Tuesday, February 18, 2020

#WorkLife: HP LaserJet P1006 and other old hp printers on Windows 10

After upgrading to Windows 10, my HP LaserJet P1006 failed to work. The printer showed up in my printer list, however it would not process any print jobs. Technically, the queue would process it as if it were being sent to the printer (and thus disappear from  the queue), but the printer would never actually print the job.

Thankfully, I found a working solution (posted below) on the HP Forums. I am copying it here just in case the forums disappear one day and/or to make it easier for me to find the information. Hope it helps someone! (Solution written by Shlomi L)

  • First unplug the USB from your PC.
  • From the Control Panel select Devices and Printers, if you see your printer listed right click it and select Remove Device.
  • next restart your computer.
  • Next right click the start menu and select Run, the Run dialog appears.
  • Type printui.exe /s and press OK, the Print Server Properties opens.
  • Open the Drivers tab.
  • Select any instance of your printer and remove it, be sure to select the 2nd option to remote both the printer and its package.
  • Once you are done install the software below, only plug the USb once the installation prompt doing so:
  • http://ftp.hp.com/pub/softlib/software12/COL21058/bi-55362-7/ljP1000_P1500-HB-pnp-win64-en.exe
Original post:

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

DEC Pathworks on WFW 3.11 - Group Creation Tool

Way back in the day (circa 1994 or so, I would venture), I worked for a university where they were using Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) VAX servers. The workstations were a mix of Windows 3.1 and WFW 3.11, though when I arrived, we were moving everyone to WFW 3.11. As part of the general network installation, we installed DEC Pathworks (I believe it was version 4.x), which allowed Windows machines to have file storage access to the servers. While that's all well and good, the real her in this tale is a little program that ran during the installation of the software and drivers.

During the installation, Pathworks created its own Windows Program Groups - a common thing to do for program installations. For some reason, during one install, the creation routine failed with an error about a problem in a BLD file though the actual extension may have been different now that I am trying to recall). Being the nosy characters we are, the tech guys decided to investigate since we had never head of a BLD file.

Turns out, the BLD file, which I believe was called PATHWORK.BLD (or something similar) is just a text file outlining group names and the shortcuts to go into the groups. I have tried to locate the actual file, but can't at the moment, so here is the sample file from the program's webpage:

[CreateGroup(Test Main,TMAIN.GRP)]
[ShowGroup(Test Main,1)]
[AddItem(progman.exe,File Manager)]
[AddItem(control.exe,Control Panel)]
[AddItem(printman.exe,Print Manager)]
[AddItem(command.com,DOS Prompt)]
[AddItem(setup.exe,Windows Setup)]

[CreateGroup(Test Accessories,TACCESS.GRP)]
[ShowGroup(Test Accessories,1)]
[AddItem(pifedit.exe,PIF Editor)]

As you can see, this file contains the structure to build groups. First, the CreateGroup command expects two arguments, the display name of the group ("Test Main") and the actual name of the GRP file for Windows ("TMAIN.GRP"). The next command tells Windows that the group is visible (that is, not hidden) and also expects two arguments: The display name of the group ("Test Main") and a 1 for yes or a 0 for no. Finally, the next series of lines build the items to be displayed within the newly created group. The AddItem command expects two arguments as well. The first is the name of the file to be referenced followed by the display name of the file. Note: If the filename is not available via the PATH statement, the full path to the file must be provided - ex: [AddItem(c:\games\duke3d\duke3d.exe, Duke Nuk'em)].

The BLD file is just the configuration, though. The actual program to run is BUILDGRP.EXE, though again I believe DEC used a custom name instead, if memory servers.

During setup, a:\BUILDGRP.EXE PATHWORK.BLD would be executed, with the EXE referencing the specific configuration.

As you might imagine, this suddenly opened a whole new world to us! We created a slew of custom group installations for the users, running the program from a batch file stored on a floppy disk or on the network itself. You see, once Pathworks was up and running, the WFW machine had access to the network. So, we could call a batch file from the workstation and tell our custom group(s) to install themselves on the client machines.

