Minutes of the March Meeting

By Jim Weber, Secretary, Tampa PC Users Group

The Windows SIG started in the MOSI computer lab at 6:00 PM with Mary Sheridan at the helm. The discussion soon turned toward Linux again with several members expressing an interest in the OS.

The next topic of discussion was Windows networking. With more homes having multiple computers these days, home networking is becoming increasingly popular. William LaMartin was quick to point out that his own home network allows him to use one computer as an internet router, so only one computer has to be configured for calling outside the home and the other computers connect through it. For people with high speed Internet connections, like RoadRunner, you would only have to pay for the single connection. We talked about simple "Direct Cable Connections" between two computers to running wire and installing network cards in your home. New network products now on the market work through the existing phone lines or connect wirelessly, like a cordless phone, and will help make a home network easier to install. The network discussion went from setting up a Windows network to the cost of on site network service. With some places charging over $200.00 per hour to come out to work on a network, some of us considered a career change.

If anyone is interested in starting new SIGs like Access or Linux, or a study group for certification such as A+ or MCSE, please contact any of the board members or bring it up during the meeting.

President Merle Nicholson called the meeting to order at 6:35 PM. He started by introducing guests and new members to the group. Merle then passed along a warning to users of RoadRunner that, since the system is basically a large Windows network, if you don’t have your security features set properly, outside users can obtain your I. P. address without your knowledge, or access information on your hard drive. This means someone else can pretend to be you on the Internet. Merle announced the dates and times for our SIGs and reminded everyone that they are listed in the newsletter. Mary Sheridan and Bruce Register returned from this years FACUG meeting in Orlando and brought back new users group price lists from Power Quest, Jasc, and Symantec.

Merle then announced the new membership drive. For those who missed it, we will be giving away a meal for two at Applebee’s to the member in good standing who brings in the most new members beginning April 1, 1999 to October 1, 1999. In case of a tie, the winner will be determined by a drawing.

Jason Velasco of Ontrack software started his presentation at 7:00 PM. Ontrack is a company that specializes in data recovery. They were originally known for their disk manager program, which allowed older computers to recognize and use newer, larger hard drives. Now they perform minor miracles by resurrecting lost data. Mr. Velasco passed along some interesting statistics on data loss, like hardware failure being the most common cause of loss (44%) followed by human error (32%). Virii fell far below at only 7%. Larger hard drives have shown a greater rate of failure than smaller ones, probably because they spin faster and have more closely packed data areas.

Mr. Velasco then described the methods used by Ontrack to recover your lost data. Copies of "Data Advisor" were brought in for the group to take home. This program boots from the floppy only when your hard drive fails and loads directly to system memory. No information is moved to or from the hard drive. Data Advisor begins with a mechanical and electrical test of the drive’s hardware before ever checking the data files on the disk. If the drive fails at this point the test stops. The program then tests the integrity of the data on the disk, and it then tests the disk sectors. Again, if any part of the test fails the whole process ends. Where Data Advisor makes itself truly useful is a modem driver that will run strictly from memory and call Ontrack. The technicians at Ontrack can then attempt to recover lost data remotely over the modem. This process won’t work with a Win modem; the drivers are too large for a single floppy. Ontrack also has Class 100 clean rooms where they can open a hard drive to physically repair a damaged disk. Most hard drive manufacturers will continue to honor their warranty after Ontrack has opened the drive. Try that at home. If you choose to send the drive to Ontrack they charge a standard $100.00 fee for just the evaluation.

Data Advisor is available from Ontrack at http//www.ontrack.com for free. There is also a Y2K Bios tester available as freeware. I found this to be a very handy tool.

After a short break we began the drawing for the door prizes. A special congratulations goes out to one of our new members, Mike Torres. Mr. Torres won a copy of Nuts & Bolts, Via Grafix training CD, and an Ontrack T-shirt. Arthur Young, another new member, won a spell-checking program called "Spell Catcher." Ford Bond won a Via Grafix disk and Bob LaFave won "Glider 4.0." u