Stark Daily Blog

Sat, 27 Jan 2007

Upgrading to a new Windows PC
I spent some time today helping a friend upgrade his old Dell PC to a new Dell PC.

What a nightmare!

Now, I don't mean to imply that I regret helping my friend, or that I wouldn't do the same thing again. In fact, I knew what I was getting into (roughtly) since I'd done the same thing for my step-father-in-law last summer. What I mean is that this process is a lot of work, and can be more complicated than the average non-tech-savvy user can handle.

Now, I will stipulate that if I was more experienced with this process, it might have gone a little easier. But the whole point here is that the person doing this is probably going to know less than I do about PCs, so I think I'm a generous proxy for this average individual.

Let me summarize today's process:

Old computer: Some old Dell with WinXP SP1 on it. New computer: New Dell machine with XP Media Center Edition on it. Both machines have LAN, and the owner has a 4-port router and DSL Modem. There are two LAN cables in house - with a quick glance I thought I saw that one was running from the old computer to the router, and the 2nd from the router to the DSL modem. (More on that later.)

I decide to use the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard to bundle up all of the data for transport to the new computer. I want to use LAN for the transfer since I was looking at 2GB (compressed) of data, mostly digital pictures. So I launch off the wizard on the old machine, and generate the archive file. So far, so good.

The new machine is turned on, and the requisite setup information is input to get XP up and running. In order to get Windows to activate during this process, I have to transfer the LAN cable from the old machine. I have to know how to navigate the wizard to get the PPPoE WAN miniport driver loaded, which I do incorrectly the first time because it turns out that the LAN cable to the old machine is running directly to the DSL modem - the router is sitting there plugged in to power but nothing else! So I hand navigate the wizard for direct Internet connection. Granted, I could have waited to activate Windows, but there I was being prompted by the getting started wizard and I'm thinking, no problem. Anyway, after getting that all sorted, I have to disable the PPPoE and set both computers up to be behind the DHCP serving router.

I only have 2 LAN cables, so if I hook up both computers to the router, I can't have an Internet connection. (Or I can have one Internet connected computer.) So I get the LAN hooked up. By now the old machine has all the files and settings bundled up, so set up a share on the old box, run FAST wizard on the new machine which promptly complains that the file I'm trying to open is not a proper FAST file. Huh? Some Internet searching (requiring recabling, of course) turns up an Ed Bott article that sheds some light on the issue. In fact, all it says is that I should run the transfer wizard first on the new PC, and not the old one. And wizard says that I should run the FAST wizard from the Windows XP OS CD on the old computer. I dawns on me that the two versions of the FAST wizard (old XP, new Media Center Edition of XP) are incompatible, and that the new version won't read data from the old version.

Armed with this hunch, I go to do just that, but it turns out that Dell has provided me with a Windows XP DVD, and not a CD. The old machine has only a CD drive, not a DVD drive. Bummer.

My solution? - share the DVD drive on the new machine so the old one can use it. I admit that there were several possible solutions here. I might have tried running the old XP FAST wizard on both machines. Or I could have tried to copy the FAST wizard off the DVD to a floppy using the new machine in order to get it running on the old machine.

Having chosen the networking approach, I am now stymied as to why it is not working. I eventually figure out that the Norton Internet Security product that came installed on the new Dell which seemed innocuous enough at the time is blocking file sharing. Once I shot that down, I could run the new FAST wizard on the old machine via the network share. So, I wait again while the wizard runs for the second time...

Back to the new machine, I continue the FAST process, pointing it to the network share I'd created on the old machine just for this purpose. Finally, it continues on to completion. Whew!

Some other gotchas with the process:

To wrap up, I think the worst part of the process was that the FAST wizard file was not backward compatible - the new FAST wizard couldn't read the file generated by the old FAST wizard. If that had just worked, it would have saved me from the whole share-the-DVD-drive-through-the-firewall problem. And I have no idea if other OSs are any better, though I suspect that for Linux one gets all of one's files and settings just by copying home directories.

Ug. Vista, anyone?

posted at: 19:30 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Sun, 21 Jan 2007

My Wife...
My wife is referred to as 'my wife' at her request, in case anybody was wondering. She half-sarcastically says she "hasn't got used to this your-privacy-was-gone-long-ago-sucker" thing. So there you go.

posted at: 22:02 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Sat, 20 Jan 2007

Energy Efficient Light Bulbs
My wife and I just watched An Inconvenient Truth, and in case you think Global Warming isn't happening or maybe you are just on the fence about it, this movie will surely convince you. I thought it might be full of anecdotal evidence and twisted interpretations (Gore is, after all, a politician) of data, but in fact I was impressed with Gore's presentation which included lots of raw data and explanations of what the data means.

Of course, you could be someone like a co-worker my wife mentioned the movie to. When data describing global temperatures going back 650,000 years (extracted from ice cores in the antarctic) was mentioned to him, he responded, "Well, IF you believe the earth is that old...". This guy lives in Colorado, and not knowing anything else about him, he sounds like a science-retarded fundamentalist Christian. Sigh.

Anyway, the movie has spurred me to be even more energy conscious than I already am, and it got me to go out and replace all of the incandescent bulbs we have with compact flourescent bulbs. I had previously been waiting for a bulb to go out before replacing it, but that strategy was failing due to the more-or-less zero failure rate of the light bulbs around here - probably because I'm turning them off all the time! Next up will, I think, be a closer look at the doors and other possible cracks around the house to see how well they're sealed up.

One day I'd like to have a solar roof with a plug-in hybrid, but today the reality is that even for just the solar roof part, we don't use enough energy to make it worth the cost. The cost of a system has to come down some before it is worth it. Hopefully by that time, they'll have the bugs worked out of the plug-in hybrid cars, and I'll be good to go.

posted at: 15:54 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Tue, 16 Jan 2007

Landscaping Nearly Finished...
For those that have not noticed, the landscaping project finished up major work in Dec. 2006. The pictures are here. We hope to enjoy the yard once the days are longer and the weather warms up. Jen is excited about planting in the new planter boxes and various large pots the we have procured. Wil has yet to do some finishing up by installing additional lighting in planters and around the walkways.

posted at: 21:47 | path: | permanent link to this entry