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FAQ 13

13. Microsoft Plus (TM) and other Win95 add-ons

13.1. What is Microsoft Plus and why do I care?

MS Plus! is all the stuff that Microsoft should've included in Win95, but decided they wanted to make you pay more for them. :)

OK, it's really a bunch of add-ons designed for high powered computers ('486 machines and Pentiums) to make your system run a little smoother and look a little nicer. Keep in mind that the Plus stuff is for high powered computers, which was probably the biggest reason MS didn't include this stuff with the operating system.

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13.2. How do I use System Agent?

System Agent is a little scheduler that runs programs at certain times. It's quite handy because it already schedules disk maintenance processes, so all you have to do is keep your computer turned on and it keeps itself clean.

To install System Agent, install MS Plus. A little icon shows up in the SysTray; the place with the date and time in it on the Taskbar. Double-click it to bring up the System Agent manager. You will see four programs already scheduled (five, if you installed DriveSpace 3) which will scan your hard drives, de-fragment them, check for low disk space, and re-compress any DriveSpace 3 drives you have.

You can bring up properties for these programs, and change their settings and their scheduled run times. System Agent-Aware programs will offer special "Scheduled settings" requesters if you change their settings from here.

NOTE: The ScanDisk entries don't automatically fix errors, and they will display prompts on the screen when they do find errors. Be sure to change each scheduled program's settings so they automatically fix errors.

You can also add new programs to this list. Hit Program/Schedule new program. Hit Browse to search for the program you want to run, or type its command line in the box. NOTE: Programs with long filenames or directory names belong in quotes, like "C:\Program Files\Plus!\RunMe.EXE" /parameter1 for example. Bring up properties for the included programs for examples.

Any clickable object in Explorer can run from System Agent, including DOS .PIF files and even documents. I specify "PIF" because it's better to specify a DOS program's settings and use the PIF as the object to run. Win 3.1 and Win95 programs and documents will have their icons appear in this window.

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So? You paid for System Agent when you bought MS Plus. Use it. I get a real kick out of people who run three different schedulers and then complain that their system swaps to the hard drive so often. They're a waste of memory.

First you will need to remove the other schedulers. The three I mentioned all insert an icon in the Startup group in your Start Menu. They're easy enough to remove; here's how to remove Start Menu items.

Second, read up on the programs you want to schedule. The three I mentioned all have instructions for running them from a command line. For example, Norton Anti-Virus will scan all local hard drives by running:


The /L means "local". Be sure to test this command line from a DOS session; Win95 DOS sessions can run Windows programs, and the START command in a DOS session can launch documents.

Third, Hit the Program menu in System Agent Manager and select "Schedule new program". In the "Program to run" box, type in the command line that makes your program run (like the NAVW32 /L example above). Tell the program to run minimized if you wish.

Last, select "When to run..." and pick a time for this program to run. Be careful not to overlap programs; you don't want an Anti-Virus scan to happen while running ScanDisk, for example. The System Agent Manager shows the last started and stopped times of all scheduled programs, so use this as a guide for adding new programs and preventing overlap.

For another example, Win95's built in Backup lets you launch the backup set rather than the program. Just open the Full System Backup from Backup, which enables Registry back-up, then select the files or drives you want to back up. Pick your target (usually your tape drive), pick your options, and save the backup set with a unique name. Finally, schedule this backup set to run (by including the .FST itself; not the program, and don't include a START command; there's no need) in System Agent. Colorado Backup works much the same way. Other back-up programs will have different commands to use; experiment from a DOS prompt to get the commands right.

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Is this a rhetorical question? You paid for it when you bought MS Plus.

