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Rebooting made easy.

If your system is littered with configuration and batch files, BOOT.EXE can get things organized.

PCs and CD-ROMs may be a match P made in heaven and a winning information combination, but it isn't always smooth sailing. Memory problems can cause trouble in the relationship, raising havoc with the romance.

Every CD-ROM product seems to have its own finicky memory-hungry program and CD-drive utility. Troubles multiply when you try to use two or more CD-ROM products on a single public-access machine, and then grow exponentially when you want to run one of those oh-so-handy terminate-and-stay resident (TSR) programs, too.

The programs hog the 640 kilobytes or 1 megabyte of RAM that once seemed so inexhaustible, and ZAP, your information retrieval house of cards crumbles. At worst the machine locks up; at best your finely crafted public access menu crashes down to the dreaded C:> prompt, and rudely informs you that there's nOt enough memory to continue.

RAM cram is the culprit, caused perhaps by too many device drivers or memory location conflicts. Simply put, the operating system is trying to do too many things at once. All this leaves you with the problem of how to set up the PC to automatically and gracefully clean up its memory act.

Edit and Reboot?

As a first solution, you might use an editor to change the AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS files to unload some of those contentious mernory-grabbers, then reboot. This is simple. but clearly too much of a hassle to handle every time a patron wants to switch from CD Brand X to CD Brand Y.

Warmboot Batch Files

A better solution would be to put a series of different AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS files on your machine with different and helpful names or extensions. Use batch files to copy the proper configuration choices for a particular machine set-up and then reboot.

Even better. end the batch file by using a "software reboot" utility. These are tiny COM programs that cause a "warm boot:' without the need to manually press CTRL-ALT-DEL. This is a bit more elegant, especially when used with a simple menu program.

In this way, a patron might simply select CD-ROM Number 3, and get a short, confident, message, to the effect of "One moment, I'm resetting the computer; then choose # 3 again. please."

This is a much nicer solution, but all those AUTOEXEC and CONFIG files are a bit messy. Two files for each reconfiguration on each of your machines will eventually litter up your otherwise neat directories. And, it might be hard to remember exactly what each one does, and which to edit for what on which machine.

The Preferred Solution

BOOT.EXE is a small shareware program that reads a single text file containing all versions of configuration files, and automatically copies the correct configuration choices to new AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS files. Combine this with a software reboot and control it all from your normal patron PC menu for an extremely reliable method of managing multiple boot-up configurations. Total time for system reconfiguaration is about two seconds longer than a normal reboot.

How BOOT.EXE Works

Configuration management with BOOT.EXE is simplicity itself. Create a text file called BOOT.CFG to contain the sequence of alternate configuration definitions. Each separate definition section has an identifier string :$NAME=" in the left margin twelve-character (maximum). This is followed by the CONFIG.SYS file text sequence, flagged with a :$C:" and the AUTOEXEC.BAT text sequence, starting with a :$A:". (All the flag identifiers must start in the left margin.)

There are handy "internal documentation" features. Any text prior to the first ,:$NAME=" definition is ignored, and so can be used for content notes, descriptions, instructions, etc.

A specific configuration description of up to sixty characters may also follow each :$NAME=" definition. There is a limit of 255 configurations with BOOT.EXE.

You can choose desired configurations from the command line or a batch file, using either the assigned configuration name or the number of the configuration sequence. Example: "boot eric" or "boot 3" would select the ERIC" or the third defined configuration set-up.

Using the "boof" command alone brings up a configuration choice menu. This can be operated by using either a highlighted pointer bar or entering the configuration list number. (Menu lines include the ":$NAME=" line description text.)

Trying It Out

If you understand the basic requirements of AUTOEXEC.BAT, CONFIG.SYS, and batch files, then BOOT.EXE program should present few problems. You can experiment safely by saving a couple of security-blanket copies of your original configuration files in another directory or to a floppy disk.

Create a BOOT.CFG text file and make up some simple variations of the configurations you require. Entering "boot check" does a debugging check of your BOOT.CFG. This checks to make sure all the sections of alternate configurations are present, and in the correct order. If the check finds an error, it displays the line number and an error message. The program cannot check the accuracy of your boot-up commands or spelling errors. You'll have to ensure that, just as you would with regular AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS files.

Remember, you'll also need a software boot program to make the reconfiguration totally automatic. These are commonly available as shareware or free utilities. Titles to look for include REBOOT.COM, REBOOTB.COM (for use in batch files), and WARMBOOT.COM, my own favorite, because it does not repeat the time-consuming memory and hardware tests. These and similar programs are commonly available on bulletin boards.

Product Discussed BOOT.EXE

Available on bulletin boards as shareware or directly from the author:

Stephen C. Kick

703 Alder Drive

Allen, TX 75002

(CompuServe: 73707,2340) Nominal $10 registration fee requested
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Title Annotation:using Boot.Exe to organize the computer system
Author:Perez, Ernest
Publication:Computers in Libraries
Date:Feb 1, 1991
Previous Article:ProComm Plus and OCLC's Epic.
Next Article:Automated Acquisitions: Issues for the Present and Future.

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