Scott's Column
More Windows XP, New Budget Computer, Visual Basic, Etc.

December 1, 2001
By Scott Lewis

Another fun month. I am so glad to have a job that I enjoy. We are getting very close to moving into the house. We are starting to prepare for it, and the first thing we did was build my in-laws a new computer.

Budget Computer

I built a new computer for my in-laws. I had "lent" them my old 100 MHz Gateway when I build my 450MHz machine. But that lent computer seemed to get migrated to my brother-in-law. Regardless, my in-laws are planning to keep the DSL connection we had setup in their house. So as a big thank you for them letting us stay there rent free for 4-5 months, I built them there own computer.

They have very modest needs, so I tried to build a computer for as little as possible... while still using all name brand parts. The machine uses an Intel 1.1 GHz Celeron, 256 MB of RAM, 20 GB HD, etc. The video and audio were built into the motherboard. Normally I would not go that route, but my in-laws are not into gaming or digital photography, so any video that just works will be good enough. The motherboard uses Intel's 810E chipset.

Overall the machine is very nice. It cost me between $700 & $750 to build... with shipping and tax where applicable. I haven't received all the bills yet to give a total, but that is close enough. Some people may think this price is high. Not really. I checked around and have not seen a machine available without bizarre rebate offers that matched the specs of this computer for less money. Overall I think it was a bargain. I still remember when computers first dipped below $1,000. I wrote then that any machine for under a grand was a piece of junk. Well, that is far from true today. In fact, for a little more money this computer good have been a good gaming machine.

Unless you have special requirements, like hard core gaming or serious digital photography, I can't see spending over $1,000 for a computer. Some change of opinion, huh? Even if you do have special needs, you should still be able to get a great machine for $1,200-1,500. I plan on spending less than $1,500 for my next computer unless I get a flat panel display. I have not seen a flat panel display I like under about $700-800 and that would put me back to the $2,000 range I was at when I built my 450MHz computer three years ago.

Windows XP

Since my brother-in-law still lives at home and does a lot of Internet stuff (downloading, installing P2P software, etc.) I wanted to put Windows XP on the machine to help keep there settings and files from getting mixed up. I really wanted to make use of XP's new Welcome screen and fast user switching. Unfortunately, I couldn't load XP. The "DOS" version of the install went fine, but when the computer reboot it showed the Windows XP logo for a few second then the screen went blank. I believe the installation was going fine based on the amount of hard drive access. But after a while the computer just sat there. I think it was probably waiting for input, but I have no way of knowing.

It seemed to me that Windows XP was using an incompatible video setting. As I understand it, Microsoft decided to stop doing installs in VGA mode, and uses a video mode with 32-bit depth color for the install. I don't know how to get it to do the install in VGA mode, if that is even possible.

I sent a message to Intel's support since it uses an Intel chipset for the video. I also filled out the support form for the motherboard manufacturer. Neither has replied. That is very bad. If I had time I would seriously complain. But it was a the night before Thanksgiving and I need to get the machine working and in place before all the guests started arriving.

I installed Windows 98. It was the fasted I installed it in my life. 7 minutes... tops. Everything is working fine. I have limited the amount of software installed. Just the essential games "us kids" have been buying for them all these years. I also bought them a new Hoyle's Solitaire Game since that was all I saw them play for the first week of its use.

Visual Basic

At work I am in charge of a large project that uses VB for most of the clients and Oracle on the back end. I have been wrestling with version control since day one. I have tried and tried to get a clean compile of the main application and the primary DLL it uses. As it turned out the copies of the code in Source Safe were not the latest versions. It drove me crazy until I found the right version to start working from.

But that was actually just the start of my problems. I found that the wrong version of the DLL were on my machine and the wrong version of some third party OCXs were also on my machine.

I am still dealing with the problem. I can finally compile all the pieces mentioned above and have them working on my machine. But they won't run on the production machines. I even tried recompiling the exact code from production on the machine that the previous programmer I replaced used. It compiled fine... and of course it didn't work on the production machines.

I am under a serious deadline now. We need to move an enhancement into production on Dec. 14th. I have to have it tested by Dec. 7th. I hope I can get it working in time. I would hate to disappoint my new employers already.

The House

It is very close. We are looking at closing on the 13th or 14th of December. I figure we will also move in the weekend of the 15th - 16th. I will keep you posted. I will post what may be the final pictures of the house next month. Stay tuned. I think I will dedicate an entire article to the house with a wrap up and lessons learned.


Hope to be writing this from my new study next month. Until then...