Main Line Commodore User 
Group

The Club Computer

Main Line Computer Users Group maintains a computer that can be used at our monthly meetings. Its primary function is for the demonstration of software and hardware that might be of interest to our members. Over the years we have had a number of demo machines including: C-64, C-128, various Amigas, 233Mhz Pentium, and currently an Athlon 2500XP based machine. The following is a collection of notes and announcements about the later.

MLCUG's BTO PC

The new club computer purchased since the June 2003 meeting has the final component lineup shown below. The system is complete, except for having no hard drive, nor an operating system. Those two items, a pair of 20 and 80 GB Maxtor hard drives and Windows XP Home Edition, respectively, are on hand and ready for installation at the July meeting.

The vendor was the on-line outfit, AccessMicro, who sold the system assembled and tested for about $700 (including shipping).

BTO PC:

CHASSIS =Apex TU-150 Black Mid Tower
     Case w/400W Power Supply

CASE FAN =Thermaltake A1357 Smart Fan 3
     Fan Functions in 1 Case Fan

MOTHERBOARD =Asus A7N8X Deluxe AMD
     333FSB Dual LAN S-ATA 1394 6-CH ATX

PROCESSOR =AMD Athlon XP 2500+ Barton
     512K 333FSB Socket A OEM CPU

CPU FAN =Thermaltake A1671 Volcano 10+
     370/462 3400+ heat sink fan

MEMORY =APACER 256MB PC3200 NONECC
     DDRAM MEMORY x 2

VIDEO =XFX G4 MX440 8X AGP 64MB DDR w/TV

SOUND =None Selected (on-board)

CD/DVD =Toshiba SD-R5002 2X DVD-R/1X
     DVD-RW Drive black Bulk

FLOPPY =1.44MB 3.5" GENERIC FLOPPY DRIVE
     - BLACK COLOR

NETWORKING =None Selected (on-board)

KEYBOARD =Generic Wireless Black Keyboard
     /PS2 Mouse Combo

MOUSE =None Selected (in KB combo)

Then, we turned to our new club PC - the BTO system that was described in the July newsletter. John Murphy opened up the box (which is a beauty!) and went thru its features, including its easy drive mounting, cooling arrangements, component line up and the various motherboard features.

He, then went thru the installation of the two hard drives - an 80 GB Maxtor that is the primary master drive (and will contain the various Windows operating systems, data files and installed applications) and a 20 GB primary slave drive (that will hold the Linux operating system and backups). The drive installation was quick, as the cage for the hard drives just slips out; so you can easily mount the drives, then slip it back in and connect the cables.

After all the questions about the box were finished, the fun began! We slipped in a boot floppy and turned on the power. The system booted up and a quick run with "fdisk" showed that both hard drives were recognized by the motherboard; so we were off to the races.

THE FUN BEGINS!

I then rebooted the computer with Partition Magic 8 - which also identified both hard drives and correctly sized them. So, I undertook the partitioning. Since this is to be primarily a demo system, rather than one for every day use, the partitioning scheme we selected is rather complex. The final layout is:

Master hard drive (80 GB)
Primary  1	2 GB for Windows 98
	  2	3 GB for Windows Me
	  3	5 GB for Windows XP
Unallocated	10 GB
Extended 	56 GB
Logical   4	16 GB FAT32 data (Win 98 & Me)
	  5	16 GB NTFS data (for Win XP)
	  6	24 GB FAT32 programs & pagefiles

Slave hard drive (20 GB)
Primary  1	3 GB for Linux
	  2	16 GB for Backups

Once we had instructed Partition Magic as to what we wanted, all the stuff was put in place as we watched. Less than two minutes for the small drive and less than 5 for the big drive. Quite a nice demo!!

We then rebooted with our boot floppy and checked for the presence of the appropriate drives - all were there as expected. Good show!

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After the discussion, we turned to the main program item for the month - installation of the Windows XP operating system in the new club computer.

