Windows 3.11 Retired and My Belated Suggestion for Clippy

Paul Thurrott (“Forget About XP- Let’s Save Windows for Workgroups 3.11!”) and numerous others have written about Microsoft’s retirement of Windows For Workgroups, which has had quite an afterlife in embedded systems.

(This is not new:  The 1800-series Red Line trains on Boston’s MBTA are reported to have an “A>” prompt on a console in the driver’s cabin;  DOS 6.22 has been seen in embedded systems, and probably in those trains.)

Paul made a nice banner:

Windows 3.11 is special for me;  it was the first Windows version I ever used.

It made me think of another “special” persona at Microsoft, Clippy!  He had a retirement party a few years back.  He made the rounds to various Microsoft events around the country.  He happened to ask me for career directions and I obliged:

I hope he’s having a good life.


Monitoring SATV with the SuperGoose

One thing that is very important to any IT shop is environmental monitoring.  There are too many instances of overheated or soggy servers these days, especially as more servers are outside traditional datacenter spaces as in them.    We wanted our cablecast area, and other critical areas like our server room to be monitored for temperature and water detection.

We went with an inexpensive box from ITWatchdogs.com:

This is the SuperGoose.  It can accept 16 digital sensors and three analog inputs.  In practice, we use digital temperature sensors and analog water sensors.  It is web-based and allows alerts to be sent based on conditions.  As you can see, it also has a digital display and an alarm.

To avoid running more wire throughout the building, I built some breakout boxes from common network components from Home Depot and Radio Shack so I could use an unused network drop to run both the digital and analog sensors to remote locations and permit expansion in the future.

This is the master breakout box that goes to remote sensors in the Control Room and Engineering.  I’ve made the wiring diagram available [PDF].

One thing you need to know if you do your own sensor wiring with this system:  The documentation is wrong! Documents on the ITWatchdogs site give two different pinouts for the digital sensors.  Neither one is correct. 

The digital sensors need conductors 2, 3 and 4 passed straight-through to the Goose—no crossover cables!  You’ll probably run into this when you reuse old RJ11 phone cables for your sensors;  almost all of them are crossed.  MilesTek sells straight-through RJ11 cables cheap—use them!

The analog sensors are straightforward;  just one contact and ground.

The SuperGoose works fine;  the only thing I wish for is a web page on the Goose that indicated active alarms at a glance.  The Goose makes the data and log available so it’s possible I could write an app or a Vista gadget to indicate alarms. 

It’s an inexpensive solution that I highly recommend for small shops. 


Moving forward: Changes at SATV

We’ve been talking for years about upgrading our cablecast plant.  I’ve described it in an earlier post, Information Technology and Coping with the Second Energy Crisis.  You may also remember the problems I had in there a few months ago, mentioned in passing, Why Johnny is not a Tech, and also our problems ensuring access for the visually impaired, Future of SATV’s Audible Bulletin Board on my other blog.

We’re purchasing a system from Tightrope Media Systems, our current vendor.  I’m sure their tech support staff (Hi, Jeremy!) will be so happy!

The installation will start around August 20th, and I will blog the whole process with pictures.