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Category: Windows

How I ended up firing Windows XP.

So for anyone who happens to be paying attention, april 7th is XP dies a death day. Microsoft has decided after what’s probably shot past the 10 year mark to drop support for the OS. Which, escentially, means if you’re still running that version of Windows, you’ve just officially volunteered your machine to play host to all manner of new and interesting malware creations–you have probably also had your spamming ass slammed by my oversensitive firewall, but that’s another story. Because it’s me, and because I never turn down an excuse to see how far I can stretch things until they break, my finally tossing XP wasn’t entirely a conscious “this needs to happen” type decision.

I’ll freely admit I put off switching operating systems until almost the last minute. Largely it was lazyness–I have a crap ton and a half of stuff that needs moved from one OS to the next, and when the thought crossed my mind initially I was in the process of throwing together a multiple-part archive of pretty much all of it so the machine I was using at the time could be wiped for the upgrade. But other parts included things like I wasn’t entirely sure I wouldn’t be replacing the machine I was using a ways down the road, or I couldn’t 100% guarantee Windows 7, which is where I was planning to migrate to, would run on that machine–I figured it would, because the thing originally shipped with Vista, but Vista was also 7 years ago so that wasn’t exactly a very stable benchmark either. So I was alternating between holding out until I could find a new machine, and doing the occasional bit of digging to see if my machine would collapse under the OS or not.

Things kind of happened in fairly short order after that. Plans developed that saw May getting herself a new machine, so the Windows system she was using–which at the time ran Windows 8 (don’t get me started)–sort of stopped having any actual use. My machine had started showing its age, and there was a point that I actually wasn’t entirely sure it’d last long enough for me to do what needed doing with it to keep my various crap from falling into system failure oblivion. Fine time for me to start experimenting with new backup systems, right? So I played around with that (that’s another entry), and managed to get things to a point where if the system spontaneously caught fire it wouldn’t do anything more than torch my corner of the office. Which, okay, would have sucked royally, but my stuff was safe.

Okay. So that’s one headache down. Now I was comfortable enough that if the system decided to fry every circuit going, or if Microsoft decided to change their mind, pull support early and launch an update that escentially disabled every system in the place still running that OS, I wasn’t gonna be hurting too horribly bad. That made the next steps very nearly natural. Since May’s new machine was here and set up, May’s Windows machine became my Windows machine. Since I will never willingly use a Windows 8 machine for anything other than something new to put Windows 7 on, my next project became wipe the machine, and toss on an OS that doesn’t make me want to consider buying stock in migraine medication. I spent the next couple days manually rebuilding the machine, including hunting up wireless network drivers that I could have swore Windows 7 had built in when we bought that damn card. Then it was take a better part of the next week or so downloading and restoring the backup from the old machine, and my eventual turned emergency OS swap ended up happening with only the removal of a couple strands of hair.

And for the last couple months or so, well before Microsoft flipped the switch what turns all your XP into hacker heaven–yes, this apparently may or may not include most ATM’s, I fired XP and haven’t looked back. I may kick myself for it in 6 months when I go looking for something I knew I had on the old machine and poof, it forgets to exist, but you’ll have that. And in future, I do believe I’ll start the upgrade process well in advance of potential catastrophic implosions. On the other hand, that was kinda fun. Perhaps I’ll do it again…

Useless Sack of Bull, or why USB is of the devil.

I pretty much live on USB. Have for half an age. Kind of a requirement with about 90% of what I do. I have 3 external drives, all of them USB. I have an admitedly not used printer. That’s USB. The keyboard is USB. The mouse, if I’d gotten it back from the former roommate before he started being a tool, is also USB. The new wireless card (more on that below) is USB. Oh and I have an iPhone. that’s USB if anything useful needs to happen. Basicly, USB runs my life. Which is awesome, squared. At least until it decides to stop working. Which brings us to today–well, yesterday now.

I got my hands on a wireless N card a bit over a year ago, since the card this machine came with was trying real hard to head maybe in a that-a-way type direction. When I got the card, the N wireless standard was still fairly new–so new it was still considered experimental. The card did what it was supposed to, for the most part. But recently, especially when doing fairly network intensive things like copying files from one system to the other, I started pushing the card’s limits. And it started pushing back. Dropping connections, sometimes not actually picking the connection back up, and once requiring a restart to actually fix the thing–I’m somewhat blaming windows for that last one. Productivity doesn’t really get to happen if you have to check every so often to make sure your system didn’t drop your productivity on the floor halfway through. So yesterday, since May and I wanted breakfast anyway, we figured we’d bounce off a restaurant and land at Staples. So we did, and I grabbed a USB wireless card. I’m getting a little low on ports, as is she, so we grabbed a couple hubs to go with–nothing fancy, just your basic 4-port jobs. Brought them back home, then figured we’d relax a bit before I started setting things up. It was only gonna take a few minutes, but it didn’t need to get done right away–most of the intensive stuff could wait a couple hours. So I put it off until yesterday afternoon, then decided I’d take the couple minutes I’d need to actually get things set up. It was gonna be quick and easy. Slap the hub in place, slap the card in the hub, install both, go on about my day. Yeah, about that.

