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Chapter 21: Troubleshooting

This chapter is a guide for troubleshooting MegaDots problems. It can be used by experienced MegaDots users troubleshooting for themselves, or helping other MegaDots users with their problems. Be aware that Duxbury staffs a technical support line for MegaDots. However, a MegaDots user facing technical problems can use this chapter to see how different problems are addressed, and what resources are available for assistance.

A major priority of each version of MegaDots is to eliminate issues that have caused customer support problems. If you are assisting someone else, the best solution may be an update to version 2.5.

Don't Even Try on a 64-bit Windows System

MegaDots does not run on 64-bit Windows Systems. Please see Chapter 2 for the alternatives. There are three different products that can install a virtual Windows XP machine on a 64-bit Windows 7 computer.

Serial Number, Version Number, and Software Date.

When you call or e-mail for MegaDots technical support, it is important to give the version number and date of your MegaDots software and your MegaDots serial number (which we have sometimes called the user ID). You can find your MegaDots serial number by launching MegaDots and pressing Alt-Shift-R (to bring up the MegaDots release information). If MegaDots has already been released, a message with the serial number appears on the status line at the bottom of the screen. Pressing Shift-F10 ID <enter> gives the same result as pressing Alt-Shift-R. If Alt-Shift-R is intercepted by another program, then use the Shift-F10 command instead.

To get the date and version number of the MegaDots software, launch MegaDots and press F10 H A (to bring up the About MegaDots window). The version number and date are at the beginning of the text.

Other Resources for Technical Support

There are additional resources for technical support in the MegaDots 2.5 Documentation. In particular, the MegaDots Interface Guide (and the Embossit help file) give information on using MegaDots with embossers, printers, access technology, and scanning systems. The Interface Guide is available from the menu of MegaDots 2.5 Documentation (Start Menu, Duxbury, MegaDots 2.5 Documentation).

Whenever you need to learn how to do something in MegaDots, please consult the MegaDots Reference Manual. To consult it, press F12 from within MegaDots, and select the desired topic.

Recovering from a Frozen MegaDots

When MegaDots has frozen, you'll probably lose what you were working on, if you don't have a saved copy. But you can close it without having to shut down your system. You can press Control-Alt-Delete and then Alt-T to get to the Windows Task manager. There, in the Applications tab, you can click on the End task button next to mega.

Alternatively, you can press Alt-Spacebar to bring up a control menu, and then C for Close. If Windows asks for confirmation, answer yes.

Launching MegaDots from the DOS Prompt

Launching MegaDots from the DOS prompt can be a useful tool for troubleshooting. Sometimes that enables you to see an error message that would otherwise flash quickly out of view.

To open a DOS window, go to Start menu and select Run. On a Windows 95 or 98 system, type COMMAND and push OK. On a Windows XP, 2000, NT, Vista, or Windows 7 system, type CMD to the Run prompt and click OK.

Once you have opened a DOS window, it is best to switch to the MegaDots program directory for launching MegaDots. If you are launching MegaDots 2.5, the program directory is probably c:\mega25. So type:

cd \mega25 <Enter>
mega <Enter>

MegaDots Crashes Immediately

If MegaDots 2.5 without speech crashes, but MegaDots 2.5 with Speech does not, see the section about the NVIDIA video card (see below).

If MegaDots was working fine on your system, and then had a crash and now does not work after restarting your computer, we recommend deleting a file called restore.inf in the MegaDots program folder. One way to do this it to run a batch file called megajump, to give MegaDots a "jump start." At the MS-DOS prompt, as described in the section above, type megajump <Enter>. This renames the file called RESTORE.INF so that the next launch of MegaDots does not bring back the problem that made it crash before.

If the thing you were doing when MegaDots crashed was printing to an inkprint printer, and now you can't get into MegaDots any more, then we recommend running the newprint batch file. At the MS-DOS prompt or the Start Menu's Run dialog, type newprint <Enter>. This deletes the files SLATE.PDB and FONTSTR.INF to clear out your inkprint printer information (to be remade next time you launch MegaDots).

