently found and so can you the astonishing xpdf suite at www.foolabs.com/xpdf/, which’ll extract from man195.pdf (and so many other PDFs) a wonderful assortment of graphics!

... A Polaroid of the Camera Guru

This admirable fellow was the old camera guru at a Long Island antiquery. ... Polaroids were a little nouveau for his area of expertise, and he was surprised when I claimed the film was no longer manufactured. Then again, I have only the antique magazine and the usual web rumors to rely-on, and Polaroid may relent or something. ... He joked about an antique picture of an antique camera guy, and I assured the assembled multitudes I wasn’t getting any younger either. ... And of course then he went unto Florida, and then the antique place itself passed from this vale of tears. ... And then I went to Florida....

Anyway, I took this historic portrait with probably the last few bits of 1200si film — an SX-70ish successor; there’s a little number “4” indicator that may mean there’re that many left, or maybe the fourth picture is next? ... Gee I thought I had a manual around here somewhere. ... Well a different manual says the indicator shows what’s left; so four more pictures probably, and bye-bye 1200si. ... This is my least-wrecked color film; the other stuff I’ve got is even older, producing uglier pictures; except as noted the elderly b&w film seems to survive much better....

www.the-impossible-project.com/

I suppose I should note that there is “The Impossible Project” which is reviving polaroids; or at least claims to be doing so. ... In the continuing patronage-of-the-arts program here in the attic, I have actually purchased two boxes of SX70 film, which provide the only film in the attic for that ancient device, beloved of the The Father. ... And it did take pictures; in a silverish black & whiteish, in general looking worse than any of the out-dated films I’ve used, including the color ones!

Fujifilm Instax Cameras

But then again in these latter days instant photography has arisen again from the dark with these incredibly-cute brand-new ~$100/$200 cameras and $35 film. And Polaroid’s back in the game, but not, of course, so cute....

— the jack-of-all-trades
3/16

Eico 379 Sine-Square Wave Test Generator

Continuing the pointless antiquities tour, I got two of these things in 1995 and, finally, I think, figured-out how to make them work! ... At least they’ve run now for a few hours at my hi-tech workbench area, and that’s more than they’ve done in the past. So the following are my hard-won imaginary insights....

  1. The set-up procedure in the manual seemed totally hopeless. The best part was the mysterious trimmer capacitor setup, on the ridiculously-huge tuning capacitor as per their illustration which I reproduce here. ... The actual trimmers have just a vague blueish tint where the solid black is shown....

  2. Then, on the lowest frequency range adjust R8 (download schem379.png ; but the board is marked) for maximum sine wave output; if you adjust it too much, the sine wave starts flattening; get it just short of that. ... There’s a little light bulb there that got brighter when I did this! — and this amazing phenomena was what started me on my latter-day Eico adventure, when I read about a tube circuit (“Waveform Generator” p 58 Radio-Electronics 7/56) which also had such a bulb! ... Just like my second ET-300 Heathkit Electronic Design Experimenter I recently attitude-adjusted! ... And apparently what Hewlett and Packard were up to in 1939!

  3. Goto a middle range of the switch and dial and adjust R16 — the other pot — for square wave symmetry.

  4. That seems to do as good as it gets. ... Note that there is no square wave output in the highest range — something I thought was broken for all these years until I finally got around to reading the sneaky hidden admission on the first page of the dubious manual. ... Which I must say on the last page has a lovely picture of the Eico factory in Brooklyn....

  5. One of my two units was still intermittent; I could tap on the case and the waveform would flicker. And then go off completely. I suspect a defective R8 pot; at least cleaning (oil, tuner cleaner) and abuse — I tried crimping it back together a bit with pliers — seemed to fix it.

  6. Another thing I did was remove the capacitor cage (three nuts on the bottom) and air spray the blades of the giant variable capacitor. ... I discovered that without the cage, the waveform’d spontaneously bump around. ... Truly an amazing design....

I was so enthused by all the excitement, I actually took my trusty Hitachi scope apart and sprayed the switches with tuner cleaner — something for which it’d been begging for years! ... So then I could distinguish Eico waveform jiggling from the scope’s amusing dirty-switch contributions!

