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Diary of A Madman

Setting Up An NT Web Server
The saga continues . . .

by Hank Mishkoff

May 1, 1995 (10:20 PM)

NTFS Conversion

Since security seems to be tighter under NTFS (the NT's own file system) than it is under FAT (the file system used by MS-DOS), and since I've been told that performance is better with NTFS than it is with FAT, and since the WebSite README file says that it requires NTFS--I converted my file system from FAT to NTFS this morning.

I was a little uneasy about doing it. For one thing, I wasn't entirely sure of all of the implications. I understood that I'd no longer be able to boot DOS, but that didn't strike me as a major problem. But would I still be able to access DOS files? Get to a DOS prompt? Run DOS commands and programs? I wasn't sure, but I decided to go ahead anyway.

Another thing that I wasn't sure about was how to actually perform the conversion to NTFS. I couldn't find it in the help files, and NT comes with no documentation! (You have to order it separately -- for something like $70(!) -- which I've done.) Finally, I found the CONVERT command in the NT Resource Kit that I bought separately for $150 (!). So I tried it, and, as far as I can tell, it worked.

I assumed that once I did the conversion to NTFS, I would no longer see the option to boot DOS, but it still appears when I turn on the PC. I selected it just to see what would happen; the disk cranked and cranked, but nothing happened at all. Finally I hit the reset button. Isn't the CONVERT command smart enough to know to remove the DOS boot option from the menu when you convert to NTFS? I guess not.

Anyway, my worries seem to have been for naught. The old DOS files are still there; I can still open a DOS box and enter DOS commands. If there is a downside to converting to NTFS, I haven't found it yet.

The Router Arrives

Well, I picked up my router today--it's an Ascend Pipeline 50. My Internet service provider programmed it for me. What with errands to run and cables to buy (and another trip to get the right cables), I didn't get to hook everything up until pretty late--and it didn't work, of course. But I didn't really expect it too, not the first time. I'll try to get an early start tomorrow.

May 2, 1995 (03:30 PM)

Router Installation: First Pass

In the last entry of As The Web Turns -- ISDN: The Hidden Shame, I mentioned that I had made one unsuccessful attempt to get my router up and running before I gave up and went to bed. Here is a step-by-step account of my first-ever attempt to hook up a computer to an ISDN line.

I purchased the router (an Ascend Pipeline 50) from my ISP, and he programmed it for me and gave me a list of various items (IP address, subnet mask, etc.) that I would need to configure TCP/IP on my PC. He also gave me a few cables; but after scanning the Getting Started book, I realized that I didn't have the ones I needed, so I picked them up.

At least I hope I picked up the ones I needed. As best as I can tell, I need:

Okay, so I get everything plugged in, and the WAN light on the router won't stop blinking. The Getting Started guide says this is a bad sign; it means that "there is an error with the BRI interface (such as no physical or logical link)." This can, the book says, be caused by a number of different things, some of which have to do with the router's configuration. So I decide that, even though my ISP says that they programmed the correct configuration into the router and I shouldn't worry about it, I'm going to check the configuration anyway. (Hey, I'm a curious guy, what can I say.)

In order to program the router, the book says, I need a communication program (hence, the serial cable) with VT100 emulation. So I decide to load CommWorks, a set of communication utilities that I've used with Windows 3.1. When I try to run the CommWorks setup program, NT crashes! I don't just mean the program crashes, I mean the whole operating system goes south. I thought that it wasn't supposed to do that--isn't the whole idea behind NT that each program is protected from every other program, so that if a program crashes you can kill it and all of the other programs are still okay? Well, maybe that's the theory . . . .

TCP/IP Installation (and NT Re-Installation)

I've managed to create another problem for myself. I kept getting this error message when I'd boot the machine:

"At least one service or driver failed during system startup. Use Event Viewer to examine the event log for details."

I didn't exactly know what this meant, but I thought it might have something to do with the fact that I had not installed TCP/IP, as I did not yet have the necessary info from my ISP.

So, I decided to install TCP/IP. And rather than figure out how to do that, I decided just to reinstall Windows NT, and let the NT installation program step me through the TCP/IP installation procedure. Pretty smart, huh?

Well, maybe not. It did solve the problem and get rid of the error message. (The WAN light on the router still blinks, however, but that's another story.) But now, when I start the system, the startup menu offers me two complete installations of NT to choose from! If I select the old installation, I get the old error message; if I select the new installation, I don't.

Does this mean that I have two complete copies of NT hogging up space on my disk? Or do I just have two configuration records of some kind?

Beats me.

May 4, 1995 (06:10 AM)

ISDN Progress Report

Here's a status report on where I stand on my efforts to get my ISDN hookup to work. (By the way, I don't want to discourage anyone my making this sound more difficult or time-consuming than it really is. True, I've been working on it for two days; but that really represents just a few hours of work spread out over those two days.)

In the last entry, our hero was trying to figure out why the WAN light on the router was flashing. The installation manual said that one possible cause might be that "there is an error with the BRI interface (such as no physical or logical link)." So I'm wondering: Did the phone company mess me up and give me a bad phone line? Is the router programmed incorrectly? Did my ISP do something wrong on his end and not do whatever was necessary to make this a dedicated line?

Or could it just be a bad cable?

Since bad cabling was the easiest thing to check out, I swapped the cable that connected the router to the ISDN jack with the cable the connected the router to the network card in the PC. Voila! The WAN light went out. According to the book, that means that "there is an active BRI line and no connection." I take that to mean that the router recognizes the ISDN line, but that I don't have a valid connection. A small step in the right direction. Progress is measured in small steps.

So, I bought a new cable to replace the bad one, which now connected the router to the PC. Still didn't work. I looked over my TCP/IP configuration, and decided that I needed to tell it that I was using DNS and to enter the IP address of my ISP's domain name server. No luck.

Next, I tried to ping my ISP. Nada. Then, just for the hell of it, I tried to ping myself. (Sounds kinda masochistic, doesn't it?) Success! So that tells me (I think) that my TCP/IP is configured correctly. So, why isn't the PC talking to the router?

Just as I'm starting to check out the network card to see if its configured correctly, I get a visit, a network guy who called me after reading some of these notes. While we're talking, he suggests that I might have an interrupt conflict. I haven't had time to check that out yet, but that's where I'll start when I resume my investigation.

I'd like to figure this out by myself. Well, sort of by myself; I've already been offered -- and gratefully accepted -- promising suggestions from several helpful people), but I guess I'll break down and call my ISP tomorrow and ask for help. And if that doesn't work, I'll enlist the aid of a friend this weekend; he's a network consultant with no specific NT or TCP/IP experience -- but hey, he volunteered to help, and two heads are better than one.

Costs so far:

Major expenses that I expect to incur within the next month or two include:

Then all I'll need to do is get some customers so I actually pay for all this stuff, and I'll be in business! Piece of cake.

Look for the final installment next issue, as Hank wraps things up . . . .


Hank Mishkoff (hank@webfeats.com) was unable to make a living playing the blues so, like all failed musicians, he became a computer consultant. He currently runs *WebFeats, a web-service provider in Dallas. At the time of this writing, he is about to start a new company named *MultiWeb in an effort to drum up more business so he won't have to take any more guitar lessons.