Sometimes users find that MegaDots was running fine on their system but at a later time it no longer runs, without warning. This is different from the restore.inf problem, where the problem started with a crash during a MegaDots session. This kind of problem probably comes from other changes on the system, changes in Windows or other software installed on the system. You can look for clues about this problem in the Windows journal. You can also try resetting Windows to a restore point when MegaDots was working.

If MegaDots crashes immediately when launched from Windows, it is often difficult to read any error message that might be supplied. To find out what error message you might be missing, go to the DOS prompt and run MegaDots by typing mega <Enter>. You may get an error message that was not displayed when you clicked on the MegaDots icon.

The message intrinsic MegaDots error means that you license number got lost somehow. Re-install MegaDots to correct this problem.

MegaDots also crashes immediately if a very long path is set on your system. If this is the problem, you get a message about a DOS4G error. To troubleshoot for this problem, at the MS-DOS prompt, type path <Enter>. If the path that appears is longer than 255 characters, then this is the problem. If so, the solution is to set a shorter path in the process of launching MegaDots. The MegaDots technical support team can help you with this.

If you go to the DOS prompt and type SET DEBUGINIT=1 <Enter> and then launch MegaDots by typing mega <Enter>, MegaDots creates a file called TRACE in the MegaDots directory from which the MegaDots programming staff can figure out at what stage the crash occurred.

It is also possible for a problem in your MegaDots preference settings to cause MegaDots to crash immediately, especially if you just installed a major update and have an older preferences file. To check for this kind of a problem, rename the preferences file from ENVIRON.ENV to OLD.ENV; then MegaDots does not use these preferences when you launch it again. If this fixes the problem, then you can rebuild your preferences from scratch. If the problem persists, then you can rename the preferences file back to ENVIRON.ENV and try another strategy.

Sometimes a video card, or the driver for a video card, may cause MegaDots or another DOS application to crash immediately when you launch it as a full screen application. If you can run MegaDots as a window application (changing this under Properties- Screen) but not as a full screen application, then this is probably the issue. As a first step, you can try updating the driver for your video card.

In MegaDots versions prior to 2.3, a missing autoexec.nt file in the system32 subfolder of your computer's systemroot folder (usually c:\windows\system32 or c:\winnt\system32) prevents MegaDots from launching. However, there is usually a backup copy of this file in the repair subfolder of the systemroot folder. So copy autoexec.nt from the repair subfolder into the system32 subfolder. Again, this is not an issue in MegaDots 2.3 through 2.5.

MegaDots Freezes Immediately

On some machines, launching MegaDots brings up a normal-looking MegaDots screen, but it is frozen. This happens on machines which have the IntelliKeys, IntelliTools, or IntelliTalk software installed. To test for this, open an MS-DOS window, use the cd command to get to the Megadots program folder and type: SET NOBKEYS=1 <Enter> mega <Enter>. If this fixes the problem, you can make This setting more permanent in Control panel - System - Advanced - Environment variables. Add a user variable called nobkeys with a value of 1. This solution has the drawback of not allowing use of six keys as a braillewriter keyboard. If the problem comes from having a product like the IntelliTools software on your system, and you don't run it often, an alternative solution is to make a change in the system.ini file, disabling IntelliTools but allowing the use of MegaDots with 6-key braille entry. In the [386ENH] section of system.ini, place a semicolon at the start of the line
Best solution: get a new computer (not always possible).

Frequent crashes

A source of frequent crashes may be virus protection software, or other software running in the background. All virus software makers want you to run your virus protection software all the time. Sometimes these programs foul up MegaDots. Turn your virus software off (briefly) to see if the MegaDots crashing issues go away.

Some reports have come in saying that the MegaDots autosave feature causes MegaDots to crash. If you are having frequent crashes, please turn off autosave.

Problems with Specific Files

Sometimes MegaDots has problems with specific files. If the problem involves importing a file from another file format, then see the section below.

If MegaDots crashes, freezes, or makes mistakes while you are editing, translating, viewing the WYSIWYG screen, or printing, we recommend that you determine if the problem is due to something in the file that you are working on, or something more general. So bring in a chapter of the MegaDots User Manual--press F11 and select a chapter from the list. [If you make changes in the User Manual chapter, be careful not to save it with the same filename.] If you have similar problems in the User Manual chapter, then the difficulty does not have to do with your particular file, and we need to look elsewhere. But if you do not have similar problems, then we need to examine your particular file.

If your problem is specific to a particular file, we recommend that you e-mail it to the MegaDots tech support team at megadots@duxsys.com. If you want to tell us where in the file the problem occurs, the very best way to do that is to create a MegaDots bookmark at that place in the file. With your cursor at the place in question, press Alt-J to bring up the bookmarks user list. Then press the Insert key to add a new one, type a name for it, and press <Enter>. Then save the file.

When MegaDots crashes, it tries to save the files that were open at the time. If it was successful, the next time you launch MegaDots, you are given an opportunity to bring up the documents that were open. We recommend that you answer Yes, press Alt-J to bring up the user list of bookmarks, and select Exit position. This shows you where MegaDots was processing material when the error occurred.

Tabular Material and Boxing Lines

A number of file-specific problems come from tables (columnar material). MegaDots assumes that every line of a table has the same number of columns (and the same number of tabs). If it does not, then braille formatting goes haywire. The best thing to do is keep the file in inkprint and show markup, find the bad spots, fix them, and only then translate into braille. MegaDots comes with a rules file called TABLE-X which locates table rows which have an incorrect number of columns. Open the file and then press Alt-F9 table-x <Enter>. Look for ~~ in a table. This shows that the number of columns in this row is different that the number of columns in the next row.

Sometimes, especially with material that was scanned, tabular formatting was not appropriate in the first place. On the other hand, if you really do need to show tabular material, then you should report the problem to the MegaDots tech support team. You may be able to get better results in the short run by changing the table style.

Tabular material and boxes sometimes make it hard for MegaDots to move by page in the braille WYSIWYG screen. Often you can eliminate that kind of problem by enclosing the table or box with MegaDots Protected zone markers. Place a Protected zone: yes marker at the beginning of the material and a Protected zone: no marker at the end of it. Those markers tell MegaDots to keep that material together on one braille page if at all possible, and that can simplify MegaDots' page division logic for a table or boxed material.

Line Numbered Material

With line numbered material that includes footnotes, you may experience freezing when you switch to the braille WYSIWYG screen or when you attempt to emboss. In that case, close MegaDots and launch it again. After you open your document again, use the supplied rules file called notefix (by pressing Alt-F9 and typing notefix <Enter>). If the status line shows more than 0 replacements, then using this rules file has probably fixed the problem. In that case, save the document.

Importing Microsoft Word Documents

MegaDots now uses the machinery of DBT to import Word files. This means that you might see DBT error messages when you import a file. We have found that these error messages (though confusing since they say DBT instead of MegaDots) are in fact helpful. MegaDots cannot import math files directly because of a licensing issue. Import math files into DBT, and save the files as dxp Duxbury files. MegaDots can read math dxp files.

Since DBT cannot import RTF files, MegaDots cannot import RTF files. If you can, you can install MegaDots 2.4 or earlier, and then install MegaDots 2.5 in the same directory. Hint: both MegaDots 2.4w and MegaDots 2.5 do not have the files you need to run the file conversions that used to run with MegaDots.

File Importing Problems in General

Sometimes MegaDots crashes while importing a file. While we know that this is regrettable, we can recommend various procedures that enable you to import most of these stubborn files successfully.

Use the Open/import command, and type the filename followed by <space> -spa <Enter> (for spacing same). If MegaDots opens the file, then press Alt-I to bring up the Interpret format screen and change the Style selection field from Spacing same to Normal. To do that arrow to Style selection, press F2 N <Enter>. Then press F10 to reimport the file and Escape to return to the Editor.

If this does not work, check to see if MegaDots correctly recognizes the file type. Try to open the file again, but this time type the filename, then space followed by -? before pressing Enter. Then choose the appropriate file type from the list.

One last resort is to choose the file type Unknown file with text by pressing UNK <Enter> in the list. If MegaDots opens the file, then press Alt-I to bring up the Interpret format screen and change the Source field from Unknown file with text to Automatic or the actual file type. Sometimes that works even when the original file import failed.

If you want to change some aspects of how MegaDots imported a file, then before making any changes in the Editor, press Alt-I to bring up the Interpret Format window, and change the settings related to the issue. If you want to make some of these changes permanent, make those under Preferences - File import - Default. When you have finished making changes, press F10 twice and then S <Enter> to save your preferences.

Embossing Problems

The MegaDots Interface Guide and the Embossit help file give information on using MegaDots with embossers, printers, access technology, and scanning systems. The Interface Guide is available from the menu of MegaDots 2.5 Documentation.

The Embossit help file has a very good troubleshooting guide that should fix just about every embosser problem.

It does not address MegaDots-specific problems. Do not try to output directly to a serial port on a Windows XP, Windows 2000, NT, Vista, or Windows 7 systems. Instead use MegaPrn or Embossit to output to the serial port.

Embossing problem: many characters are missing or no output. The issue is probably that the computer's parallel port is set for ECP or some other bidirectional setting. Quite a few braille embossers skip a lot of characters when the parallel port is set for bidirectional communication. Set the computer's parallel port for SPP (standard parallel port). You can do this in the CMOS settings (holding down F1 or another key as specified by your vendor as you start your computer).

Embossing problem: no output. Here are some things to try in this situation:

Embossing problem: garbled output. If you are using a serial connection, go to the Windows Control Panel - System- Devices, to check the settings on the computer's serial port. In particular, check the baud rate, data bits, and parity, and make sure that they match the settings on your embosser.

Embossing problem: output stops before it is finished or is missing occasional characters. This may be a handshaking problem.

Inkprint Printing Problems

If inkprint printing (including simulated braille) stops prematurely after one page, then exit MegaDots and type NEWPRINT <Enter>. This eliminates old printer information, which is replaced the next time you enter MegaDots.

If there are problems with regular inkprint printing, try changing the starting type family.

If you are not getting any inkprint output, or it stops after a few lines, you may need to change your MegaDots preference setting for the default inkprint printer. Go to Preferences - Inkprint devices, and press Insert and then F2 to add a new printer set-up.

If you are having trouble with inkprint printing when telling MegaDots to print to a parallel port, try telling MegaDots to print to mprn. Then, when you press F10 to print, MegaDots sends you to a dialog box in which you select the appropriate Windows printer.

Translation Problems

If translating a file from print to braille makes MegaDots freeze or crash, it is best to send the file to the MegaDots tech support team. You can e-mail it to megadots@duxsys.com. If the MegaDots Editor preferences are set for WYSIWYG display, or if the Advanced preferences have Transcriber view set to Yes, the problem may actually arise when MegaDots tries to display the braille in WYSIWYG format. You can check for this by pressing Alt-W (to get the message WYSIWYG off) and setting Preferences - Advanced - Transcriber view to No before translating to braille. If that works okay, then MegaDots probably freezes or crashes when you press Alt-W again to turn on WYSIWYG display. If this is the case, then the problem is with formatting. If there is any tabular material in the document, that may be the cause of the problem. If there is not supposed to be any tabular material in the document, then press Alt-F9 notabs <Enter> (to remove tabular material) before translating to braille.

Another kind of translation problem is a round trip error, where translating from print to braille and then back to print again makes some changes in the text. This is most common in documents using the Nemeth style sheet. If you are using the Nemeth style sheet, we recommend that you use the macro called Trans to view the material in braille in a separate file, still leaving your print intact in the original file. In addition, if you are using the Nemeth style sheet, we recommend that you make a practice of saving the print file before translating to braille. Then you'll be able to reopen the saved print file in case the file translated back into print is corrupted. We also recommend checking for this kind of problem before you translate to braille: In the Editor press Alt-F5 to check for round trip errors. Each time you press Alt-F5, MegaDots does not actually make any changes, but it shows you where the next round trip error would be in the document or says no more differences.

Braille Keyboard Problems

Problems launching the braille keyboard driver

The braille keyboard (or Perkins keyboard) uses the keys SDF--JKL as keys on a braillewriter keyboard. For example, pressing down F and J simultaneously and then letting go enters the character for dots 1-4, which is the letter ‘c'. If you have a top menu bar, you will notice a <6> in the upper right corner when Perkins keyboard mode is on.

In versions of MegaDots prior to 2.3, users often found that the braille keyboard driver was not installed, if they strayed from our installation instructions. The MegaDots 2.3 and beyond installation software takes care of this, so we do not expect this to be an issue anymore.

Missing dots in 6-key entry

In order for the braille keyboard to work properly, without missing dots, your PC keyboard needs a feature called n-key rollover. If your keyboard does not have n-key rollover, then braille keyboard entry works for cells with one or two dots, but misses dots on other cells. If you cannot get the Perkins mode to work properly, try this simple test. Without loading the braille keyboard software (at the DOS prompt or in Word, press the keys SDFJKL all at once. Do you see these six letters (in a random order)? If not, you need a new keyboard.

With new keyboards, problems caused by lack of n-key rollover have become more common. For information on which keyboards have n-key rollover, you can consult the web site http://www.braille-pokadot.com/indexkey.html.

Screen Display Problems

Shrunken MegaDots Screen

On some laptop computers the screen for MegaDots is shrunken, with a large border (usually black) around it. To remedy this problem, you need to use your computer's BIOS settings menu to enable a feature called video expansion.

To enter the BIOS settings menu (sometimes also called the CMOS settings menu), you need to hold down a certain key when you start or restart your computer. This key varies from one computer to another. When you restart your computer, information about how to enter the BIOS settings menu flashes by quickly. If you can't read this quickly disappearing message, then look up BIOS settings menu (or CMOS settings menu) in the manual for your computer. Follow the instructions at the bottom of the menu for moving around the menu and making and saving changes, as the mouse is not functional within the BIOS menu.

On one sample computer with this problem, the setting that needed changing was called Video expansion. By default Video expansion was set as Disabled, and the user needed to change it to Enabled. The documentation for the computer stated: "Video Expansion--When enabled, expands video image to cover entire LCD at lower resolutions. To expand everything, first decrease screen control size in Control Panel - Display - Settings, before expanding video. The computer user in this case did not end up keeping this change in Control panel - Display - Settings, because of the way that it affected everything else. After the change in the BIOS settings, the large black border that had surrounded the MegaDots screen was much smaller, and the MegaDots screen, while still not the full screen, was much larger.

Missing the left edge of the MegaDots screen when viewing Big dots

Usually when this problem has occurred (particularly on Dell computers), it has been fixed by adjusting a knob located on the monitor.

Using Dots instead of Big dots shows foreign letters

Using a MegaDots Braille view mode of Dots (not Big dots) does not work if you use MegaDots as a window application. See Chapter 2 for instructions on running MegaDots as a window application.

Vista and NVIDIA Video Card Issues

MegaDots works well with 32-bit Windows. On many modern systems, including 32-bit Windows Vista or Windows 7 systems, an MS-DOS full screen is not readily available. If you experience this on your system, you have several different choices for how you run MegaDots.

If your system has an NVIDIA GeForce 6150 video card, then you cannot run MegaDots in a full screen, even if you are not running Windows Vista. Some other NVIDIA video cards, in addition to the GeForce 6150, also have a problem with running MegaDots in full screen. In addition, if you are running Remote Desktop, or are emulating Windows on another platform, you also cannot use the MS-DOS full screen.

If you cannot run MegaDots in full screen, consider the approach of using an alternative video driver. If that approach is not available in your situation (such as running MegaDots through virtual PC on a 64-bit Windows system), or if this approach has not worked for you, then answer no to the installation question about running MegaDots in a full screen. Then launch the MegaDots 2.5 without Speech icon.

If you are using Windows XP, change the font name and size on the print side. To do that, launch MegaDots and press Alt-spacebar. Then press P and select the font tab. Choose MegaDots cleaner braille as your font. To enlarge the font, see the description that follows the next paragraph.

If you are running Windows Vista or Windows 7, change the font size from the braille side. Press F5 so that there is a B in the beginning of the status line. Press Alt-spacebar, then P, and select the font tab.

The idea in enlarging the font is to make the window as big as possible. Be aware that the window can never take up the whole screen. We recommend 24 point for a sighted user, 20 point for a user of JAWS or Window-Eyes. If you are asked, save these parameters for future use of this program.

Be aware that the MegaDots cleaner braille font is designed to work with screen font smoothing turned on. If the font appears to have box-like braille dots without any shadow dots, you have screen font smoothing turned off. On your desktop, right click, choose, Properties, Appearance, click on Effects and make sure the screen font smoothing choice is checked.

Answering no to the installation question about using the full screen restricts the range of screen modes that are available in MegaDots. For displaying braille, your choices are dots, ASCII, and Expanded.

Forcing Full Screen Mode in 32-bit Vista

On some systems, you can run MegaDots in full screen by downloading and installing a Windows XP driver for your machine's video card. Alternatively, you could use the instructions below to install the Standard VGA video driver. Our own experience has shown that undoing and re-doing these changes is difficult or impossible. By all means, place system restore points if you take this approach.

To take this approach, answer yes to the MegaDots installation question about running MegaDots in a full screen. Click on MegaDots 2.5 without Speech icon. If you get the full screen and can get Big Dots, then stop here. You are done.

If you get an error message saying "This system does not support full screen mode", then we need to proceed with giving an attitude adjustment to Vista. Note: any changes are made at the user's risk.

Step 1: Disable Vista's User Access Control

You need to disable Vista's User Access Control (UAC) security feature until you have completed making the changes. Actually, this step may not be necessary. If you cannot do step 1, then give step 2 a try anyway.

You need to download and run a program called TweakUAC. To learn about this program, go to the website http://www.tweak-uac.com/what-is-tweek-uac. To actually run the program, go to the link http://www.tweak-uac.com/TweakUAC.exe. Once you run TweakUAC, turn off UAC or switch it to quiet mode.

Step 2: The Standard VGA Graphics Adapter

In order to get a full screen in DOS, you must use Vista's Standard VGA Graphics Adapter video driver (as described in the next paragraph) instead of whatever driver you or Windows installed for use with your video hardware. (Alternatively, if your hardware makes this possible you may want to install the Windows XP driver for your video hardware as described below).

If your monitor goes blank, wait five minutes, then power down your computer and restart it normally.

If your monitor does not go blank, wait while the driver is installed; click Close; then continue to press Close or OK or otherwise close dialog boxes until you are back to the desktop. If you are prompted to restart your computer, do so. You probably should do so anyway.

Now, it is very important that you set a Restore point on your computer. If you don't, then switching back to the default driver for your video card for better graphics might make it difficult to get back to the MegaDots-friendly display.

If you want to reverse this procedure, follow the same instructions, but let Windows automatically install the appropriate software for your system instead of browsing your computer for driver software.

Step 3: Enable Vista's User Access Control

Review Step 1, only reverse the setting changes you made.

Problems with Voice Access through JAWS

If you have been using MegaDots with JAWS and JAWS suddenly "loses focus," you may have accidentally switched the data entry mode from Insert to Overwrite by pressing the Insert key. To check for this, press the Insert key. If JAWS says, "Insert on," then that was the problem and you have just fixed it. If JAWS says, "Insert off," then that wasn't the problem; press the Insert key again to turn it back on.

If JAWS has very sluggish speech with Eloquence in MegaDots on a Windows XP, 2000, NT, Vista, or Windows 7 system, the problem is likely to come from the system setting for allocating system resources to background services or application responses. To fix this problem, set this to Background services. For the details on making this change, see Chapter 13.