— the psychologically-adjusted programmer
Monday, May 19, 2008 5:31 pm

P.S. Tuesday, June 3, 2008 1:10 pm. I gave ’em both a pop-quiz; you have to sneak up on ’em so they don’t know what’s coming, off the cuff as it were. So I plugged them into my pitiful antique signal tracer and heard the sweetly singing sine wave. ... So it’s a perfect setup fix.....

Owen’s Ignorant Guide to CD Ripping

ASCII: The big problem seems to be enforcing text/titles that aren’t bolixed-up with weird unicode or worse — i.e. that use only ASCII character codes. The admirable free freac CD ripper is almost perfect with a few quirks, but when I uncheck “Use Unicode filenames” it still manages to sneak in many foreign and weirder characters, seemingly from a wacko Windows code page of yore, but who knows. ... This, of course, confuses the heck out of the admirable free VLC MP3 player, at least after I create a playlist out-of the filenames with my primitive would-be ASCII tools. Which isn’t helped by VLC’s utter refusal to countenance “double-quoted” filenames, one of the typical ways around such annoyances, not without its own conniptions. ... So I had to gimmick the primitive would-be ASCII tools to rename the files to harmless real ASCII before inclusion into the playlist. ... And that’s all I know and, as I am fond of reminding my attentive public, so much more....

... This all on the sad occasion of buying my last Yamaha 5-cd changer. Note: (1.) the non-Yamaha units don’t work: can’t play some CDs, more so as the weary weeks or minutes pass; and (2.) the available Yamaha unit at amazon has risen alarmingly in price over the last year. So even I don’t need a weatherman, and I must rip my beautiful CDs to wretched audiophile-despised MP3s, the result already being far superior to the beloved CD changers....

“Bad” CDs

More than once, when a CD won’t play or in today’s case, rip, I’ve taken the thing out and could see nasty gunk on it! Usually on the outside circumference, i.e. the last track, I don’t know why, probably where I previously handled it. But I could clean it off with hand lotion, my fingers, and Kleenex — note that CDs aren’t like the previous inferior LP medium, and don’t keel over and die ’cause you touch them with your fingers. So I put a little dab of hand cleaner on the CD’s non-label side (where the music is) — I seem to be using Vaseline “total moisture” with Aloe; whatever — and then I rub the bad gunk with my finger + the good gunk until the bad gunk goes away, and wipe off the residue with the Kleenx. ... I mean, don’t do it when covered with chicken fat, presumably a previous fault, but if it looks reasonably cleaned-off in a bright light, that’s probably good-enough. ... And then the CD will play/rip perfectly!

30 Gigs full

So at last my precious 312 ~classical CDs produced around 29,357,421,589 bytes of beautiful MP3 data at the Freac “Standard, Fast” setting which as I have noted would no doubt make the audiophile’s head spin like that poor girl in The Exorcist. Around 94 megabytes per CD, or say 100 meg for government work. ... Not exactly chicken feed, but a test with naked “.WAV” files was 610 meg....

Distortion

But now I can listen to all my CDs, and some of them are wanting. The ones apparently made from ancient reel-to-reel tapes of historic organs, for instance; one of them had alarming tape noise, a kind of distortion I think they call it “head noise” where the tape physically binds on the head, and had so much of this I exiled it from the tribe! ... But even acceptable noise levels are still surprisingly high, particularly in my system where I compress everything so I can listen to the stuff at a more-or-less civilized level. And it occurred to me this is probably one of the reasons the unwashed audiophile masses thought the CD versions of their beloved LPs were defective: because the LP, like my snarling dogs fuzz box, masked noise, what with the typical LP clicks, pops, and frequently ridiculously-loud surface noise — which on the beautiful transparent CD version are totally absent, so the original analog tape noise and distortion are much more apparent....

Random?

We all of course want our selections to play randomly, at least I do, and we all suspect the player isn’t really doing it right, and so do I, of VLC’s random button. So I wrote randj so every playlist starts randomized as good as a cranky programmer could get it....

— the programmer-aesthete
Sun 5/25/14

Owen’s Ignorant Guide to Your Broken Home Ethernet

You have a home ethernet, at least I do, because the *(&^*^) wireless doesn’t work, as I learn over and over again in sorrow and hysterical anger. ... Please understand: the part where I talk to the world wide web and the starry internet through my beautiful Belkin or whatever wireless router — that works fine. It’s the “file sharing” which is totally broken....

