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Q: In January, you mentioned that you don't recommend dual booting between Windows NT and Windows 95. I've installed NT and Win95 on two separate physical drives in my 166MHz Pentium and have had no problems. What problems have you encountered, and do you advise sticking with one operating system?

First, let me set the record straight for readers who tell me that NT and Win95 coexist perfectly--you can install both operating systems on the same system. However, each OS uses different component files, and Win95 can ruin NT if you use the Win95 Fdisk or the DOS or Win95 Defrag utility, (which, I admit, people don't do very often, but it does happen). Delete the Win95 version of Fdisk and use NT Disk Administrator or the DOS Fdisk. I use NTFS as much as possible, which makes dual booting the same files impossible. To be honest, I have a dedicated Win95 machine on my network that I use for diagnostic purposes and a Windows for Workgroups (WFW) machine that has a dual-boot option to NT 4.0 Workstation.

Rumor has it that NT 5.0 will not support FAT32. The implications of this decision are enormous. FAT16 is dead and will soon be buried. The latest version of Win95 (OEM Service Release 2) includes a FAT32 file system option that most users have adopted to keep cluster size manageable. If the rumor mill is correct, dual booting will soon be a thing of the past.

Q: How can I get Windows NT 4.0 to keep Num Lock on after reboot? This problem is annoying many of my users.

This question involves changing your Registry--remember, always have a backup of your Registry before you edit it. Warning: Using the Registry editor incorrectly can cause serious, systemwide problems. You may have to reinstall NT to correct them. Use this tool at your own risk.

Using regedt32.exe or regedit.exe, go to the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Keyboard key. If you set the value for InitialKeyboardIndicators of data type REG_SZ to 0, the Num Lock will turn off after the user logs on. If you set the value for InitialKeyboardIndicators of data type REG_SZ to 2, the Num Lock will turn on after the user logs on.

Q: How do I set up Dial-Up Networking (DUN) in Windows NT 4.0 to connect to my Internet Service Provider (ISP)? Setting up DUN in NT 4.0 seems far different from setting up Remote Access Service (RAS) in NT 3.51.

NT 4.0's DUN is similar to NT 3.51's RAS, but these similarities are not necessarily obvious. To set up DUN in NT 4.0, follow these instructions:

  1. Double-click My Computer on your desktop, and select the Dial-Up Networking icon.
  2. Click Install. You will see the message, "Installing Dial-Up Networking."
  3. If you have not previously installed a modem, NT will display the message, "There are no RAS capable devices to Add. Do you want RAS setup to invoke the modem installer to enable you to add a modem? Yes/No?"
  4. Click Yes. Before you continue, make sure your modem is attached to your computer and turned on, and quit any programs that are using your modem. Click Next when you are ready to continue.
  5. NT will try to automatically detect your modem and display the name of any modem it finds. If NT doesn't automatically detect your modem, you can manually browse the list of supported modems and select one to install. (As in Windows 95, NT's auto-detect doesn't always work; I generally select my modem from the list by hand.) You might need to insert the manufacturer-supplied modem setup floppy if NT doesn't include the driver for your modem. Because NT (like Win95) detects modems via unimodem, most setup floppies will have the needed .inf file. If NT detects your modem, you will see an Install New Modem dialog box that lists the name of your modem and the serial port where NT found your modem.
  6. Click Next to confirm that the proper modem is selected.
  7. You then have to select your country, type in your three-digit area code, specify whether you dial a number (such as 9) to access an outside telephone line, and select tone (if you have a touch-tone phone) or pulse dialing. After you finish configuring these settings, click Next.
  8. Click Finish. NT will display an Add RAS Device dialog box that lists any RAS-capable devices.
  9. Click OK. The Remote Access Setup will list your modem in the listbox with Port, Device, and Type information. Confirm that the setup is showing the proper serial port and the correct type of modem.
  10. Click Configure, select Dial-Out Only (this setting might be set to In and Out), and click OK.
  11. Click Network. Select the Dial-Out Protocol TCP/IP check box. Uncheck NetBEUI and IPX if you are trying to establish a dial-up connection to an ISP.
  12. Click Continue in the Remote Access Setup dialog box. You will see the message, "Please wait while Remote Access is installed." When the setup prompts you, click Restart (rebooting is still a royal pain that Microsoft will, I hope, fix soon).
  13. When your computer reboots, press Ctrl+Alt+Del and log on as Administrator.

