Coming: Satellite Broadband Internet Access

I spent part of this week at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. CES is to the consumer electronics business what Comdex is to the computer business, but with fewer people attending and a somewhat more relaxed pace. CES also has lots more toys that I'd like to own but can't afford right now (anybody else up for a 60" flat-panel HDTV?).

But this is the Windows 2000 Pro UPDATE newsletter, and you're probably wondering what consumer electronics and Win2K have in common. The short answer is "very little." But one thing I saw that has direct application to users in small business and standalone Win2K installations is Hughes Network Systems' DirecPC two-way satellite broadband Internet access.

Hughes has offered a product in the satellite Internet access market for quite a few years—the DirecDuo—which uses a satellite downlink combined with a modem connection uplink to provide faster access when browsing the Net. The new DirecPC two-way satellite link removes the need for a landline link back to an ISP. All that's required is direct line-of-sight from the satellite dish to the southern sky (in the direction of Houston, Texas, if you're north of that location). If you're not in the United States, Hughes has franchises in other countries and claims to offer its services to 75 percent of the world.

The DirecPC service works with any Win2K computer that has a USB port. A small dish connects via a coaxial cable to the DirecPC modem, which connects via USB to the PC host. Download speed reaches a maximum of 400Kbps; upload speeds have a maximum of 128Kbps. The service should be generally available in March 2000. Hughes hasn't announced prices for the service yet, but I've seen quotes in the range of $60/month from one of the third-parties that will sell the hardware and service. This amount might seem like a lot, but if you live anywhere that doesn't offer cable modem or DSL service, it's a great deal. More details are available from the DirecPC Web site.

This week's tip:
I recently upgraded an old server in my office to Windows 2000 Server. This dual-PII 233 with 128MB of memory is used only as a data storage box. It has a Promise Ultra-66 IDE card in it with four 30GB drives. I use that 120GB of storage to keep copies of products I use for testing, copies of data files and results, and about 20GB of .wma music files.

After I upgraded to Win2K, I found a small problem. During boot, the system would bluescreen with a bad video driver error. Upgrading the driver for the embedded video did no good, but I found that the system would boot into any of the safe modes properly. I didn't have a spare video card handy (and the system BIOS didn't seem to give the option of disabling the on-board video), and I found that if I booted into safe mode with networking, everything behaved just fine. Of course this method meant that every time I needed to reboot the system, I had to wait during the boot process and press F8 at the appropriate time. Also, if I had a power failure, the system wouldn't automatically reboot. Fortunately, I came across the following entries that you can place in the boot.ini file to control the safe mode boot process.

Mode: Safe Mode

Mode: Safe Mode with Networking

Mode: Safe Mode with Command Prompt

Mode: Enable Boot Logging
Switch: /BOOTLOG

Mode: Enable VGA Mode

Mode: Debugging Mode
Switch: /DEBUG

So I created the following entry:

multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINNT="Safe with networking" /fastdetect /

I added the entry to the \[operating systems\] section of the boot.ini file. Then I booted the system and selected it as the default boot choice.

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