Power Cycle?

Although I should note that my Belkin appreciates an occasional reset, which you accomplish with a cut-off toothpick or something in a little hole in the back. I used to do this every morning when I was trying to use it for file sharing, and then I neglected the ritual after my ethernet wiring triumphs. And one day after a month or so the wireless printer refused to print and the internet was slow until, after a shameful time in the wilderness, I remembered to reset the poor confused Belkin, and all was cured. Then the LOL suggested I should put it on a timer, so it turns-off for a bit every night around 3 am, and now the starry internet is ever so much more sprightly....[4]

However. ... The part where I talk to my herd of harmless cowering PCs and even a Mac, and look at their files, and stuff like that, on the wireless? ... That’s never cured, and only works when it feels like it, and even then it’s at least twice as slow as the beautiful ethernet that worked so well in the North and which I abandoned by necessity here in the Sunny South, devolving to the wireless only. ... And so I hired a “wire guy” to come and ethernet up our place; and so he did, and some of it worked: three of 5 circuits were gershtunk. ... Because I was stupid — actually I blame it entirely on my beloved and her impetuous ways — but anyway I didn’t have my cable tester gadget unpacked yet and that was stupid, exactly what I warn stridently against below.

Wire guy versus giant cables strung around the house

By “wire guy” I mean any supposedly-professional installation, instead of stringing ethernet cables around the house. I’ve done it both ways now as Judy Collins so memorably warbled, and the ethernet cable sprawl is immensely easier. Uglier to be sure, but easier. Of course you probably would test your professional installation before paying the guy; I’m comparing the two approaches including the difficulty of fixing the professional installation which is inevitably higher, i.e. unscrewing the wall plate and doing horribly-complicated ethernetty things, versus replacing a cable. (Then again, in 2016 powerline ethernet actually worked — twice!)

So the following is just a mish-mosh of stuff I think I know and/or learned in the last few minutes about this annoying topic...

Switches/Routers

All these ethernet “cat5” “RJ45” cables are plugged into computers or, more likely, switches, which can be had for $10 at amazon these days[2]. The switches have blinky lights on the front whose purpose I was always a little vague about, since they typically all blink together without any distinction made between one circuit or another. Actually I lie; frantic activity usually blinks two of the lights more frantically. But it also turns-out they are actually a useful diagnostic tool! Because they won’t light if your incompetent ethernet installer didn’t connect all the wires right and you never bothered to test before paying him. ... And some have special talents....

They Wear Out

And incidentally, these lovable little plastic switches do wear out after a few years. I mean I can feel they’re toasty, and they definitely fail, cunningly waiting for the most inconvenient possible moment. And if your ethernet, Heaven forfend, is anything like mine, you’ll have to execute cunning strategies to figger-out which one is flaking. The last time, I deployed a female-female ethernet plastic adapter to connect a crate directly, avoiding the switch; which proved the switch was unhappy, even ’though its little lights flickered as always....

The Numeric Ethernet & Abandoned Hope

Note that for your home ethernet to work, you must use numeric addressing. ... Or at least for mine to work; you could conceivably know more than me — gasp! — and know how to fashion a DHCP server ’n’ all. That is, I tell my crates that the interface for the ethernet card — usually the “unknown network” in a strangely appropriate memorial — well actually it’s “unidentified” but same difference — should use “fixed” ipv4 addresses, and then assign it one, with a “mask”. The beautiful Lenovo desktop I’m typing this on has a numeric address of 10.1.1.29, and a catchily-named “subnet mask” of 255.255.255.0. ... These of course can be checked with the glorious “ipconfig” command-line magic....

And incidentally, if this and the material so far makes your head ache and arouses a nameless dread, I’m afraid you are doomed to wireless; you are without hope and must live in whatever network hell has been assigned to you by capricious fate and awful destiny i.e. Microsoft.

(The Mac is Different)

... And make that your Windows ethernet; on my pitiful home imbroglio, at least with Apple’s latest OS-of-the-week, names worked better at least for a while — that is, to see my two Macs on the ethernet from Windows machines, I was better-off using their names instead of the numbers I relentlessly provided them. I’ve seen apparently-knowledgeable Mac writers endorsing the sacred utility of numeric fixed addressing, but that was probably 37 OSs ago. And of course after a few months or years, the Macs seem to work better with numbers again...

