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Step-up to MS-DOS 6.2: an early look at Microsoft's latest upgrade.

Any discussion of operating software ought to begin with a brief description of the hardware it was tested on and a list of the software it was tested with. In this case, the system was an aging 80386 with 4 megabytes of memory, a Seagate ST3144A 130 megabyte hard disk, and a VGA card. The PC is attached to a UPS. The software included the Windows 3.1 operating environment and a collection of Windows apps as well as WordPerfect, Quattro Pro, and ProComm Plus for DOS. This upgraded version of DOS 6.2 (called Step-Up) was downloaded from CompuServe and only installs on machines already running MS-DOS 6.0.

A little bit of history might be in order here. DOS 6.0 has been running on this PC for some time, with none of the lost or corrupted files that have plagued a small number of users. It was originally installed to take advantage of two utilities that Microsoft shipped for the first time in DOS 6.0 -- DoubleSpace, a disk compression utility, and MemMaker, a memory manager.

Looking through some notes made at the time of the installation of DOS 6.0, we see that DoubleSpace compression with Express Setup, the default operation, took 56 minutes and achieved a 1.6 to 1 compression ratio. An uncompressed drive H: with 13.5 megabytes of uncompressed space also was created. Running MemMaker, also with Express Setup, took only a few minutes. There were no problems with either installation. A summary of the disk and memory configurations reported by CHKDSK just before DOS 6.2 was installed may be found in Figure 1.

DOS 6.2 arrived from ZiffNet on CompuServe as a self-extracting 1,308K file called STEPUP.EXE. The simplest way to handle it is to make a new directory and put STEPUP.EXE there. Typing STEPUP at the command line extracts four files, including one called README.NOW which tells you how to proceed. Read it. Before you go any further, have two disks handy. They'll be called for when an emergency starter disk is created. Another of the four extracted files is called SETUP.BAT. SETUP.BAT performs the installation of DOS 6.2. It will tell you what worked or what didn't and why.

It took about fifteen minutes to run the DOS 6.2 SETUP program. As SETUP begins, you'll see a mild warning about backing up files if you haven't done it recently, a notice that you'll need two disks to proceed, another that SCANDISK can fix all sorts of disk problems, and yet a third that SMARTdrive now caches CD-ROMs. The results of running CHKDSK after loading DOS 6.2, deleting the remains of DOS 6.0 with the DELOLDOS command, deleting the STEPUP files, and running MemMaker are presented in Figure 2.

A couple of changes are immediately apparent. First (and finally), there are commas to make reading the figures reported by CHKDSK easier, and second, there's a suggestion to try a new utility called SCANDISK. SCANDISK generated the report in Figure 3. It is clearly a more comprehensive tool than CHKDSK.

What's New in DOS 6.2?

The following comments are excerpted from the MS-DOS 6.2 HELP function. The full text on each feature may be displayed by typing HELP WHATSNEW at the DOS prompt.

Safety Features and Enhancements

ScanDisk: MS-DOS 6.2 includes ScanDisk, a new utility that detects, diagnoses, and repairs disk errors on uncompressed drives and DoubleSpace compressed drives. ScanDisk can repair file system errors (such as crosslinks and lost clusters) and physical disk errors. ScanDisk keeps a log of its repairs and enables you to undo any of the changes it made. DoubleSpace runs ScanDisk to check the reliability of your disk before it begins compression. You can also run ScanDisk yourself by typing SCANDISK at the command prompt.

DoubleSpace: DoubleSpace includes DoubleGuard safety checking, which protects against data corruption by verifying data integrity before writing data to your disk. If DoubleGuard detects that the memory DoubleSpace it is using has been corrupted by another program, it shuts down your computer immediately to minimize damage to your data.

HIMEM.SYS: The MS-DOS extended-memory manager, HIMEM, automatically tests your system's memory when you start your computer. This test can identify memory chips that are no longer reliable. (Unreliable memory can result in system instability or loss of data.) To turn off the memory test, add the /TESTMEM:OFF switch to the command that starts HIMEM.

SMARTDrive: Setup now configures SMARTDrive as a readonly cache by default. Even if write-caching is enabled, MS-DOS does not display the command prompt until SMARTDrive has written its cache to your disk. This prevents you from turning off your computer before the data in memory are saved. SMARTDrive now caches CD-ROM drives.

MOVE, COPY, XCOPY: The <MOVE>, <COPY>, and <XCOPY> commands now ask you for confirmation before copying a file over another file that has the same name. (However, when issued from a batch file, these commands do not prompt for confirmation before overwriting a file.)

Ease of Use Features and Other Enhancements

With MS-DOS 6.2, you can easily uncompress a DoubleSpace drive or even completely uninstall DoubleSpace from memory.

DoubleSpace automatically mounts compressed floppy disks and other compressed removable media even when Windows is running.

You can now bypass or carry out individual commands in your AUTOEXEC.BAT and other batch programs. (In MS-DOS 6, this capability was limited to your CONFIG.SYS file.) This feature makes it easier to isolate problems when you are troubleshooting problems in your system configuration or in batch programs. To step through the commands in your AUTOEXEC.BAT file, press F8 when your computer starts. To step through other batch files, use the <COMMAND /Y> command.

If you need to, you can bypass DoubleSpace when you start your computer. This makes troubleshooting easier and also temporarily frees memory for use by other applications.

The <DISKCOPY> command now uses your hard disk as an interim storage area, which makes copying from one floppy disk to another faster and easier.

Microsoft Defragmenter makes better use of your computer's extended memory, so it can now defragment much larger disks and disks containing many more files and directories.

The output of the DIR, MEM, CHKDSK, and FORMAT commands is much easier to read, since it now includes thousands of separators when displaying numbers greater than 999. For example, "1000000 bytes free" now reads "1,000,000 bytes free."

In the short time I've used DOS 6.2, I've encountered no problems. The new features outlined above are most welcome, though most of the utilities have been available from one vendor or another for some time. The DOS 6.2 upgrade is available online for connect fees or for $9.95 in the packaged version. Whichever way you acquire the DOS 6.2 Step-Up upgrade, it will be time or money well spent.

Eric Flower is library director at the University of Hawaii-West Oahu. Send electronic mail over BITNET (T133970@UHCCMVS), Internet (FLOWER@UHCCVX.UHCC. HAWAII.EDU), CompuServe (70042,2635); fax: (808) 456-5208; phone (808) 455-0497; or write to 96-043 Ala Ike, Pearl City, HI 96782.

Editors Note:

Yes, we did publish this article in the February issue of CIL, We're reprinting it this month to clean out all the annoying errors that crept in due to ASCII translation problems. Our apologies to Eric Flower and to other readers for our mistakes.
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Title Annotation:Software Review; reprinted from February 1994 issue with typographical corrections
Author:Flower, Eric
Publication:Computers in Libraries
Article Type:Evaluation
Date:Apr 1, 1994
Previous Article:Have drill, will travel.
Next Article:Confessions of a CD-ROM librarian.

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