10. It takes practically no memory

9. It can stop scheduled programs if you start using your computer

8. It can run stuff on start up if you don't like Startup groups (Great for User Profile users)

7. It's always running (except in Safe Mode)

6. It's easy to schedule programs to run

5. It keeps your hard drives clean by running ScanDisk for you

4. It knows when you're on batteries (notebooks) and won't run big programs if you're on batteries

3. It can wake you up in the morning (heh heh... just schedule a .WAV file to play every day at 6:00 AM)

2. You don't need a Pentium to use it (heh heh)

1. It comes with all the other cool stuff in MS Plus

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13.3. How do I use Internet Explorer and Setup Wizard?

When you re-start the computer after installing Plus, you'll notice an obvious "The Internet" icon staring at you. Open it. This launches the Internet Setup Wizard. I won't get redundant, so to make it short & sweet, get an answer sheet from your service provider with answers to these questions:

  • Access phone number
  • Login name and login password
  • DNS server addresses
  • Gateway address (if using default gateway, ignore this)
  • E-MAIL address
  • POP3 server login name and password (Usually same as dial-up login name and password)
  • POP3 server name (usually mail.somewhere.com or something like that)
  • Also SMTP server name for outgoing mail (if it's not the same as the POP server)

Check out the detailed Setup Wizard Instructions for the rest of the details. The wizard will add all the needed Win95 networking components to get you hooked to The Internet.

Well, It's free, has a lot of things missing from the web browser included in Plus, and it's a direct upgrade. Visit the Internet Explorer Home Page.

After you run the Internet Setup Wizard you could get a different browser instead, like NCSA Mosaic, and the auto-dialer and stuff will still work with it.

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13.4. How do I use DriveSpace 3?

No point in being redundant... check out the Disk Compression Section.

I don't trust it, even though Symantec swears by it. Contrary to popular belief, Microsoft's ScanDisk and Defrag (You know; those programs that MS pirated off Symantec?) work just fine on DriveSpace 3 drives, keeping them clean, especially if you schedule these programs to run regularly with System Agent.

Notice though, that Plus comes with replacement versions of ScanDisk and Defrag, so that's enough to scare me from third party disk maintenance tools... MS must've changed something fundamental with DriveSpace 3.

I guess not. DS3's setup program will blatantly refuse to create a compressed volume file on a FAT32 drive. (Hey, Stac Electronics! That's your cue... get on it!)

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13.5. How do I use Desktop Themes?

Be sure to install at least one theme from the included Plus themes to enable themes in general, otherwise Plus Setup won't install any theme support. You can always hand-delete the components of the theme and retain theme support.

From here, you can use a theme from the included list, or download a favorite from www.windows95.com.

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To make your own theme, make your own custom changes to the desktop scheme, colour scheme, sound scheme, mouse pointers, and screen saver, using the Properties sheets or control panel programs for each. Once you're satisfied with your work, run the new Themes control panel and "Save As..." to create a .theme file.

You may also change the icons for My Computer, Net Neighborhood, and Recycle Bin. Bring up Display properties and hit the Plus! tab to change them.

You should store all the custom icons, animated pointers, sounds, screen saver, and bitmaps in C:\Program Files\Plus!\Themes so your theme users can install the theme easily. If you use a custom font, include instructions on copying the font to the Windows\Fonts folder. Batch files can use the Win95 START command if necessary.

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www.windows95.com has a well regulated themes section. I'm sure other major FTP sites will also carry Plus themes.

Usually a custom theme has a special installation procedure; you have to install a font, copy a screen saver to your Windows directory, copy a bitmap to your Windows directory, etc, for use in the theme. All of these options (except custom fonts) can go anywhere in the hard drive, so C:\Program Files\Plus!\Themes is a good place to keep them.

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Be warned: a typical theme is about 750 KB to 1 MB in size, and that's the compressed size!

Be reasonable; pick a theme after you browsed all the themes you wanted to see, and delete the components of the others.

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This is actually quite "cool" how they did this. Explorer has Registry entries for each icon type it displays, and grabs that icon type from an .ICO or .DLL file when it starts. It usually grabs them from SHELL32.DLL.

