Best of Technical Support

Our experts answer your technical questions.
Making Your Own Chat Script

Chat is actually easy to understand. My advice: get rid of those 50-line ppp shell scripts and make your own chat script instead. The man page for chat is very good.The easiest way to do it is to just log in to your ISP manually (e.g., with minicom) and write down the login sequence exactly. Watch out for uppercase/lowercase mistakes! —Bert Vermeulen

Linux Won't Recognize Drive

How do I get Linux to recognize my 2.0GB Maxtor drive? I have a 486dx66 with 8MB of RAM and a 1993 AMI BIOS that doesn't recognize the larger drives requiring me to use On-Track for DOS. Would a new BIOS solve the problem? —Scott Sharpe

Getting off On-Track

Your problem in this case is the On-Track software and DOS itself. DOS suffers from a lack of foresight. Any disk is made up of a combination of cylinders, heads and sectors per track. For an operating system to be able to operate a drive, it must know these values, called the “geometry” of the drive.DOS was originally written quite some time ago. The function that it uses to determine the disk geometry returns the number of cylinders in a value 10 bits wide. As anybody up to speed with their binary knows, this allows a value from 0-1023.As drives have grown, these values have also risen. Modern hard drives, those that are generally above 500MB in size, have more than 1024 cylinders, causing problems with DOS.There are two solutions. One is compatible with Linux, and the other is not. The most common today is to use Logical Block Addressing (LBA). This is typically provided by the computer's BIOS as a feature to handle larger drives. What it does is double the number of heads and halve the number of cylinders “logically” so that DOS can operate on a drive physically outside its capability. The BIOS handles the translation on the fly, and DOS is none the wiser.Linux will operate quite well with this scheme. It simply does not use that function, and instead determines the geometry itself. However, this is not compatible with the other method, that of using disk management software to handle the problem.Disk management software works in much the same way that the LBA mode does, but it relies on a piece of software loaded in memory when the computer boots. Since Linux (or any other operating system besides DOS) will not load this driver, it cannot read a disk controlled by the manager software.Your best solution is to replace your BIOS, or buy a new motherboard with a newer BIOS. Either solution is probably just as good. Since a BIOS upgrade is a rare event, companies typically charge high prices for them. You may be able to find a 486/80 or something even faster for approximately the same amount of money it would cost you to upgrade your BIOS. —Chad Robinson, BRT Technical Services Corporation

Portmap Zombie Processes

My portmap process keeps generating zombie processes, but I can find no reason for it—any ideas? —Chris Kolosiwsky

Upgrade Should Solve Problem

Upgrade to a later portmap RPM from: —Donnie Barnes, Red Hat Software