... Anyway, I’m pretty sure the numbers force Usux™ at least to use the ethernet instead of the wireless, since my superficial tests indicate it’s definitely faster that way, which was my original impetus to finally get this stuff going after a remote graphic file editing incident was infuriatingly tedious during particularly wireless-hostile barometric pressure or afrit traffic or something. But the numbers also provide a more-reliable address for your desired adorato, the names of which Usux™ just tends to forgive and forget, as per moon-phase and the Iron Rules of Mediocrity.

The numeric connection isn’t necessarily prompter than the wireless; just much more reliable — so far, once I abused Usux™ sufficiently and it was whimpering in the corner, not one has refused to connect, a common outcome with wireless file/drive access. Indeed, a failing shared by both wireless and ethernet networks; I developed a little menagerie of batch files to support numeric addresses before there was wireless, because Usux™ kept mislaying the named units on the ethernet/switched network. ... But there can be a typical 30-second or so Microsoft delay when I access a numbered crate, which is slower than the 15’’ it might take for a named wireless destination to show-up — or fail with fumbling excuses about how it “can’t find network path”. This delay is probably largely about what kind of cache the local machine maintains, of named and/or numeric addresses. On my Lenovo desktop for instance, the numeric addresses always come up instantly; my noticeably-defective HP crate is more comfortable with the Microsoft standard of arbitrary annoying delay. ... You pays your money and get a totally random result....

Thu 2/19/15. I’ve reduced the ethernet connection delay to unnoticeability by running a “loopnetview.bat” monitor constantly which rouses all my wandering crates every six seconds or however often it takes, which seems to get Usux™’s attention. And I must report that even in the all-new all-dancing Windows 8.1, the stupid Usux™ Windows still copies very slowly with a named presumably-wireless address i.e. “\\lenovo\n\something”, and much faster with numbers like “\\10.1.1.29\n\something”. It’s just the way Usux™ rolls[5]....

RJ45 Ethernet Fixtures

There are at least two kinds of little RJ45 ethernet female fixtures that can go in a wall panel: one of them has a “push down” block where you stick the wires so carefully carefully so they’re each in the exact right place. The other flavor is actually just a female-female RJ45 “coupler” with one end that snaps into the plate, and you would plug a manufactured ethernet cable into the other. These are scoffed at by pro installers, but make far more sense for you, me, and probably the pro installer, since the manufacturer has incredibly intelligent robots that put the wires in the right places with infallible certainty and competence. Of course you would test them beforehand. And of course the manufactured cables cost more....

That is, if you’re going to go through the trouble of “fishing” wires through the walls and all that, using a manufactured cable so you don’t also have to do the rigorous push-down discipline at least seems preferable. Note that manufactured cables come with an annoying “shroud” (as shown =>) and without (cheaper); the shroud is there so the plastic clip that locks the plug into its socket doesn’t snap off when you look at it wrong, which it infalliably will, without a shroud, usually within 2 or three minutes, although if you were fishing them through the wall it’d only happen when you got one end done after unspeakable toil and trouble....

As noted above, now that I have experience with the professional way, I think stringing ethernet cables around the house is more fun....

A Magic Potion

DeoxIT D100L “tweak” magic contact oil in a needle-nose bottle. A problem with using manufactured cables instead of heroically and incompetently rolling your own is it’s one more connection, inside the wall, to go bad. I buy the ridiculously-expensive DeoxIT product and use it lavishly on every electrical connection I expect to work twice. And it may even help!

Test You Idiot He Said to Himself

Test the ethernet connection!! My skilled professional installer used the push-down style RJ45 fixture, because he was a pro. And didn’t test it because I don’t know why; just incompetent like me I suppose. ... I’ve had one of these ethernet testers with LEDs for years — Amazon has one for $6 or something — and I was finally driven to actually use it and I could see that one or more of the 8 signals don’t light-up. The “pro” technical term for that is “broken”....

And as noted before, those seemingly useless lights on the switch won’t light unless the ethernet cable, if connected to a computer or another switch, is OK. And also, sadly, the ethernet tester OK itself does not mean the circuit will work; it’s a minimal requirement. ... The final test is always the Microsoft half-hour test; i.e. try to map a local drive to an ethernet computer, and if microsoft is peeved, it’ll hang-up and then fail after half an hour....