If you're interested in playing with GROUPBLD, you can find it (along with a help file and the sample configuration above) buried in this Windows 31 DOSBox package.

I have no idea what made me remember all this. Guess it just PoppedInMyHead!

Friday, May 31, 2019

Forgotten Realms: Angelica, Remembered #gaming

Note:The following article was originally published in April 2017 on my website davidinark.com. The link to that is at the bottom of this one.

While poking around online, I discovered that I was late to a very cool party. It seems that Good Old Games managed to hunt down and secure the licensing rights to the classic “Gold Box” games from SSI built around the Dungeons and Dragons world. Now, to many of you, this means nothing. To me, however, this ushered in a surge of memories from my youth.

I played the “Pool of Radiance” series (as I called it) on my Commodore 64 from the time the Gold Box Series came out until well into my college years. Holy smokes. Stopping to think about that, I just realized I played that series starting in 1988 (freshman year) up until a couple years after my wife and I got married. We married in 1991, but I played the game at least until 1993 or later.

I loved the game. It was based on REAL D&D rules, regs, characters, stats… It combined two of my favorite things: computers and D&D. When I got the game in 1998, I fired up the game and began creating my characters and building a party. The first character I created was a female fighter. She was awesome from the very start. She had pixelated flowing blonde hair, was a tough character through stats, and became the undisputed leader of the party. I named her Angelica. She led battles, did most of the speaking for the group when put into such situations, and remained throughout the entire series – though others had not.

I have to admit, the temptation to resurrect Angelica from the depths of memory and plop her down at the beginning of a new tale, a new adventure, excites the nostalgic kid in me like you would not believe. Thanks to Good Old Games, I could do just that. They took the games, reworked them a bit, and created virtual DOS machines in which to run them. Oh, to fire up the games again and create a new band of adventurers in all that 8- or 16-bit glory…

Alas, it is not meant to be. You see, if I do buy the revamped games, I don’t think I could bring myself to create a new lead female character bearing the name and likeness of the one I had grown so fond of, the one who survived each of the games into which we could move our characters, allowing them to keep growing as new challenges arose from the disks contained inside those gold box games.

No. You see, sometimes you play with a certain character in a game series so long that when the time comes for that character to rest (she never died, the series just ran out and time moved on and I eventually got rid of all my Commodore 64 stuff), you let the character rest. Creating another wouldn’t be the same. And, if the replacement didn’t live up to the same level as the original, then the memory of the first is forever tarnished.

Angelica lives in my heart and memory the way she was: a strong, fierce, pixelated beauty.

Get the games here: https://www.gog.com/game/forgotten_realms_the_archives_collection_two

Link to original article:

Monday, March 25, 2019

Packard Bell Legend 316sx (386sx-16) - Memories of my first IBM-PC

Though my first computer was a Commodore 64, my first PC was a Packard Bell Legend 316sx. It had a 386sx-16MHz processor, 1MB of RAM, and I can't remember if it came with the 120MB hard drive or if I upgraded to that, but I believe it came with the 120MB HDD (A Seagate ST3144A, if memory serves). Installed OS was DOS and Windows 3.0. I got it for a combo Christmas/birthday gift and I am almost certain it cost around $1600. I also got a Packard bell monitor with it.

The very first thing I did with it was to go to the store (heck, it was probably Walmart since Walmart actually sold computer parts in those days) to buy memory so that I could upgrade it to 4MB. I distinctly remember this because each megabyte was $40! That is crazy to think nowadays where, in 2019 anyway, we can grab 16gb of RAM for that price!

The system came with a 5.25" floppy and a 3.5" floppy. There was NO sound, no CD-ROM, and only had a built-in Oak VGA video card. It worked well for what I needed when I first got it (typing papers for college, mostly, and some rudimentary gaming). But, it wasn't long before the upgrade itch really got me going.

I started with a Multimedia Upgrade kit from Creative Labs. Unfortunately, the only images i can find online are of a later version than the one i got. I am pretty sure mine had a short audio card, CD-ROM drive, software and related cabling. I believe the upgrade included Windows 3.1 or 3.11 as well, so that the user could take "full advantage" of the new multimedia offerings. I think the CDs had to be put into a special cartridge tray that would then be inserted into the drive itself.

