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Info Central

Info Central contains information about growing and maintaining your computer environment. The three sections are:

These tips have assisted our clients in establishing and maintaining a positive computer & network environment. We hope you will find them as useful for you as we have for our clients.

Planning & Purchasing Computer Systems/Components


General Recommendations for our Clients

We do not think our clients should be on the cutting edge of the latest technology, but should be in the middle of the curve, buying tested technologies which will still have several years of usable life. Most hardware and software reaches a point where support from the makers is no longer available. Soon after that, it becomes next to useless to the user.

Shopping for the latest in good prices for hardware is not a good idea. We believe the firm should settle on one name manufacturer of computers and stick with them. Small offices do well with Micron, Gateway, and Dell. These are standard, Intel-based computers which use standard parts. Insofar as possible the computers should also be of the same generation. Studies show that the cost of the hardware in a computer system is somewhere close to one-quarter of the total computer costs; one quarter is spent on technical support, and one-half on end user operations. When computers are brought in one at a time, every 6 months, there may be savings on the hardware end, but the cost of transferring files, moving computers around, and re-arranging workspace can greatly increase the perceived lower initial cost.

We encourage several things:

  • Plan for each evolution of computer usage;
  • Stay a step or two behind the leading edge;
  • Don't shop for bargain basement prices;
  • Do settle on a standard in hardware and software;
  • Pay for what you use;
  • Designate an in-house technology partner and staff person; designate a back-up.
  • When new software is put on computers, (e.g. Internet research software) designate a few people who are interested, competent, and who have the time, to pre-test the plan;
  • Set up an on-going relationship with a trusted consultant;
  • Understand the division of labor between the consultant and the in-house people;
  • Concentrate on solving problems and helping users, not in finger pointing and portioning out blame

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Tips on Containing Costs for Companies

Maintain a good hardware inventory

  • Computers, monitors and printers should all have visible, non-removable company ID. (It is hard to keep track of a computer as "Jim's computer," or "Jim's old computer"; better to be "CPU #45.")
  • The inventory should match these ID's with real serial numbers, purchase dates, vendor names and phone numbers, and warranty expiration dates. (This may be one of the first things we help you implement.)
  • A complementary list should be kept that includes the purchase price. Duplicates of these lists should be kept off site, and up to date. You cannot collect insurance without this information.
  • Keep purchase files, or vendor files, available to track down information that does not appear in these lists.

Maintain a good software inventory

  • This inventory should include number of licenses, cost, and expiration dates of dated licenses.
  • It should also include setup routines for all software, the location of the setup programs, and the location of the data for each program. (Ideally, any reasonably knowledgeable person should be able to look at this list and install any program to any client computer.) Setting up this inventory is often a main component of our getting to know your computer system.
  • keep an "install" list. When a new computer is purchased, or computers are swapped, this list will be used to check off what goes on the computer. Organize it by groups as you wish your computer desktop to be organized.
  • Keep actual software, grouped, sorted and stored in a convenient place. Keep manuals grouped, sorted and stored nearby. Keep hardware manuals in the same manner. (It is very difficult to troubleshoot computer parts without the documentation for the part.)

Other basics

  • Make purchases yourselves: Pick one mail order house and have them assign you to your own account rep. They may not be the cheapest on every item, but it pays to have someone on your side when ordering items, to track down pre-purchase technical advice, to handle returns and research alternatives. After determining what is needed, place the orders yourselves. Using a consultant to make such calls and then bill you for the time spent is not cost effective.
  • Do your own research when possible: The more your staff can effectively do, the less the consulting costs, and the greater the knowledge you maintain in-house.
  • Designate certain staff as product specialists: Send them to training for that product and expect them to further train others in the firm. As part of staff review include a section of technology competence.
  • Implement and use trouble reports from users: Don't just depend on casual verbal reports. Insist on accuracy. Someone saying the computer crashed is not very helpful in troubleshooting. Who was at the computer? What were they doing? What was open? Was there an error message? Can this be reproduced?

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How-tos - Tips on using your systems well


Backing up: standard file locations

You should have a pretty good idea of where your basic documents are. They are the files you create using various programs - such as Word, Excel, WordPerfect, Quicken, Access, Exchange, Netscape, MS Internet Explorer. The files and documents that correspond to these programs should be in folders (sub-directories) which you, or the program, set up. The ones you set up should have names like Correspondence, Work, etc. which you should recognize and be familiar with.

Note: In newer, Win95/Win98 setups, the default place to save documents is in My Documents, under which may be many personally name folders.

If you have no idea where your documents are, or if you want to check, click on Start | Find | Files or Folders.

In the file titled "Named", type "*.doc" (without the quotes.) Make sure that the "Look in" field is pointed to your C: drive with no long path following. Make sure that the "Include subfolders" box is checked. Then click on "Find Now." Soon a new window will appear below the boxes you have checked. In this window will appear a series of "Names" that have DOC as their extension.

Put your mouse pointer on the line dividing "In Folder" from "Size" and double click it. The field holding the path will expand to let you read the full path. Your DOC files are in the folders at the end of the paths. Each of those folders should be on your back up list , unless they are sample or lesson files you don't need.

Open up your Explorer browser, and find the path you are looking at. Open up an Excel spread sheet and write down the various paths you have decided you want to back up.

Repeat the "Find Now" with other extensions you know.

Some extensions for common files

  • Excel worksheets are *.XL?
  • WordPerfect files are *.WP?
  • Quickbooks are *.QBW - usually under X:\qbooksw or X:\Program Files\Qbooksw
  • Quicken files are *.Qd? - usually under X:\Quickenw or X:\Program Files\Quickenw

If you have created your own list of extensions, be sure you collect them all in a list, and add to the spreadsheet you are creating (above.) Search for them and add their paths to the list.

The following are harder to find, and are often forgotten when creating backup lists:

  • Exchange files are *.ost and *.pst
  • Netscape files are in X:\Program files\Netscape\Users\NAME where "Name" is the name of the profile for one or more users.
  • MS Internet Explorer files are in C:\windows\Temporary Internet Files.

Once you have your list:

Once you have a good list of your important files you have to implement the actual backup in the backup program. Almost universally, once you have the backup program installed and go to Backup, there will be a way to expand a "tree" that shows your drives, folders and files just as using Explorer would. Typically, you click on a small box to the left of any folder or file to indicate it should be backed up. There should also be a cumulative tally of what you have picked. This number should correspond to your sense of what you are doing. If you think you have chosen 1,000 files, the tally should not read 10,000, etc. Finally, you click Start, or Go, or somesuch to actually start the tape whirring, and the backups recorded.

While you can set backup to go off automatically, be sure you are absolutely confident you have picked files correctly, and that the whole system is working. I would do a manual backup weekly just to be sure.

If you are working on a do-or-die project, one which missing files would loose you a job, or income, do not rely on one backup only. Use as a primary backup -for the critical files only-floppy drives, zip-disks, a 2nd hard drive, etc. Do such backups very often and perhaps keep sequential copies of those, or at least A/B copies. (Nothing is worse than diligently backing up only to find that the file had gone corrupt days before, and you have been backing up corruption, over good files.)

Finally, a backup is only part of the battle. Those files recorded on the tape will do you no good if you suddenly need them if you don't know how to restore them. Make sure you can use the restore module. Practice before it really matters. And periodically do small restores from recent tapes. Tapes go bad! Procedures go wrong. Don't wait until you are on the edge of cliff to check your parachute.

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Moving a custom Excel Toolbar from one computer to another

If you frequently use a group of customized toolbars sized and arranged on the screen in a particular way, you can save the configuration so that you don't have to redisplay and size the toolbars each time.
  1. Make any changes you want to the built-in menu bar and toolbars, and create any custom toolbars you want to save in the configuration. Then display the toolbars the way you want them to appear.
  2. Quit Microsoft Excel.
  3. In your Windows folder, locate the file named 'Username8.xlb', where username is your Windows or network logon name. If your computer is not connected to a network or not set up with a logon prompt, the settings file is named 'Excel8.xlb'.
  4. Rename the file, retaining the .xlb extension.
To use a saved configuration, use the 'Open' command on the File menu to open the renamed toolbars settings file. Microsoft Excel creates a new default toolbars settings file Username8.xlb when you next quit the program.
Note: If you cannot find the default toolbars settings file, another location for the file might be specified in your system settings. Please check these settings or consult your system administrator.

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Trouble-shooting - Help with solving computer problems


Troubleshooting Checklist

The following information is necessary to help isolate and troubleshoot problems. If you need to call technical support or ask a friend or systems administrator to help you, please be sure to know the answers to the following questions before asking for help:

  • The date and time of problem
  • Error message or problem (Please write the exact message, or as close as you can remember)
  • What were you doing right before the error message/problem appeared?
  • Have you ever seen this error message before? If so, when/how often?
  • Have you ever been able to complete the action that gave you the error message? If so, how recently?
  • Are you aware of any recent changes to your workstation? (New software, updated software, printer changes, new hardware, problems booting?)
  • Please rate the urgency of this problem from 1-10 (1=minor inconvenience, 10=major crisis)
  • Any additional information you think might be important?

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Re-setting a stalled printer

NT Server is queueing your print jobs, and the queue stalls.

From time to time a print job, or many print jobs, will stall. Nothing will come out of the printer, but the job(s) is/are visible when the appropriate printer icon is opened. At times you can pause the printer, delete the job, re-start the printer and life will go on. (We are talking about software controls not going to the printer itself.)
But sometimes this will not help. Here is what to do:
Go to the NT server queing the printers. Go to 'My Computer', 'Printers', and open the printer icon in question. Try there to pause, delete, re-start. If that does not work, pause again. Then go to 'Start', 'Settings', 'Control Panel', 'Services'. Inside services you will see a service listed called 'Spooler'. When that is highlighted, click on 'Stop' (at the right.) It will stop. Then click on 'Start'. This should clear the jammed job. Go back to the printer icon and re-start the printer, and the rest in line should print out fine.

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MS Explorer GPF

GPFs in MS Explorer, usually after transferrring files.

Apparently is due to MSVCRT40.DLL which is either over-installed or wrongly installed by another program.

Do a File Find for MSVCRT40.* and make sure that the copy in C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM is
* 319 kb, 5/31/98, 12:02.
If it is not, re-start to DOS and go to C:\Windows\System and rename MSVCRT40.DLL to MSVCRT40.old, then Exit.
When back in Windows, go to your original Windows 95 installation CD-ROM and do a search for MSVCRT40.dll. When you have found it, copy it to C:\Windows\System.
Do another search to make sure you did it right: that MSVCRT40.OLD and MSVCRT40.DLL are in C:\widows\system, and that the DLL has the proper date and size.
Re-start again and you should be o.k.

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Windows 95 & 98 hang after 49.7 days

After 49.7 days without a reboot, Windows 95 and 98 computers hang.

Full detailed description is available on the Microsoft site at:

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Issues & Concerns in Cyberspace


Privacy Issues in the Online world

The internet broadens the power individuals have to information and deepens the power to get information about individuals. For a good overview and introduction of the threats to personal information abuse in the brave new world, read the ACLU article.

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