Tiny screwdriver time

A small flat-blade screwdriver. I had bought some of these push-down fixtures from monoprice.com, and it turns-out every one is like a snowflake, no two brands alike and mine weren’t like the ones the installer used, but close enough to see where I had to insert the screwdriver to press down the clip thing so the fixture’d pop-out from the plastic wall plate which I had unscrewed from the wall. Of course if the installer was a complete idiot, the attached cables will be very short and the whole project’ll fail and you can move on to the infinitely-preferable stringing-cables-around-the-house path. Our installer wasn’t that dumb; apparently just bad attitude....

So then I used the little screwdriver to pry-up the push-down clamp thingey on the offending connectors — there are two of these push-down connectors of course on every ethernet cable, on each end, and in the first assault I guessed the right end apparently, based on my vague memories of which he did last and hence least carefully — and bothered the tiny wires very very gently while watching the lights on the tester. Slowly slowly no hurry. And got it to work. Liberally DeoxITing it. Even if you don’t get all lights on the tester to work, if any turn-on as you wiggle the wires, that’s good because it probably means the actual cable’s OK — that the installer didn’t manage to terminally-abuse it snaking through the ceiling and walls — and you can try sticking one of these ridiculous fixtures on just like a pro which so far means it has a 50% chance of working....

On a second circuit, I successfully wiggled the wires on both ends! (Or thought I did). And got to appreciate the work of my professional installer; the cable was all twisted wrong and obviously in a hurry. It’s terrible, like seeing into his brain via shoddy workmanship.

... But maybe not such a great idea

But when I got all through weeks later, only one of the circuits I so treated continued to work; one failed and a third, wise in failure, I could’ve probably wiggled to maybe-functional, but it was apparently flaky and I arduously replaced both jacks....

Glorious Conclusion

And there you have it! All I know and so much more! ... Of course then you have to convince your Usux™ piece of indescribably-repulsive excrement to actually implement the numeric address peer-to-peer network it doesn’t want to. ... Although I have a helpful hint there: try and make sure you actually gave the computer you’re testing a numeric address, like I forgot to check for about an hour and a half. And for that matter, don’t mistake one of your cloud of computers for another, like I also managed to do....

Work, Home, and Public

Getting to see your stuff on the ethernet is a whole different can of microsoft. At the least you gotta tell Usux™ your public network is totally open and free to any comers! Here’s my Windows 7 recipe:

  1. Control panel. In the search field I type “ip ad” and it infallibly finds me “Network and Sharing Center” “View network connections”. That’s where you’d go to change the numeric address Heaven help you.
  2. But instead you treacherously click “Network and Sharing Center”. Then on the left “Change advanced sharing settings”.
  3. Which gets to a screen with two drop-down lists for “Home or Work” or “Public”.
  4. I click “Public” and then proceed to throw open the doors of networky! The top three items are set to the “sharing” liberal setting; and the bottom two to the less restrictive setting.

Why Public? This is the setting microsoft uses for when you idiotically connect to the public wifi in those internet cafes! It’s supposedly safe and restrictive and of course we’ll believe anything. Why does Usux™ force you to use this setting for your ethernetted crates? ... Couldn’t have anything to do with their deep whelming desire to get Mr. Businessman, a well-known ethernetting type, buying expensive servers from Microsoft? ... Oh No!, that would be so venal, how could I?!?!

I do hope you have a “Windows 7 Firewall Control” installed? And for that matter I try to remember to unshare my drives when I’m out and about (privilegednet share c /DELETE” & etc.). ... But then it’s Microsoft, the secret and sneaky. For instance you probably can’t see your ethernetted drives and files anyway; see my dangerous and almost certainly useless advice. ... And actually, once I found where the “public” settings hide, it’s not so hard to change ’em back and forth....

My Towering Triumph

I am now an Ethernet Master. ... Others may speak, and whine, but I know. ... Or any rate, I put one of the monoprice press-on cat5 ethernet jacks on the installer’s cable, after cutting his off — and the tester approved, and even microsoft! ... It is done. ... And the installer’s RJ45 jack wasn’t unique; the colors were apparently standard, and referenced on the monoprice jack, which has two rows of colors one of which matched the installer’s — both units had colors and numbers. The actual order of the numbers was different, the two fixtures weren’t identical; but the correspondence of the colors to the numbers and, hence, the cable wires, did line-up, so I could replace just the installer’s jack at one end, and not at the panel, which he presumably wired-up in the morning. ... Really it wasn’t so bad, as the poor fellow says in Slaughter House 5. ... Assuming the installer has left adequate cable to pull the thing out, and my installer did — no doubt familiar with his work — and the process of getting the wires in, while not easy-peasey, wasn’t like delicate soldering or something.[3]

... Ooops ...