To connect to an ISP, you need to set up a phonebook entry. Follow these steps:

  1. Double-click My Computer, and select the Dial-Up Networking icon.
  2. Click Install, click OK to add a new phonebook entry, and click OK again.
  3. When the New Phonebook Entry Wizard appears and displays the name of your dial-up entry, type in the name of your remote access provider and click Next.
  4. In the Server dialog box, check I am calling the Internet, check Send my plain text password if that's the only way to connect, and check The non-Windows NT server I am calling expects me to type login information after connect.
  5. Click Next, and enter the appropriate phone number.
  6. Click Next, and select Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP).
  7. Click Next, and select Use a Terminal Window. If your ISP supports logon via Password Authentication Protocol (PAP) or Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol (CHAP) authentication, select None. If your ISP supplied you with an NT or Win95 logon script, select the name of the script file in the Automate with this script window (this file must be in the \%system%\system32\ras directory). To connect to CompuServe, select the Automate this with a Script check box (the script is cis.scp).
  8. Click Next. In the IP Address dialog box, enter your IP address if you use a fixed IP address for your dial-up connection. Warning: Do not use the same IP address as the one you assigned to the NIC in your machine. Leave the IP address set to 0.0.0.0 if your remote access server assigns dynamic IP addresses.
  9. Click Next. In the Name Server Addresses dialog box, enter the IP address for your primary Domain Name System (DNS). For CompuServe, set the DNS to 149.174.211.5. For most ISPs, simply set server-assigned IP address and server-assigned name-server addresses.
  10. Click Next, and click Finish to complete and save your dial-up phonebook entry.
  11. Click More, and select Edit entry and modem properties. Confirm that you have the proper settings for each DUN configuration dialog box.
  12. Click More again, and select Clone entry and modem properties, as you see in Screen 1. Type in a new name for the clone entry, as you see in Screen 2 (this step lets you start over easily in case your original entry becomes corrupted).
  13. Create a shortcut on your desktop. Double-click My Computer on your desktop, select the Dial-Up Networking icon, click More, and select Create shortcut to entry. Click OK.

You are now ready to dial in to your ISP. Follow these steps:

  1. Click Dial to dial your remote access server.
  2. Type in your username and password. Make sure you leave the domain name blank if you are dialing in to a non-NT network.

    If you are connecting to the Microsoft Network (MSN), you must type MSN/USERNAMEfor the username. Furthermore, if you are running Service Pack 2 (SP2), you need the postfix for RAS on the Microsoft FTP site (for more about this problem and Microsoft's hotfix, see Jonathan Chau, "Service Pack 2," March 1997).

  3. Click OK. The modem will connect to your ISP's RAS server.
    The Post-Dial Terminal Screen will appear. Use your ISP-supplied manual terminal logon procedure to log on to your ISP, and click Done. Check the Do not display this message again check box (the Close on dial option hides the phonebook while dialing is occurring and closes it as soon as you connect).
  4. Click OK. Right-click Dial-Up Networking Monitor on the task bar, and select Open Dial-Up Monitor. You will see a DUN status screen. If you click Details, the display you see in Screen 3 will appear.
  5. Click the Preferences tab, and review the information about your active dial-up connection. When you finish your online activity, you can easily see the status of the connection by looking at the DUN monitor in the system tray.

You can create a script to automate these connection steps. Create a new text file, ispname.scp. Look at sample files pppmenu.scp and script.doc in the \%systemroot%\system32\ras directory for examples.

If you connect to CompuServe and use WinCim 3.x, you'll want to pay attention to these steps:

  1. In the Access, Preferences menu, select Default WINSOCK, as you see in Screen 4. In the Advanced Settings, set the Host Machine Interface (HMI) timeout to 240.
  2. To connect to CompuServe, use DUN and the detailed settings you see in Screen 5.
  3. You can now run either WinCim or a standard Internet Browser.