From: https://books.google.com/books?id=a2YTCyIAwwIC&pg=PP168&dq=sound+blaster+multimedia+upgrade+kit&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjGuujwxJ3hAhVBG6wKHQZfAdUQ6AEILTAB#v=onepage&q=sound%20blaster%20multimedia%20upgrade%20kit&f=false

While that sufficed for a while, allowing me to play and experience games in a way I hadn't before, I soon wanted more power under the hood. Rather than shelling out another $1500 for a newer machine, I looked into upgrading the CPU itself.

Since this was a 386SX, I had several options: 1) Upgrade from a 16MHz to 25 or 33, 2) Add a math coprocessor (the motherboard had a socket for that), 3) Upgrade the CPU with an adapter kit.

Yes, that's right! Back in the early 90's, there were adapters you could buy that would sit directly in top of your 386 CPU. The adapter would then house a 486 CPU piggybacked onto the 386 chip. Now, since my 386 was an SX variety, I had to stick with SX versions of the 486 (no DX for me).

I bought the Make-it 486 SX upgrade kit for about $100. This was quite a bizarre arrangement. In addition to the CPU upgrade sitting on top of an adapter socket, I also had to install a 486 CPU fan on top of that. Now, look back at the case for this computer. It's a small form factor, especially for those days, and this stacked-up CPU made for one VERY tall apparatus inside. Nevertheless, it worked flawlessly! Er, well, as flawlessly as Packard Bells could perform, anyway.

I also upgraded the modem several times over the years, and added a network card for local gameplay via IPX (Doom, etc). Heck, I think I even upgraded to windows 95 before it was all said and done.

Packard Bell became synonymous with low quality, cheap components that would fail completely, or worse, provide intermittent issues that would leave users frustrated, dazed, and confused.

In the meantime, though, I used my Packard Bell Legend 316SX from 1991ish when I got it until about 1994/5 when I was afforded the opportunity to upgrade to a newer machine through my employer.

The 316SX holds a fond place in my heart because it was the first IBM-Compatible PC that I ever owned. I can remember putting it in a backpack once to carry it on to the airplane for a trip. The airport security made me plug it in and turn it on. Of course, I didn't have a monitor, so the fans whirred, the lights came on, and the system speaker chirped to let me know there was no keyboard attached, but it passed security (much more lax in those days, pre-9/11) and I carried onto the plane with me (I wasn't about to let it suffer the agony of checked baggage).

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

#Ransomware Attack at School Triggers Best Practice Reminders

Recently, there was a ransomware incident at a nearby school district. The event occurred through a Remote Desktop Protocol Session (RDP) running on the Technology Coordinator's desktop. His machine had a publicly accessible RDP IP address so he could work from home, etc. Unfortunately, his computer was compromised and subsequently used to attack their servers.

If you are using RDP to get access to your network from outside, I recommend the following:
  1. Kill all RDP sessions accessible from outside your internal network. This may require editing your firewall settings to remove the public IP address(es) to your RDP computers.
  2. Change your password on any accounts used for accessing public RDP. The current en vogue system is to use passphrases rather than passwords.
  3. If you must have remote access, set up a VPN to handle that instead of RDP.Several companies offer secure VPN access.
  4. Do NOT put your own login account into the Domain Admins group.
  5. For internal RDP sessions, do *NOT* save the logon credentials. I know it is a pain, but better safe than sorry. :-)

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Blocking/unfollowing the malicious cowards of social media.

Blocking/unfollowing the malicious cowards of social media.

 “Social” media has given rise to the most impersonal public whining in the history of civilization. Never in time have we been able to so readily make a complaint against an individual or individuals with nothing more than general, noncommittal rhetoric and nonspecific public shaming. Disappearing are the days when one would speak directly to the individual(s) for resolution.

Many have lamented the effects of anonymity online in respect to the author of posts, but it seems the same anonymity applies to the recipient of posts, even when said recipient cannot possibly be aware that s/he is the target because the person posting hides behind the ability to be nonspecific. Often, when pressed for details, the posting offender hides behind just enough information to garner support for the nonspecific post from the poster’s “friends,” but not enough to allow the “offending” party any recourse.