And then bleak despair. My cheapo Trendnet router would blink slowly on the installer’s shoddy circuit, to tell me, in its speechless way, “something wrong’s master; the wires are restless”. ... I would not listen, or see of course, and marked it “broken” with scornful question marks and then replacement — until the stupid circuit repeatedly failed. And the cable tested AOK with the tester. ... So I went and replaced the RJ45 jack on the other end of the cable, at the central panel, and now it is perfect and will fail no more forever; until it does and I weep. ... Then again, as a test, I strung a regular decent manufactured cable as a replacement — two of ’em, with a coupler! — which worked perfectly of course. Generally affirming my string-the-cables-around-the-house preference; because when it fails, I’d just string another cable, and put my RJ45 tools away to gather dust. ... The point is, on installations of any size it’s expensive to use manufactured cables, and ugly and un-businesslike; but for a home install, who cares. ... And anyway, I have my doubts about how businesslike the continued addiction to guys with RJ45 tools really is....

& The Triumph of Numeracy

... To resume my gloatathon, I have a pitiful batch file “Loopnetview.bat” which I run every 5 seconds at least on my HP desktop in a pitiful attempt to keep in touch with the rest of the herd, and until the advent of my ethernetted numeracy, it never saw all of them once; not ever in the “net view”, but even in my cruder more-likely test, only after manual intervention — the manual intervention being a batch file which cycles the wireless off and then on, and then tries to copy a file to the feckless unit; this would raise the afflicted about 90% of the time. ... Since converting over to the ethernetted numeric way, Loopnetview sees everyone every time.[6] ... On some machines — notably my beloved HP desktop what I got moments before that lunatic CEO announced they were getting out of the PC biz — the first run, and occasional subsequent attempts, take the Usux™ official senseless delay to see some of the swarm — which is another reason I’ll run it on those machines — but once it gets going, amazingly all the pullulating crates stay connected! ... It’s astonishing! ... Of course at the same time, I changed the arcane ’n’ antique “workgroup” on all the machines from a miscellany of WORKGROUP and OEMWORKGROUP to the chauvinistic OWENLABS, so comparisons are totally bogus....

The numeric approach might also work with the wireless, except for the minor detail that the numeric addresses on the wireless are unknown to my machines, given out as they are via DHCP from the wireless router at PC power-on. They could be discovered probably by some tedious trickery, but the algorithm would always devolve to somehow getting hold of a machine through its name, which ability is not reliably supported by Usux™ networks. ... Anyhow, I’ve come to see that, obviously, networks everywhere, even Usux™, actually run by the numbers, like most computery stuff, and these silly names are just window-dressing so-to-speak, supplied to the microsoft victims customers through shoddy database junk that has been minimally updated since Windows 3.1. ... In grown-up systems, extortionate IT officials no doubt handle their own stinking DHCP servers, where everything is safely hidden from our prying eyes. ... Speaking of which, the ancient hidden relic \windows\system32\drivers\etc\hosts might be a way of associating numeric addresses with decent honest windows names, and the fact that Microsoft hides it with such awful invisibility, at least in Windows 7, is certainly an argument in favor of that suspicion. But I vaguely remember it was a favorite target of the earliest naked hacking savages, so perhaps we’d best let it be and in any case it’s so hard to get to I may have to....

The Long Nightmare ...

... is over? ... I wanted to note this auspicious occasion: a day has passed, and my home network still works. ... And later of course it’s worked for months....

The Installer’s Sins

And after a settling-down period and other intervening adventures, I realized that perhaps I have been too hard on the incompetent didn’t-bother-to-test “pro” installer (whose RJ45 fixtures I saw at Home Depot; but they didn’t sell testers!). ... While his work still doesn’t arouse warm “positive job recommendation” feelings, who can say otherwise? ... Certainly not me; and he did crawl into the attic, drop the wires into the walls, and cut-out and mount the boxes, all of which activities I still dread, and would doubtless accomplish with varying degrees of amusing and glaring incompetence. ... So he arguably did the harder part, now that I’ve mastered the monoprice.com “no tools” RJ45 fixtures; and he wasn’t expensive....

