G4IDE's PC Page

Why Did Roger Create This Page?

  1. Roger dedicated this page to the people who used to send him emails along the lines of "Did you know that UI-View (or WinPack) doesn't work with Win (some version or other)! When are you going to fix it!" He hoped that after reading this, they would realise why he told them that they had got it wrong.
  2. He was often asked, by users of UI-View and WinPack, what type of PC he used, what version of Windows he used, and what he would recommend them to use. The following gives some of his answers.

The PC Hardware Roger Used

For many years Roger built his own PCs. At first he did it just for fun, now later it was so he knew that all the components were of good quality, and easily replaceable in the event of failure.

The system Roger most recently used for software development and testing was...

  • MSI K7T Turbo2 motherboard with an Athlon XP 1700+ processor and 512MB RAM.
  • WinXP Pro, which h was careful to keep updated.
  • A 40GB IBM Deskstar 60GXP drive.
  • Dual monitors - An ATI Rage 128 AGP video card with an Iiyama Pro 410 17 inch monitor, and a GeForce MX200 PCI video card with a Samsung 151s LCD monitor.
  • A Plextor CD writer.
  • A Microsoft USB Intellimouse Optical Wheel Mouse.
  • Two hardware COM ports, a Belcom USB COM port, and a 'soft' COM port bridge.

The PC systems I have available for testing include -

  • A 1GHz Duron, with 512MB of RAM and Win98SE. I regard this as a reasonable "cheap and cheerful" system. It runs AGWPE, UI-View32 (connected to the internet), and WinPack 24/7. It also runs a web server, an FTP server and provides the ADSL internet connection for the rest of his network.
  • A K6-2/450, with 320MB of RAM, that could be booted into Win98SE, Win2000 or WinXP. He  regarded this as a slightly outdated, medium speed system.
  • A good old 486DX2/66 with 16MB of RAM, that can be booted into Windows for Workgroups 3.11, or Win95 OSR2. This he regarded as "minimal, very slow system" but you can't beat it for reliability! He bought it in 1994, and it has run 24/7 since then. Total parts replaced - one PSU, and he upgraded the hard drive a couple of times.
  • A P120 with 48MB of RAM, that can easily be booted with a completely clean installation of either Win95 or Win98SE.
  • A PIII 800 MHz notebook with 256MB of RAM and WinXP. It could also be booted into WinME. (Aarrgghh!!)

This is the important bit - The above hardware allowed Roger to to test every version of WinPack, UI-View and UI-View32 on many different versions of Windows before he released them. He would never release a program until he was confident that it would run without problems on all relevant versions of Windows. WinPack and UI-View(16) were tested on Win31, Win95, Win98, WinME, Win2000 and WinXP. UI-View32 was tested on Win95, Win98, WinME, Win2000 and WinXP.

The moral of the story - There are a million ways the average user can mess up a Windows system, and there seem to be 10 million ways a radio ham can do it! If WinPack or UI-View won't work on a particular Windows system, then the problem is almost certainly in that system, not in the program.

What Did Roger Recommend?

As regards hardware, he would recommend just about everything he listed above for his development system. Some specific comments -

  • The IBM Deskstar 60GXP is not particularly fast, but Roger had several of them, and never had a problem. (On the other hand, the Deskstar 75GXP has a very bad reputation for reliability.)
  • He had some reservations about recommending the Iiyama monitor - The performance was fantastic until it failed after two years - no problem, it had a three year warranty - but he then had problems with Iiyama UK in getting a refurbished replacement that he thought gave an acceptable performance. However, he had heard similar comments about other makes of monitor.
  • The Intellimouse is very nice to use, but they did have a reputation for giving problems on some systems, and Roger had a few problems with them too.
  • He gave a special mention to the Plextor CD Writer, saying that it was one of the best pieces of hardware he had ever bought. "I now don't bother with a separate CD ROM drive, I just use the Plextor. Never buy a cheap CD writer, when you can get a Plextor for just a few extra pounds/dollars!"

As regards what version of Windows to use, Roger would recommend WinXP if all your hardware is new enough for you not to have driver problems, and you have a fast processor and lots of memory. Otherwise Win98SE.

  • He found WinXP to be the most stable version of Windows he had ever used. In several months of use for software development with his Athlon XP 1700+ system, he never had crash, but it did not run so well on the K6-2/450.
  • For some aspects of ham radio use, Win98SE is better than WinXP Roger would say, because some "clever" hardware drivers, e.g. the Baycom driver for AGWPE, were not available for WinXP (or for Win2k and WinNT). "If you upgrade to WinXP, but then can't run some of your favourite ham radio software, you have actually downgraded!"
  • WinME has no advantages at all over Win98SE. It is the most unstable version of Windows he had ever used. The only reason he could think of for using it was if it was preinstalled on a PC, and you can't be bothered to remove it!
  • Win95 OSR2 is excellent for slower hardware, but it doesn't properly support USB, even if you install the USB "update".

Keeping It Up!

When running ham radio programs, particularly mailboxes or APRS systems, it is common practice to leave PCs running 24/7. Here are some tips for keeping Windows going for long periods between reboots.

  • Do not use WinMe!
  • Use reputable hardware, and make sure the correct drivers are loaded.
  • Use the best PSU you can afford, particularly if you use an AMD processor.
  • Use the best CPU cooler you can afford, particularly if you use an AMD processor.
  • When installing Windows, never update a previous version. A complete reinstall can seem time consuming, but it will almost certainly be more reliable.
  • Make the effort to regularly check the Windows update site, and install any critical updates for your version of Windows. Also, regularly check for driver updates.
  • Do not overclock! It might appear to work, but it is the best way of ensuring that a system will eventually crash for no apparent reason. (Been there, done that, got the T-shirt... Thought I was being clever...)
  • Be careful what you install! In particular, be careful about installing programs that copy files into WINDOWS\SYSTEM or WINDOWS\SYSTEM32 without any version checking. Messing up your Windows system files is easy, sorting out the mess is much harder.

In case you found this page with a search engine, and you're looking for UI-View32 or WinPack, you can find UI-View HERE. The official WinPack site is now at http://www.winpack.org.uk.