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The PC Corner.

I HAVE SURVIVED my first four months in Riyadh relatively unscathed. It is now autumn in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the temperature is now in the high 30s during the day, dropping into the mid 20s at night. Of course, this is in Celsius! We may have to turn the heater on in the swimming pool sometime in November if the cool weather continues.

Even though the weather has cooled off, the PC market is heating up in the Kingdom. Prices are dropping like a brick, and a bit of sharp negotiating at the local computer souk (market) will get you a price on a system that is very close to the mail-order prices in the PC magazines. However, rather than talk about hardware this quarter, I wanted to continue my discussion of DOS 6.0 that I began in my last column.

DOS 6.0 REVISITED

Last quarter I had reviewed several features of DOS 6.0 and concluded that it was a worthwhile upgrade, but only if you really needed the built-in utility programs. With three more months of experience using it, and being able to compare it with the version of DOS 5.0 on my Compaq Deskpro 386/25 at work, I am now more willing to recommend it. I particularly like the DEFRAG disk defragmenter and MSAV/VSAFE antivirus programs and would recommend them highly. However, I still would caution readers about using the DoubleSpace utility. There have been many complaints about problems with DoubleSpace, particularly with older and slower 286-type machines. Because these are the machines most likely to run out of hard disk space, they are the most likely candidates for DoubleSpace. My advice -- don't! If you must, convert your files to DoubleSpace one subdirectory at a time and thoroughly test them for conversion integrity and for access speed. Under no circumstances should you convert a whole disk drive all at once.

Microsoft's New Antivirus Utilities

I am using the Microsoft AntiVirus (MSAV) and VSAFE utilities routinely now. As mentioned last quarter, MSAV purports to be able to detect more than 800 different viruses and remove them from your computer. I run MSAV on a routine schedule on all of my hard disk files and use it to scan any floppy disk files I want to copy to my hard disk. An option restricts checking to files with certain qualifiers (such as .COM and .EXE files). Although this can cut down the amount of time spent scanning the files, I don't feel it is as safe as a comprehensive scan of all files.

The VSAFE utility is a memory-resident program that monitors your computer and warns of changes that might have been caused by a virus. I have installed VSAFE in my AUTOEXEC.BAT file, so that it routinely monitors activity in my computer. Microsoft offers an update service, which I have subscribed to, in order to catch all of the new viruses. It is fascinating and somewhat frightening to scan through the list of the various viruses. The computer field certainly attracts its share of twisted geniuses.

The Disk Defragmentation Utility

This routine compresses and defragments files on your hard drives. Although it does not have as many options as SPEED DISK, the Norton utility I reviewed nine months ago, it is a very competent utility and, in addition, runs much more rapidly. I run it every week to defragment my C: drive, and it works like a charm. One word of advice: ignore the initial recommendation that the program gives you (which is usually to unfragment only) and perform a full optimization every time you run it. It doesn't take that much longer.

My only complaint about DEFRAG is that you can't save the options that you select each time; thus, you must reenter them each time you run the utility. For instance, I like to have all of my files sorted in alphabetical order within each subdirectory. Because this is not the default option, I have to select it each time I run DEFRAG.

Caveat Computatis

Unlike the nonresident DOS commands such as CHKDSK and COMP, the various utilities in DOS 6.0 can theoretically be run in earlier versions of DOS. Resist the temptation to do this. I would be particularly careful in using DEFRAG in this fashion. It would be very easy to trash completely all files on your hard drive, in case of incompatibilities between DOS versions, particularly between versions earlier than 5.0. I do not know why Microsoft didn't include the same version check that they do with the nonresident DOS commands, but they didn't, so be careful.

HINT OF THE QUARTER

Do you know where your bootable floppy version of DOS is? If you don't have one, you should. The DOS disks that you bought from Microsoft or got with your PC are not normally bootable, so you would find yourself in a real fix if something happened to your hard disk, either a hardware problem or a virus contamination. To prepare a bootable floppy, follow these simple steps:

1. Format a disk in your A: drive using the following command: FORMAT A: /S

This will place the basic DOS COMMAND.COM file and two hidden files necessary to run DOS on your floppy disk.

2. Copy whatever other DOS external commands you frequently use from your \DOS subdirectory on your hard drive onto the floppy using the COPY (or XCOPY) command. I have found the following commands to be very useful:

APPEND.EXE BACKUP.EXE COMP.EXE DISKCOMP.EXE EDLIN.EXE MEM.EXE RESTORE.EXE ATTRIB.EXE CHKDSK.EXE DEBUG.EXE DISCOPY.EXE FORMAT.COM MODE.COM XCOPY.EXE (DOS 5.0 or later)

In addition to the above commands, I have copied the files associated with the Microsoft Antivirus and Defrag utilities.

3. Place a simple AUTOEXEC.BAT file onto the bootable floppy disk using EDLIN or any other ASCII editor. My file is as follows:

@echo off prompt $p$g path a:\ vsafe msav

If disaster should strike my C: drive and the computer does not boot up when turned on, all I have to do is to slip the bootable floppy into my A: drive and turn the machine on. Note that the AUTOEXEC.BAT file automatically executes the antivirus programs VSAFE and MSAV. This would be particularly handy if I suspect a viral infection to be the cause of the problems with the C: drive. Note one important thing: if you have both an A: and a B: drive, of different types, make sure that your bootable disk is of the type that fits in the A: drive, because you can't boot from the B: drive. On my Dell, my A: drive is a 1.2 meg 5.25" drive and my B: drive is a 1.44 meg 3.5" drive, so my bootable floppy is a 1.2 meg 5.25".

NEW ADDRESS AND PHONE NUMBER

For those of you using DOS 6.0, I would enjoy hearing about your experiences with this system. Rather than having Ed Mennis forward your letters, try my new address, as follows:

John H. Qualls JECOR Unit 61306, Box 28 APO AE 09803-1306

Because it is an APO address, all you need is U.S. domestic postage. If you feel really brave, you might want to fax me at 011-966-1-454-9352. I look forward to hearing from you.

John H. Qualls is Senior Economist, National Center for Financial and Economic Information, Ministry of Finance, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
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Title Annotation:DOS 6.0
Author:Qualls, John H.
Publication:Business Economics
Article Type:Column
Date:Jan 1, 1994
Words:1259
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