Plus Themes also support these Shell icons, though they don't document them. Look for a library file labeled COOL.DLL (I'm not making this up!) and QuickView it, or try changing the icon for any shortcut and use COOL.DLL as the source for the new icon. There are icons in that library to replace all the normal Shell icons. Theme support also includes replacing the SHELL32 icons with these COOL ones.

You won't notice any changes to the icons until you use 65 thousand or 16 million colour modes; then the system over-writes COOL.DLL with a HiColor version. The HiColor icons really stand out compared to the 256 colour ones. NOTE: If you ever have to re-install Win95, Setup will restore the original SHELL32 icons; you'll need to re-install Plus to restore the COOL icons.

Angelo Di Pierro says these HiColor icons are really 256 colour icons (eight bitplanes) and you can control which version of the icons come up with the Registry key HKEY_USERS\.Default\ControlPanel\Desktop\WindowMetrics (or HKEY_CURRENT_USER\etc... if you use User Profiles) and the value "Shell Icon BPP". Use values 8, 16, or 24. This seems to work regardless of what display mode you're actually using. You can also change the Icon size in this key; it support three size versions (small, normal, and large). This logic works because modern DLL and .ICO files (including COOL.DLL) include several versions of each icon.

Theme support does not include directly modifying these icons, but you could do some searching with REGEDIT (if you feel adventurous) for the key "DefaultIcon" in any of the HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID sections. There is a DefaultIcon key for most of those.

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This is a theory, but it is possible based on the COOL.DLL stuff last section. COOL.DLL is really a 16-bit library (QuickView it to see for yourself). So, it is possible to edit COOL.DLL with a Win 3.1 icon editor that supports library files (such as Borland's resource editor for Win 3.1 which comes with Turbo C++), or copy it and replace all the icons. This is safer than Registry hacking, and it's easier to transport with your theme.

Angelo says the best icon editor around is "Microangelo". 

Once you do that, save it with the name COOL.DLL and replace the one in your SYSTEM directory with this one. You will need to re-start Win95 for this to take effect. You will need to replace the Computer, Net Hood, and Recycle Bin icons the normal way, but the icons can come from the COOL.DLL replacement you make up.

NOTE: Check out the INFGEN.EXE tool which comes with Service Pack 1 Admin Edition. Since many of the newest themes include replacement LOGO.SYS files, new fonts, and the like, it might make sense to prepare a theme installable from Add/Remove Programs / Windows Setup / Have Disk. Win95 .inf files can contain any kind of configuration info, including Registry changes and replacements for any kind of file. This method can also work if the user doesn't have MS Plus installed!

Every time I see the file "COOL.DLL" I think of an AVI file Microsoft distributed with their VidTest 1.0 package, which had Bill Gates saying "Cool!" at the end of it. Look for COOL.AVI in the MS Multimedia Demo CD-ROM, or in VidTest.

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13.6. How do I use the "Visual Enhancements"?

Check out the Plus! tab in Display Properties. This tab shows up when you install the enhancements from Plus Setup. From here, you can enable full window drag (which drags the contents of a window instead of an outline), wallpaper scaling, font smoothing, etc.

Many of these options only work on fast computers with faster video cards. Don't attempt to use these on a computer less than a '486 with some kind of high speed video (VESA local bus, PCI) and a proper video driver for Win95. Font Smoothing only works on 65 thousand or 16 million colour displays; it uses gray shades to fill in the jagged edges of large point sizes, and really isn't necessary if you use TrueType a lot.

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Just turn them off in Display Properties, on the Plus! tab.

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13.7. How do I use the Dial-up Networking Server?

Make sure you install Dial-up Networking before you install Plus. If you choose the dial-up server, you will see a new "Dial-up server" entry in the Connections menu. Dial-up server works with Win95 (PPP) dial-up clients, and Windows for Workgroups (RAS) clients. Check out the Dial-up server Details.

