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June 16, 1997

Readers react to the latest news in Windows fixes

When I started chronicling the problems I've had with my computer, I expected to be drummed out of the PC pundits' hall of fame for admitting that I, the co-author of several books on Windows, could possibly experience a problem that I couldn't immediately diagnose and cure. But most of the readers' reactions have been sympathetic, even relieved.

One thing leads to another in my columns. The fixes I reported in my May 26 column ("My latest Windows mystery is solved; at least, I think it is," page 36) are no exception. I received many intriguing responses, and because readers' tips are the best part of this column I thought I'd share some of them.

The saga of my buggy PC began in my April 14 column, in which I confessed that my machine suffered from mysterious, frequent crashes that I couldn't explain.

The solution to my problems turned out to involve replacing my Micron motherboard with a generic Intel motherboard. I had inadvertently shorted out my old motherboard while installing a new SCSI adapter. The replacement motherboard cleared up all my problems, and my PC hasn't crashed in more than a month. Success!

So, here are some of your comments.

From Jack Kar: "Thank you, thank you, thank you! I thought I was the only person who had that problem with my motherboard. Enter a replacement motherboard with 512KB burst cache and voila! Everything works fine."

John Koontz adds: "I just wanted to let you know you're not the only one out there who makes mistakes, and I guess that only proves that we're all human. Even though I've been in this business for 20 years or so, somehow I overlooked installing a nylon washer between the motherboard and one of its metal spacers. When I power up, sure enough, nothing happens. After discovering the problem and installing the washer, all came up fine. Talk about luck!"

At the other end of the reader spectrum was Jeff Dunlop: "I am constantly amazed how writers write about rookie mistakes that are their own damn fault as if they were a learning experience that everyone should share. When you fried your motherboard, you should have kicked yourself viciously a dozen times and never, ever mentioned it professionally."

Oh well, at least I've dispelled the myth of my own supposed omniscience. I'm happy to reveal that there are things about Windows I still don't know and maybe never will.

Several readers sent new tips in addition to those I printed on May 5.

"It seems that pulling or plugging ISA cards flexes motherboards enough to unseat a PCI card," writes Dave Otten. "I found that technicians are fully aware of this problem. PCI cards do indeed fit loosely into their slots. Every time I pull or add an ISA card, I now automatically reseat PCI cards."

Stephen Haptonstahl reports that he solved crashes on hundreds of Dell OptiPlex 133s by replacing 3Com Etherlink III PCI cards with 3Com Etherlink III ISA cards. Progress marches on, I suppose.

Finally, many readers pointed to the responsibilities of the computer press. John Seiffer writes: "If journalists as a group would show less enthusiasm for what the technology can do and more outrage at what it doesn't do (or doesn't do right), eventually consumers would as well, and then manufacturers would catch on." Here, here.

Brian Livingston is the co-author of Windows 95 Secrets Gold and four other Windows books (IDG Books). Send tips to or fax: (206) 282-1248.

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Copyright © 1997 by InfoWorld Publishing Company


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