How Fast the Wireless: A Rag Confesses

And then in “Chronic Router Model 420” p 21 MaximumPC 5/14 in answer to a complaining reader the magazine blows the gaffe about wireless router testing: they admit they connected a PC to a router’s ethernet port, and then tested wireless download speeds from that PC’s hard drive. They’re actually testing the wireless speed, you understand; another PC has a wireless-only connection to the router, which connection speed they test. The letter-writer had very sensibly pointed-out that there were no internet connections in creation that came anywhere near the ridiculous speeds they quoted for the wireless. ... I had always vaguely wondered about that, but of course like most of us concluded long ago they were just lying about everything, like politicians, and what’s the difference. ... That MaximumPC would print/answer such a letter suggests that particular scam is becoming so well-known there’s little percentage in maintaining the usual wall of silence....

The racket of the 2nd part

Which brings us to the second part of the scam, still under high-def omerta: they barely mention which PC they use to test these invariably new new new wireless standards. Because my laptops and yours and practically everybody’s won’t connect at those high speeds. They refer so briefly to “a laptop with a dual-band Intel AC 7260 Wi-Fi card 15 feet from the router” no name no brand, although I assume the manufacturers happily supply them with the latest such for the usual puffery. That’s the racket of the second part — the wonderful magical high speeds can only materialize if you have the very latest PC with the right super “wireless card” along with the beautiful astonishing super-fast router. ... Which may be translated to the vernacular as “no such speeds exist in the real world”. ... The idea is to sell one of these things — always pricey of course — to a sucker and if he notices the scam, well they got his money once at least. Many of the fan boys will invest utterly in the deception anyway, and believe they are getting super speeds without any evidence since they only use it for the internet and as scam part one makes clear, that doesn’t go anywhere near that fast.

We of course are one of the suckers and bought one of the super routers, but we never got as far as noticing how slow it actually was, because it never connected at all — it was so super sophisticated and flexible and all. At least we got to return it indignantly to Amazon. ... The Belkin we then bought at Walmart connected right up, at least to the starry internet....

And the scammy MaximumPC didn’t even go into how they got their anonymous laptop to connect to the wireless for their tests; they almost certainly used fixed numeric addresses somehow; since the names don’t work.

The Wondrous TP-LINK TL-PA4010KIT Powerline Ethernet

Finally, to show how everything I know is wrong, apparently you don’t have to wire-up those ethernets no more! Instead, you can buy one of these kits for ~$40 @ amazon. Some bullet points:

  • You must plug them into a wall power outlet, or an extension cord, but NOT a “power strip”. Almost all of those have “surge suppression” circuitry to make your powerline adapter fail.

And of course not all power lines will work, either. It’s approximately random, but if you plug-in unit “A” in your living room and then try unit “B” next door, it probably won’t go. So it’s chancy. Because I am so canny and technical, my attempts succeeded flawlessly....

  • The kit comes with two of these things, and when I just plugged them into wall sockets, it worked. I told the Amazon review it was the first real plug ’n’ play I’d encountered in years. And a lot easier than hiring the wire guy or, Heaven forfend, doing it myself....

  • Then I wanted another. So I bought another kit which, it turns-out, gives me two more nodes I can use for wandering laptops or whatever, through the magic of the invisibly-labeled “pair” button. The general scheme is you press the pair button on unit A, the power LED flashes, and then you do the same on unit B. You do that with the original pair, and then do it again with either one of those, and a new friend. And so on....

The manufacturers of this wonderful device do not speak our common English, but the manual is written in a language a lot like English. It says “Press and hold the Pair button of Powerline adapter A for 1 second, the Power LED will start flashing”. What they mean is “press the Pair button for a second, then release it, and then the power LED will start flashing”. You do that on any two units you want to pair, and Bob’s your uncle. ... And it worked good with yet another wandering laptop of the past....

  • The connection turned-out to be a little cranky, but mostly in an anomalous way with some antique XP machines, and is presumably partly the magic and mystery of Usux™....