From here, select a modem (all the modems appear as tabs in this requester) and enable or disable caller access. If you use User Level Security you can allow particular users on this dial-in connection, or you can install a password. You may only enable one modem as a dial-in modem; Microsoft had to disable this functionality so it doesn't kill sales of NT server. heh heh

The dial-up server uses the same bindings as the dial-up connections, so you need to install the Dial-up Adapter and protocols for it in your Network Properties. It will automatically use all protocols available to it for PPP clients, but only use NetBEUI for RAS clients.

NOTE: WFWG dial-in clients (using their included RAS software) won't work with Win95 dial-up servers running User Level Security, because the dial-up server can't get a clear-text version of the NT domain password. If you want WFWG clients to dial into NT domains through Win95 dial-up servers, disable user level security on the dial-up server!

The server also acts as a NetBIOS and IPX router to any network it's connected to, and there's no way to turn off routing. Administrators: If you don't want your users to open up your network to the world, disable all Win95 dial-up servers through system policies.

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13.8. How do I use 3D Pinball?

Use? Play, you mean. Just install it from Plus Setup. You'll find the icon for it in your Games group on your Start Menu, along with the other classic time wasters like Minesweeper, etc.

Most likely because you don't have a sound card, but if you do, turn on the Music and Sound from the game's Options menu. The first time you run Pinball you'll find these turned off.

Music won't play unless you have a working MIDI device installed. This works by default on cards with Win95 drivers, but Win 3.1 drivers require special MIDI mapper tuning. Gravis Ultrasound users will have to manually load a patch map into the GUS's memory before 3D Pinball will play music. Get updated drivers from www.gravis.com to fix this.

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13.9. Top ten things missing from Microsoft Plus

10. IMAP4 client for Exchange instead of POP3

9. Internet Explorer 2.0

8. Nice method to replace any Shell icon

7. Hardware interface to coffee pot, to start it from System Agent (Right after it plays a .WAV file for a wake-up alarm!)

6. Method of starting a dial-up connection from System Agent (Any ideas here?)

5. Win95 admin tools for NT and NetWare networks (The NT resource kit does have Win95 admin tools though)

4. Good TCP/IP control utility for setting RTU, TTL, etc

3. Internet Idioms for Exchange

2. A proper Marijuana plant icon for the Recycle Bin in the 60's theme

1. A TCP/IP router for the Dial-up Server

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13.10. What are the MS Power Toys?

The Power Toys are system hacks that the Shell group over at MS cooked up to "improve" some of the finer points of Win95. I don't advocate using these things if you don't know how to even use the basic OS. Even MS will warn you that you're on your own when you use these.

The Power Toys home page describes them better than I could, but for the sake of simplicity I'll document what to watch out for. Don't fall into these traps:

  • TweakUI can add unnecessary switches to the MSDOS.SYS settings file. These settings can load DriveSpace drivers and double buffer drivers that waste conventional memory. This is the most common memory-waster in Single Mode DOS. To remove TweakUI's settings you need to manually edit the MSDOS.SYS file and remove the offending entries.
  • CabView won't uninstall properly, and I don't know how to remove it without re-installing Win95.
  • QuickRes can cause some Win 3.1 apps to freeze; most don't support dynamic colour-depth changes or screen resolution changes. Diamond's video drivers do much the same thing, though I'd rather use QuickRes than Diamond's software. Just exit all apps before changing the screen mode.

Just to make things interesting, the Kernel group did the same thing... and henceforth came the Kernel Toys. These are really advanced things, but in relation to FAQ page 12, I really like the MS-DOS Mode configuration tool the best. This tool lets you customize (or add more) components you can add to a DOS config via the "Configuration..." button in a game's PIF file. Perfect for setting up someone else's machine (great for OEMs) where they can customize their DOS mode settings without hand-writing the special config files. The Time Zone Editor lets you customize the time zone file in case you travel a lot and can't find the time zone you're in amongst the built-in choices.

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