You'll recall that in July, we partitioned the two hard drives (with Partition Magic 8) to provide spaces for four (4) operating systems, data, applications and backup - a total of nine (9) partitions, leaving around 10 GB of available, unallocated space on the 80 GB primary hard drive.

Between the meetings, Emil installed Windows 98 SE and Windows Millennium Edition in the two partitions we had made for them. He also installed Boot Magic to provide the ability to switch back and forth amongst them - and the OSes to come. He did a quick show of this - and we used the Win Me OS for some of the items mentioned above. As part of the activity, Emil had made images of the newly installed 98 and Me systems - and burned them to a DVD-R disc (which will also eventually have the other two OS images on it).

In the process of putting in drivers and such for the first two OSes, a new feature of the motherboard came alive - namely; a very small lady resides in the motherboard (presumably living off electrons!) and announces progress for the boot up happenings - or mis-happenings!! Helpful for all the stuff going on (on will go on for a while), but it will get old quickly. In fact, an almost immediate reaction from an attendee or two was "how do you turn it off?"!

We inserted the Windows XP Home Edition CD in the drive and restarted the computer. It came up, asked a couple of questions, did some scanning; then asked us which partition we wanted to use. It gave us a choice of any of the partitions on the 80 GB hard drive. So, we said use the 5 GB space that we had prepared for XP; and the installation proceeded. The process took less than 30 minutes and required very little action on our part. We had to enter the 25-digit Product key, and our time zone (and DST) and provide a name for the computer. That was about it. The install finished with no error messages of any kind, then she restarted, finished the install and restarted a final time to bring us into the "new look" of Windows XP. As we had noted earlier, this was a new experience for the attendees. None had actually done, or seen, an XP "clean" install. And, only one (Tom Johnson) had done an XP install into a Windows Me system (to give a dual booter). One thing Microsoft can take credit for is an improved install. One thing Microsoft did not need to do was change the whole look and feel of the OS, just for the sake of changing the look and feel. It leaves even an experienced Windows user with a somewhat helpless feeling.

And, since I started conducting a computer help session at our local senior center, I find that folks getting, or upgrading to, XP are incredibly confused by its "helpful" operations.....

At that point, noon was on top of us; so we deferred completion of the install to next time. But before we totally folded our tent, we did one more thing - restored Boot Magic to operation.

Each time you install a new OS, that process overwrites the stuff in the boot sector that turns Boot Magic on. So, we restarted from the Boot Magic "rescue" disk. It spotted all three OSes now installed on the computer and we reset it; so we can select any of them for future powerup or restarts.

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At our last go-round, we successfully installed the third OS - Windows XP Home Edition - in the club's new PC. You may recall that we plan to have four (4) OSes in it before we're done (Windows 98, Me and a version of Linux, being the others). But, there is a bit more to it than just "installing" the OS - at least when Windows XP is in the picture.

So, it is the rest of that "bit" that is on the agenda for this month's meeting. Specifically, we plan to:

  1. "activate" our copy of XP Then, before going further, we'll provide some protection for our efforts so far:
  2. imaging the new installation

    We'll use Drive Image 2002 for this step. See my "editorial" on the subject of Drive Image, in last month's issue, regarding this backup choice.

    Then, the final step for this phase will be to:

  3. run Windows Update on the internet

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- install the various drivers from the CD - do the activation - make our first base image - do the Windows Update

The first three items were accomplished. But, we did not get to even start the last one because of time constraints ----

As of this point, we installed XP in a clean ~5 GB partition, installed the drivers provided with the motherboard (for the chipset, NIC, sound and viseo primarily. We got the NIC running to give us internet access thru the Villanova LAN. And imaged the partition for swift backup or restoration. Last time, we ran "Windows Update" from the Microsoft website to install all (28) "critical" patches that MS has released since Sep. 2002 (when they issued the cumulative patch called Service Pack 1).

This month, we'll recheck Windows Update, then install our security software (Norton Anti-virus 2002 and the Zone Alarm firewall) and get it working. This will also be a good time for a significant drive image to preserve all the work so far. Then, we should be ready to really start using the PC for real work!!!