And I assume these things are actually slower than the top-notch ethernets which I never seem to have, and probably adding additional nodes slows them down even further. So if you’re planning on 4K video editing, you will be sad. ... I am happy happy happy, and feel gratifyingly-justified in my childlike faith in gadgets....

— the unutterably-amateur ethernet installer
2/16


NOTES

1. A typical batch file to map a network computer’s C: drive to the local drive G: might be called RemoteNo7.bat and contain “net use /PERSISTENT:NO G: 10.1.1.37\c” — but mine of course are immensely more elaborate and subtle....

2. A switch is the more likely endpoint of an ethernet cable because otherwise you’d have an ethernet of only two computers — there is no built-in thing for “daisy-chaining” ethernet devices one after the other. Also, the connection would have to use somewhere in its length a special “crossover” cable, because most computers are too stupid to do what switches do, which is automatically adjust for direction. And I see here at amazon there’s an innovative “crossover adapter” for a mere $7, so you can skip the cable. But it won’t work without the crossover; or, preferably, switches....

While I’m at it, I should mention that people sometimes think their ethernet should connect to the world wide web, by plugging-in a central switch to the cable modem which often provides ethernet jacks for this purpose. They probably think this because that’s the way it worked at beloved alma mater Moneybag$ U. which had hot and cold running ethernet + innernet. ... Indeed, we set-up our central panel next to the cable modem/router thingey to make this an easy option, although I blame my beloved leader — I’ve found I just want to connect my crates together without the web, using the ubiquitous built-in laptop wireless for that purpose, or a $10 usb wireless adaptor. The wireless actually works well that way, presumably because that’s why the multitudes get the things, + the cable modem service is generally slow-enough so it gains no advantage from using the ethernet, and finally I delude myself that I protect my innocents from the wicked web, although any half-way decent malware coming in from the dark shadows probably would think nothing of hopping across the local ethernet....

3. And then @ 4/15/14 a beloved laptop I had until then shared only via the wireless ’cause I didn’t want to trail cable all over the living room wouldn’t show up on my precious ethernet, when I plugged it in so I could copy something bigger than 37 bytes. Refused won’t talk deathly silence. And it was all the ridiculous “public” settings, and once properly/stupidly corrected, it lit-up like a charm....

4. Occasionally the timer seems to somehow fail to reset the Belkin — Halloween 2014 for instance — and while Microsoft pitifully tries to make a living flogging tablets and presumably cares less and less about those file thingeys I naturally suspected the end of civilization and the wireless file system, and went so far as to redeploy a wireless laserjet printer to a decent numeric ethernet connection which it happened to support. But then it all melted in the mist after I poked that stupid reset button again and I just don’t know anymore. The moral still is “doesn’t work” but still it worked much better after I poked the stupid reset, and abused my intricate batch-file numeric support system to make wireless filing more viable so my otherwise-pointless super-laptop could be used on the couch which of course should’ve worked before the second reset.... (But these days I connect the couch through the tplink.)

On the other hand, I note that whenever I power cycle the wireless router, the internet speeds up — when it should do the exact opposite, because all the local caches presumably got dumped. ... But no; sprightly & gay it is, once it gets wacked on its electrical frontal lobes....

5. But really, the name/number thing is so obvious! ... Usux™ gets its wireless addresses from the DHCP mechanism thoughtfully built-into your wireless or something and doesn’t from my inferior ethernet — ’cause I didn’t create one. So even when I connect “manually” to a specified numeric address, Usux™’ll prefer the official DHCPed thingey whenever I use the name; actually I don’t know that Usux™ even remembers the name of a numeric-addressed machine. It used to do that with the antique “workgroup” mechanism of Windows 3 I think, but of course Novell got kilt-off and they probably haven’t bothered for years....

6. My batch files running every few seconds, raising every computer in my pitiful ethernet, are essential, as I discovered in 10/16 when an ethernet switch went dead; like an incandescent bulb. After a few non-working replacements — I got to test the ones I’d retired previously, but weren’t absolutely certain were bad — I put a new one in its place and got to watch my “loopnetview” come-up in all its tedious glory ... a ceremony I normally neglect. It took about 10 minutes before it got going adequately, and even then one machine remained obdurate and sullen until I rebooted it. ... Oh wait that was just a windows 8 crate....