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Fri 10 Mar 2006 04:00 AM

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Power User: Return of the Dinosaur

Phil Croucher returns with some very valid reasons not to give up on MS-DOS

|~|Power-user-APRIL---m.jpg|~|Pinging a router to check it’s working properly |~|Windows XP is a derivative of Windows NT, therefore it's supposed to be an OS all by itself and not dependent on anything else. Further still, XP's 'Hardware Abstraction Layer' is designed to do the same work as your machine's BIOS, so you would be forgiven for thinking that pointing and clicking with your mouse would be all you ever needed to do to gain control of Windows. That's not the case however, so DOS commands can still be useful…

Firstly, those folders many of us refer to are actually called directories. By definition, these have a hierarchical structure and contain files. The files inside employ a naming structure that turn uses a dot (or period). The bit on the left side of the dot is the name of the file itself, and the bit on the other is the extension, which the computer uses to sort files so that it knows what to do with them. Under the View menu in File Mangler, (sorry, File Manager) for instance, you can arrange icons by type, extension, name etc.

A file's extension can be three or four letters long, while its filename can be much longer, within reason, as long as it contains only letters and numbers. All very well, but if you need to find a file and can't quite remember what its name is, the Find option under the Tools menu in File Manager will prompt you for a filename, which is where an old DOS trick comes in handy.

You see, the asterisk (*) can be used to stand in for a number of letters in a filename, so if you are looking for a file that started with my, but can't quite remember the rest, you can type in my*.* and file manager will list all the files that begin with ‘m’y, no matter what the rest of their filenames and extensions.

DOS commands also come in handy when networking. Say for example you've just attached your computer to an ADSL modem or router but no device is detected. To find out whether this is a Windows issue or indeed a hardware problem, you must determine whether or not the two pieces of equipment are talking to each other. Hit Start, select Run and next type cmd then Enter. (Cmd is short for command prompt). This brings up a black box with a flashing cursor, at which point you should type ipconfig followed by Enter.

This will bring up four lines that show you what your ethernet card is doing, including your PC's IP number on the second line and the number of the machine that’s talking to the internet on your behalf - your 'default gateway' - on the last. If not, the usual IP number of your gateway (your DSL modem or router) is included in its document-ation, and you'll be able to interrogate it via a browser once connected right.

Since your default gateway number is shown, it's a fair bet that the system is working properly, but just to make sure, use the ping command at the DOS prompt: Ping 192.168.

Ping is one half of the phrase 'ping pong' (from an even older OS than DOS called Unix) and is the address of the modem (such as the 'Speedstream' that Al Shamil supplies to UAE customers). This command sends 32 bytes of test info to the router and waits for a reply, which should come back in under a millisecond.

If there is a connection, the number of packets received - shown at the bottom of the screen - should match the number of those sent. If not, you still have useful information: the first place to look is be the cable, assuming Device Manager shows that your Ethernet card is working properly.

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