To log on to CompuServe, I use the following script, which is part of my switch.inf script file (for information about RAS scripts, see Steve Scoggins, "Windows NT RAS Scripting," May 1996):

\[Compuserve\]
COMMAND=<cr>
OK=<match>":"
COMMAND=<cr>
COMMAND=CIS<cr>
OK=<match>":"
COMMAND=ID/GO:PPPCONNECT<cr>
OK=<match>":"
COMMAND=Password<cr>
OK=<ignore>
;end
\[OtherISP\]
COMMAND=
OK=<match>"login:"
LOOP=<ignore>
COMMAND=Your Id<cr>
OK=<match>"password:"
LOOP=<ignore>
COMMAND=Your Password<cr>
OK=<ignore>

Q: I've heard you can use Tweak UI to set several aspects of the Windows NT 4.0 desktop. Where can I get a copy?

Tweak UI is a Windows 95 PowerToy that runs on NT and lets you adjust your user interface (UI--including menu speed, mouse sensitivity, shortcut appearance and default names, window animation and sound, icon placement on your desktop, and Internet Explorer--IE). You can download Tweak UI from http://www.microsoft.com/windows/common/a293.htm.

Q: Can you explain Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP)? It sounds spectacular and just might be what we need for our sales force.

Although the Internet supports user access to other computers worldwide, secure dial-up network access is still a problem. Several vendors have tried to overcome this limitation by establishing virtual dial-up standards. Examples of this class of network solutions include support for privately addressed IP, IPX, and AppleTalk dial-up over (mostly) Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP) across the existing Internet infrastructure. Specifically, virtual dial-up solutions let users access the Internet to support non-IP protocol applications in a secure manner. If you use a virtual dial-up service, different operating systems and separate protocols can share a common access Internet infrastructure that includes modems, access servers, and Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) routers. Most virtual networking calls are local calls for the remote user, so the costs are minimal and the session terminates locally. This type of networking can dramatically improve the phone switching capacity needed.

Vendors have taken several approaches to providing virtual network access, and not all operating systems support the necessary client or server protocols. The two most developed approaches are Cisco's Layer 2 Forwarding Protocol (L2F) and PPTP for NT. PPTP ships on the NT 4.0 Server and Workstation CD-ROMs (you apply it as a service in the Network applet of the Control Panel) and lets you establish Virtual Private Networking (VPN) access via the Internet. The most elegant aspect of these approaches is that the virtual access is platform independent--all you need is a dial-up PPP-enabled client system.

The key element to L2F and PPTP is the tunnel, a vehicle for encapsulating packets in a protocol. The tunnel has defined and understood entry and exit points on any given network. The entry and exit points are simply referred to as tunnel interfaces. In the L2F protocol, the carrier protocol is IP with User Datagram Protocol (UDP), the passenger protocol is PPP, and the encapsulator protocol is L2F. For PPTP, the carrier protocol (what Microsoft calls the control) is TCP, the passenger protocol (what Microsoft calls data packets) is PPP, and the packets are encapsulated using the Internet Generic Routing Encapsulation protocol, version 2 (GRE v2).

Because the concern here is PPTP, let's focus on how PPTP works. Each PPTP packet is either a control packet (signal or status) or a management packet (device and configuration). The packet contains an identifier, a description of length, and a magic cookie (a small string of identifying data stored on the client's Web browser). Although this approach is surprisingly simple, its design is also elegant and has significant built-in error correction and trapping. Microsoft has even accounted for collision problems: The peer with the higher IP address is always the winner.

PPTP's major selling point is its cost (it comes as part of NT 4.0). The only other cost involved is the connection fee, which is minimal for most users who connect to an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to access the Internet. If you connect to a national ISP, you can access a PPTP link in most cities for the cost of a local phone call.

Imagine that the Internet is nothing more than a large set of phone lines where you can make nearly every possible connection. PPTP works on the familiar principle of calling one phone number from another. You simply use the PPTP service to establish a VPN from one address to another.

PPTP is simple and elegant and will soon be a standard. Ascend, 3Com, Telematics, US Robotics, and Microsoft have formed a PPTP forum to establish PPTP as an open standard. At a meeting in Montreal, Quebec last June, the forum agreed on the proposed standard that will merge Microsoft's PPTP and Cisco's L2F. The merger is important because the dominant router on the Internet today is the Cisco router. You can expect to see broad acceptance of virtual Dial-Up Networking (DUN--PPTP and L2F) over the Internet in the near future. This way of connecting will be a boon to businesses that have several mobile users. The cost is low and the security is high. For more about PPTP, see Mark Minasi, "Deciphering PPTP," December 1996.

