SAN MATEO (06/12/2000) - My columns of the last few weeks have inspired readers to send a number of comments. I'm trying to print as many of the best ones as I can. Here's another installment of tricks from my readers' kit bags.
Out, damn floppy
One of the more irritating behaviors of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows is that it sometimes looks for a floppy disk for no apparent reason. This can seriously slow the opening of Windows Explorer, My Computer, and other functions.
In my April 24 column (see "Readers send in their best tips on Internet security, USB mice, floppies, and more," www.infoworld.com/printlinks), I printed a tip from reader Nevell Greenough about this. He suggested booting Windows 95 and 98 to DOS and renaming the floppy driver Windows\System\IOsubsys\Drvwq117.vxd to something else. Sometimes this file is installed by software when it isn't needed. Greenough wrote again recently, saying that Direct Tape Access (DTA), a Veritas Software tape backup program, could cause floppy-access problems.
Jason Ng, a device driver engineer/manager at Veritas, confirmed this in an e-mail message. Rather than the floppy driver being at fault, it may be that DTA's use of the driver causes the delays.
"This 'hang,' " Ng writes, "may be due to the DTA file system driver that sits on the device driver Drvwq117.vxd. We found DTA 2.0 did cause this issue, and removing the DTA file system, not Drvwq117.vxd, would solve this problem."
Tech Note ID 187041 at Veritas' Web site describes how to eliminate unnecessary floppy accesses. Go to seer.support.veritas.com/tnotes/dtawin95/187041.htm.
If you're not using a tape drive that attaches to a floppy drive connector, you probably don't need Drvwq117.vxd. But I've heard of many other problems that point to this file as a culprit. If you're having weird problems with a floppy drive, search on that file name in the www.metacrawler.com search engine to see other symptoms that may affect you.
Disabling the 'always on' Internet
I also wrote in my April 24 column that you can use a feature of Win2000 to temporarily shut down your "always on" connection to the Internet via your local area network. You might want to do this as an extra layer of protection against someone accessing your machine without your knowledge.
Reader Phil Oester points out that you can switch off your LAN connection faster if you put the icon for this on your Task Bar (the strip that has your Start button on it). To do this in Windows 2000, click Start, Settings, Control Panel, Network & Dial-Up Connections, Local Area Connection. In the dialog box that appears, click Properties. Then turn on the "Show icon in taskbar when connected" box.
You can then temporarily disable your connection by right-clicking the small Local Area Connection icon in your Task Bar, then clicking Disable. To restore the connection, repeat the steps beginning with the Start button above. After clicking Local Area Connection, you'll see the icon return to the Task Bar.
I also asked whether there was a screen saver that could automatically disable all network access after a period of inactivity. Reader Ed Kearn writes that he uses ZoneAlarm. I've written about this handy software firewall several times, most recently in the Feb. 7 issue (see "New program stops Windows 2000/NT/98 security weaknesses and Trojans for free," www.infoworld.com/printlinks).
ZoneAlarm protects your system from unwanted incoming traffic and prevents unknown programs from accessing the Net without your knowledge. This guards against "Trojan horse" and "zombie" programs.
ZoneAlarm can be configured to stop all Internet activity, except for those programs you select, such as an e-mail client. For more information, visit www.zonealarm.com.
Readers Ng, Oester, and Kearn will receive free copies of Windows 2000 Secrets for being the first to send me tips I printed.
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Brian Livingston's latest book is Windows 2000 Secrets (IDG Books). Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. He regrets he cannot answer individual questions.