It is with cowardly malice these individuals post these tirades and diatribes to social media. There are steps to take to rid timelines of such drivel. 1) Unfollow the poster. 2) Block the poster if unfollowing isn’t enough 3) Unfriend the poster if the negativity brought by that person only serves to affect one’s own well being.

Share your thoughts below.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Online in the "Early Days"

I received my first computer when I was in about 8th or 9th grade: a Commodore 64 with a tape drive. A few months later, I had a 1541 floppy drive and a modem. And my world changed forever.

In those days, we didn't have a worldwide, publicly used communications network. Yes, the Internet was there, but very few people (in the scheme of the population and compared to today) knew what it was and how to take advantage of it.

Forgive me if my timeline gets a bit wonky here, it's been a few sleeps since I have thought about these early days and though Google helps put some of it together, much of it seems to be lost to annals of an unrecorded history.

I don't remember if I started using CompuServe first or if I was surfing BBSs first, but I believe it was the latter. BBSs were Bulletin Board Systems where one could use a modem to dial up (yes, using actual phone lines) another person's computer, enter a username and password, and post messages to other users. Hence, the "bulletin board" nomenclature. It was, in effect, an electronic post-it note system. When your time was up (sessions were time-limited to allow for other people to call in), you were kicked off and someone else would dial up, sign in, and reply or leave messages of their own. It was all VERY asynchronous.

Then, we had services like CompuServe, which boasted "rooms and rooms" of places for people to post messages based on topics and/or content interests. Of course, CompuServe became much more than that over time before finally getting swallowed up by America Online. CompuServe had a place where people could type to each other in realtime! Today, that seems all rather blasé, but in those days, it was a free-for-all technological marvel.

Now, you have to understand that this was all text-based in those days. We didn't have the "web." Heck, the WWW wouldn't even be a thing until 1993 or so. Sure, there were other ways to get around the Internet, but nothing that was the graphical/video overload we have today (Er, today being 2018. Should this be read by some future generation, this article will seem like words on an ancient scroll, I'm sure).

We also had the advent of things like "FidoNet" (A national BBS that replicated data from system to system, allowing anyone anywhere to dial a local number yet read messages from everywhere!) and ultimately services like the aforementioned America Online, PeopleLink, and a myriad of others. In each of these cases, though, the end user had to use phone lines to dial a number in order to gain access to the system.

The prevalence of BBSs was huge. We're talking hundreds of thousands of individuals using their own computers to host places for people to dial in. For several years, I ran one based loosely on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, called "Arthur's Den" (See how punny I was?). At first, I ran it at night because I was using the family's home phone number to do it. Can you imagine? Publishing your family's home phone number out there for the world to call in at 2am? But, that's what we did. Eventually, I was allowed to have my own phone with a new number. I was in 9th grade. BBSs were so popular, there were entire magazines dedicated to listing them each month! That would be like having a magazine today that attempted to list every website address each month. Insane.

As technology changed, we moved from text-based online services to graphical. We now had "icons" and email and chat rooms and games we could play through the online services and BBSs. You could have an avatar to represent you online (Okay, so it was a pixelated static image, but still).

I actually met my first long-term girlfriend through the BBS I ran. We dated for two years. She had signed in to my system and I happened to be sitting near the computer at the time. In those days, you could not multitask: your computer did one thing at a time. So, if it was running your BBS, you weren't doing anything else with it. She came on, and if memory serves, she had requested a chat  with the sysadmin (me). The software I used on my C64 allowed for the one logged in user and the system administrator to chat in realtime. She had a question about something on the system and we ended up chatting well beyond the allowable time period. As a sysadmin, I could extend user's time at will. Time went by and we eventually discovered that we lived about half a mile from each other. We met face-to-face one day and ended up dating for two years. Who knew Internet dating had such simple beginnings, right?