Q: I have a Practical Peripherals ProClass 288 PC Card modem. The modem appears to be working, but I keep getting a Port is busy message in Windows NT. How can I fix this?

Believe it or not, you need to boot into NT 4.0 with the RJ-11 connector pushed into the PC Card modem. After NT boots, pop out the jack and connect your phone line. I realize this procedure sounds ridiculous, but it is exactly what you need to do.

The Port is busy message is deceiving. If I set my Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) line speed too high in setup, I get the same message. Obviously the port is not busy, but NT is not properly returning the error.

Q: We are starting to use Systems Management Server (SMS) for network monitoring, inventorying, and upgrades. What are some general guidelines for SMS?

SMS will collect a reasonable amount of basic system information, as you see in Screen 6, and store it in a SQL Server database. Therefore, the Primary Domain Controller (PDC) for the primary SMS site (the NT server), SQL Server, and SMS all need to run optimally. To get the most out of SMS, stick to the following guidelines:

  • Processor: Use at least a 133MHz Pentium for SMS and SQL Server and a symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) machine for large networks.
  • Hard disk: Use separate hard disks for NT, SQL Server, and SMS. You need to configure your SMS hard disk to use NTFS. Ideally, SMS will have at least 1GB of drive space available. I generally don't put SQL Server and SMS on the same server.
  • Memory: SMS and SQL Server are both memory intensive. The minimum amount of memory you need to run NT and SMS is 24MB. Even this amount is inadequate. I typically use 64MB because my computer is also the PDC.
  • Network bandwidth: Obviously the bigger the bandwidth, the better the performance. This adage is definitely true on primary SMS sites. You need a minimum of switched 100Base-T for the primary site.
  • SQL Server optimization: Each instance of SMS Administrator uses SQL Server. The SMS executive and hierarchy managers also use SQL Server. Because SQL Server has numerous other uses, I recommend a dual Pentium Pro with at least 128MB of memory.
  • SMS load: I often see server installations running SMS and numerous other applications. A good idea is to monitor the load on your SMS and keep the SMS sites reasonably dedicated.

For more about SMS, see Spyros Sakellariadis, "SMS: Inventory Your Desktop Systems, Parts 1, 2, and 3," May, June, and July 1996.

Q: I'm considering buying one of the new 56Kbits per second (Kbps) modems. Do they work? If I buy one today, will it work in six months?

The 56Kbps standard is rapidly emerging, but so far, the computer industry has not settled on the accepted standard. The leading proponents of the new standard are Lucent, Rockwell, and US Robotics (USR). So far, about 400 companies will support K56flex, an interoperable 56Kbps modem protocol that relies on Lucent's V.flex2 and Rockwell's K56Plus 56Kbps modem technologies. Personal computer manufacturers such as AST, Compaq, HP, and Toshiba and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and online service providers (OSPs) such as CompuServe, NETCOM, PSINet, and UUNET Technologies will support the K56flex technology. USR has about 200 ISPs committed to adopting its x2 56Kbps technology, but USR lacks strong vendor support.

Note that the Lucent/Rockwell K56flex and USR x2 standards are incompatible. The USR x2 standard peaks at 33.6Kbps on the query/upload side and approaches 56Kbps on the download side. In contrast, the K56flex standard will push high speeds in both directions. In theory, the K56flex standard lets users surf the Internet and receive online services over ordinary analog phone lines at nearly twice the speed of today's fastest modems. However, K56flex's real transmit/receive speeds will be about 40Kbps. Given the strength of support for the K56flex standard, it is undoubtedly in the strongest position to emerge as the accepted 56Kbps standard.

To achieve connect speeds of 56Kbps, you and your ISP or OSP must both have compatible 56Kbps modems. Given the rush to the Internet, this movement is occurring rapidly, but the technology is still somewhat immature. All three companies are committed to supporting a new forum-generated standard, but this standard is about a year away. User demand is causing the incompatible proposed standards to appear. I suggest you hold off for a few months to a year before buying a 56Kbps modem (for more information on the 56Kbps revolution, see "NT News Network," February 1997, and page 34). I recently faced the same dilemma and adopted Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN).