Help desk

Help desk

Sound card controls noise

Q I'm writing a Windows NT program in which I use Win32 API's "MessageBeep" and "Beep" to produce beeps on the speakers. On my machine, the speaker plays the beep at a normal volume, but on several others in our office the volume is very low. How do you set the volume on the internal speaker in Windows NT 4.0?

A Your problem is hardware-related and has nothing to do with Windows NT in particular. The default internal sound source of an IBM PC-compatible is usually a small, tinny permanent magnet speaker driven by a square wave generator on the counter/timer chip. It costs very little, and due to cost constraints, few vendors have invested in better ones. There were no volume controls on the original IBM PC and AT, so few (if any) clones have added them. To this day, the volume is usually fixed by the motherboard design.

So, what do you do to amplify or soften the beep? Add a sound card that can redirect the signal from the old-fashioned beeper through its own more sophisticated electronics. Many of today's audio cards have a connection that lets you route the motherboard's speaker output through the card's built-in mixer, which in turn will let you control the volume.

Another option is to enable multimedia functions in your operating system so that you can replace that plain "beep" with the sound effect of your choice.

Mouse 'poo' gets too messy

Q I know this is a long-standing problem, but I couldn't find any reference to it in Microsoft's Knowledge Base. We are experiencing "mouse droppings" (ghost mouse trails on the screen that don't disappear) on a new 6x86 system. The system runs Windows 95 and has a Microsoft mouse. What's the cure?

A Most accelerated graphics cards create the mouse pointer using special hardware rather than drawing it with software. On these cards, the pointer isn't written into the same memory as the screen image, but is instead implemented as an "overlay" that's superimposed upon the image by the internal chipset. This saves the CPU time that would otherwise be required to erase the pointer (and replace the image underneath) whenever the pointer moved.

Mouse "droppings" usually occur when the drivers for a graphics card (or the graphics card itself) do not handle the hardware properly. To turn off this hardware in Windows 95, open the System applet on the Control Panel and click the tab marked "performance". Press the button marked "graphics" and turn the acceleration control down a notch or two. Also look for new drivers on the video card manufacturer's Web site; new computers are sometimes shipped with surprisingly old drivers.

Internet Explorer strikes again

Q After I upgraded to Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.01, my machine (a Compaq Deskpro 2000) started locking up whenever I shut down Windows 95. I get the "Please wait . . ." screen, but never see the message that says it's safe to turn off the computer. Then, when I turn the system back on, it runs the ScanDisk utility automatically. This is very annoying! Do you know what is going on?

A This problem is so common that Microsoft has a set of "troubleshooter" Web pages that walks users through a diagnostic session. It's at Make sure your browser is set to accept cookies, or you will not be allowed access to the site.

Most often, however, shutdown problems are caused by a task (often a background task) that refuses to quit. So, if the automated troubleshooting session proves fruitless, do a clean boot, wait for the system to settle into a quiescent state with the desktop visible, and hit Ctrl-Alt-Del.

One caveat: if the culprit turns out to be Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 or later, try to fix the problem without uninstalling the browser.

Q Our office uses an external 8mm Exabyte SCSI tape drive (Model EXB-8700LT) for backups. We don't want to keep the drive turned on all the time because the fan sucks dust into the case. But if we turn the drive off, the computer stops recognising that the tape drive is there! We have to reboot the server before it's available again. Is there a fix?

A Unfortunately, running the fan constantly will cause dust to accumulate - a potentially devastating problem for the delicate helical scan heads on your 8mm drive. And many external SCSI devices, especially tape drives, have no way of entering a "standby" mode and turning off their fans during long, idle periods.

The best solution would be for Exabyte and others to add such a mode. But for now, it's best to run a server OS that can rescan the SCSI bus after booting and recognise the drive. Alternatively, use a network backup product that runs the tape drive on a workstation. If you do, you can reboot just that workstation instead of your server.

Bugs & FIXES

Microsoft Exchange

If Exchange Server 5.0 gets a message from the Internet that contains embedded messages, the Microsoft Mail Connector may reject it with a non-delivery report. Microsoft is currently testing a fix that will allow these messages to be received. It should be in the next Exchange Service Pack.

Windows NT

While NT supports applications running under different user contexts, an NT com-puter running Microsoft's SNA Server client for Windows 95 with multiple applications launched will only function with one SNA application at a time. The problem is that the SNA Server Windows 95 client was originally designed to run client applications only under a single-user context. Microsoft's fix is to use the SNA Server Windows NT client software on the NT computer.

BackOffice Small Business Server

If you try to install Microsoft's BackOffice Small Business Server 4.0 onto Digital's Alpha platform from floppy disks, you will get the error message: "Cannot find SETUPX.DLL." The only work-around is to install from the CD-ROM version.

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