Over time, services came and went. Dial-up phone lines (for the majority of folks) were replaced by ADSL and eventually DSL, Cellular, Satellite, etc. But, those early days of entering a phone number, having the software and hardware work together to make a digital connection, and then seeing the world come onto your computer screen were unlike anything that had come before, and "blogging" wasn't even a word yet.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Work Life: I Volunteered at #iste18 (Ask Me/ISTE Central)

iste 2018 logo
As I was planning my trip to Chicago for ISTE 2018, I was encouraged to pick a couple of times to volunteer and help out with the conference. I chose a 2-hour stint as an "Ask Me" helper and a 2-hour stint on a different day to help in ISTE Central. Here's the good, the bad, and the ugly. Okay, maybe not ugly.

The Good:
  • ISTE volunteers receive a conference-themed t-shirt and a volunteer-only "shoe bag" tote. This really is one of the best reasons to volunteer aside from helping people. 
  • As an "Ask Me" station monitor, I worked with my colleague, Jeff. We sat posted outside of the Microsoft Corporate Presentation room on the first floor. We were not given much instruction (see "The Bad" below), so we fended for ourselves as best we could. What were we asked?
    • "What is the name of the street behind you?" 
      • A: S Indiana Ave; via Google Maps
    • "Where are the keynote authors signing books?" 
      • A: ISTE Central, near book sales; We guessed and hoped we were correct
    • "Where do I get the shuttle bus to my hotel?"
      • A: We directed them to the conference bus depot; we knew from experience
    • "Do you know where the third Playground area is? I was told there is a 'C' area."
      • A: We couldn't find reference to a third area, so we directed them to the INFO booth on the third floor
    • "Where is the Apple Corporate Room?"
      • A: We used the ISTE app to locate the room, then direct the person to it.
    • "Do you know where (such-and-such vendor) is located in the Expo Hall?"
      • A: We searched for the vendor in the ISTE app and directed the person to it.
    • "What are these tickets for?"
      • A: Various tickets were used for raffles, session entry, etc. We walked through each ticket the attendee had, explaining what to do with each one.
    • "Do you know more about the buffet upstairs?"
      • A: We had no idea. we directed the person to the INFO booth on the third floor.
    • "How many people does Room (such-and-such) sit?"
      • A: We had no idea, but were able to make a guess based on random things we had heard from other ISTE workers.
    • "How do you get to the Hyatt (or Marriott) from here?"
      • A: We tried to figure this out, but even asking PAID folks from ISTE, we could not provide accurate answers. We tried.
    • "Where is Michigan Avenue from here?"
      • A: We found the road via Google Maps, then directed the person toward it.
    • There were MANY other questions as well.
  • As an "ISTE CENTRAL" volunteer, I was assigned "Poster Distribution." Jeff was assigned to the bookstore. My job was to hand out posters of the ISTE student and educator standards to passersby. For the first hour, I hounded folks waiting in line to have books signed by Andy Weir ("The Martian"). It's easy to give away stuff to people waiting in an extra long, slow-moving line. The second hour was not as productive, though I basically shoved the posters in the faces of anyone coming into/out of the Expo Hall.

The Bad:
  • Conference volunteers are given little to no direction and/or instruction.
  • The "Ask Me" volunteers seem to have it worst of all. There is no orientation, no "here are the top 5 or 10 things you need to know, no number/text to use in case someone asks you questions you cannot answer.
  • If you are in a conference volunteer shirt, people assume you are an "Ask Me" person, even if you aren't. Luckily, I had been one, so I knew many of the answers being thrown my way while I was handing out posters. 
  • Volunteers are not given/asked for any kind of debriefing after their shift. A debriefing might have helped circumvent some of the above-named issues for future volunteers.

The Ugly:
  • I suppose the only "ugly" I can come up with is one attendee talked down to me for not knowing the answer to his question since I was a volunteer. I did let the guy know that I would happy to find out from an ISTE Staff member, but he tromped off. Ah well, you can't win them all.
The GOOD of volunteering far outweighs the bad and the ugly.  I wholeheartedly recommend volunteering at the next ISTE event! It is a great way to help folks, but also a fun way to meet more of the educators that attend this annual event. Stay Tuned for ISTE 2019!