Vintage Computers — 14

After renovating the 486 computer I received an interesting dialog when attempting to access the Control Panel 386 Enhanced applet. When selecting the Virtual Memory option I received the following dialog:

    32-bit File Access was unable to run. This may be
    because Windows could not find the IFSSYS.SYS driver,
    or your hard disks(s) may not be compatible with
    32-bit File Access.

Previously this all worked fine. The IFSSYS.SYS file is installed and configured in CONFIG.SYS. The mem /c command showed the driver being loaded.

Incompatible hard disks? Perhaps, but I was suspicious. There were no such related problems on the K6-III+ computer. I tried several different PATA/IDE disks from the junk spares. I tried different 386 virtual device drivers. All to no avail.

I was about to surrender when an idea bubbled. In the configuration dialog I manually disabled 32-bit File Access and rebooted. After launching Windows I restored the option and rebooted.

Thereafter all worked well. No error dialog.

I realized what had happened after comparing the updated 486 configuration to the K6-III+ computer. The original amount of cache assigned to 32-bit File Access was excessive. This was a copy pasta error when I pushed the swap file to the end of the partition. I copied settings from the K6-III+ computer and failed to pay attention to that computer having 16 times as much RAM. In the 486 the erroneous copypasta amount of RAM assigned to the cache was the same amount of physical RAM that is installed.

Sure, makes sense in hindsight. Except the error dialog led me down the wrong path. The dialog provided no clue or information the cache size was incorrect or the cache size exceeded a certain value.

I spent much time digging into this. Too much. All thanks to Yet Another Misleading Software Error Dialog. After more than 40 years of using computers I have lost count how many such unhelpful and misleading error messages I have seen.

More to come.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General

Next: Vintage Computers — 15

Previous: Vintage Computers — 13