The USB hub installed no problem, once I figured out what the hell the extra cable was for. The card? That took a little convincing. Well, and a CD–really, who the hell packs driver software on a CD anymore, D-link? But then the fun popped in and said hi. The instalation of either card or hub, or both, caused one of my external drives to hit the deck. It was recognised, but you couldn’t actually *do* anything with it without getting permission and I/O errors up the wazu. Weirdness squared, since nothing I’d done went anywhere near the drive that gave me the fit. Oh well, you’ll have that. So figuring what was just your typical Windows wonkyness, I hit the restart button. Hey, they aren’t kidding that 90% of problems with Windows can be solved, at least temporarily, by a restart. This one slid itself neatly into the 10% that couldn’t.

I brought the machine back up, went to call up the problem drive. “Windows can’t find l:”. Wait wait what? Oh no you didn’t. “My Computer” tells me nope, that drive ain’t showing up. Different letter, maybe? Windows develops amnesia sometimes. Nope, that doesn’t do it either. Alright, let’s drop into device manager and see what ate itself. Oh, well that’s cool. Where my external drive should be, there’s an “Unknown Device” staring at me instead. Oh and hey look. Uninstalling it and reinstalling it? Still an unknown device. And Windows ever so helpfully informs me that a USB device attached to this computer has malfunctioned and could not be recognised. Where’s my vodka, again?

I fought with that for several hours. Then, when I thought the system might be in the process of unscrewing itself–it was taking longer than usual to restart, which it usually does if it’s attempting to self-correct, I took the opportunity to throw myself into bed for a couple hours and allow my brain to recover from its partially liquified state. Should not have done that, for the system, it done fooled me. It came up just fine. I could, again, sort of see that there was a device there. But it was still an unknown device. Well hey. It’s something, just not what I’d call progress. So, alright, whichever. USB sometimes has its preferences. That’s fine.

I’d shuffled things around in the back of the machine so I’d have room to put the hub without killing me, and that required shuffling the drive over a port. That could have possibly screwed things up. Okay, we can fix that. Yank the hub, stick it in one of the vacant ports in the front of the machine. Move the drive back to where it used to be. Hey look–I have a drive again. We’re in the clear, finally. That only took far too long. So I started to set things up the way I had them before. That meant queuing up the several downloads I have going in the background. So I did that. “This drive has been removed. Please reattach the drive.” Oh really.

turns out, universal plug and play means you must reorganize everything, if you’re going to reorganize anything–clearly, this is what they meant by “play”. That’s what my computer was trying to tell me, when it decided this time I didn’t have a j: drive. I most certainly do have a j: drive, but my fixing of the l: problem made everything go pair shaped. Oh, and Windows decided I didn’t have an SD card reader either–fair enough, since I never used the thing anyway. Like the first drive did before, both of these showed up as unknown devices when looking. Well, hell. I didn’t want sleep anyway. I did want caffeine, though. And vodka. Definitely vodka. So it was do this dance again and see what turns up. Exactly how I invisioned spending my first 24 hours with new hardware.

Once again, into device manager. Once again, play the uninstall reinstall game. For the sake of the card reader, it was also hit up Dell’s website for drivers, just in case a simple reinstall fixes its wagon–it didn’t. Well bloody hell. And the drive in question didn’t move once during the entire arangement of getting everything else to work. Windows just decided it wasn’t gonna play. Oh, and it was *that* drive’s turn to have malfunctioned and not be recognised. this is getting hella old, Microsoft.

Again, do the poking around, figure out where it’s brokoen. Again, curse when the thing that’s broken won’t fix when you shove it into place. So, I did the next best thing. I pulled *that* drive out of the port it had been sitting in since that drive existed, and slapped it into the USB hub alongside the wireless card. And didn’t the damn thing spin up, be recognised and do anything I damn well please like it’d spent its entire life exactly like that. “Show you what’s in your downloads directory? Sure. Here you go.” “Hold very still while your torrent client re-checks every single goddamn file I have because my disappearance threw it for a loop? Whatever you say, boss.” Yeah, screw you, ya something something something.

So now I have 3 working USB drives again. Plus the working USB hub and wireless card I wanted to have in the first damn place. Still don’t have a working SD card reader, but I’ll worry about that if and when I need to. I’ll probably do a system restore at some point if only to see if that puts it in a position to maybe self-correct and undo the mass confusion, but as for right now? The damn thing works, I’m braindead, and I think there’s a sub or two calling my name. Oh, and the next time somebody tells me USB is extremely easy to work with, I won’t be held responsible for any pain caused to any USB stick regions.

Windows 7: All of Vista’s cool, and only one of Vista’s sucks.

Sadly, Microsoft doesn’t see the user account control system as a bug. Sigh. Still, having done tech support for Vista, and then set up and rather extensively either used or seen used the system afterwards, if that’s the only thing I have to complain about–and so far, it is–it can’t be too terribly annoying. Particularly considering I’ve already found the off switch. I’ll take it. Now, if Microsoft wouldn’t mind too terribly not breaking what, at least for right now, is a pretty damn good Windows experience, that’d be really super extremely awesome. Since it’s Microsoft, and it’s Windows, and we all know both their histories, I’ll go ahead and start queuing up technically related rants. In the meantime, this is making me want to upgrade *my* machine. That… could get problematic.

I take back every bad thing I ever said about SP3. Ever.

I have a long and complicated history with Windows XP’s service pack 3. Mostly, it consists of me installing it and it doing all manner of bad things to the machine it’s installed on–like, for instance, being partially responsible for the temporary breakage of an internet connection. Recently though, I’ve noticed a slightly disturbing trend. Machines older than mine and less stable than mine are taking SP3 with little to no problem and even less headache. And I’ve personally seen it installed on one with plenty of other problems of its own–hello, less than stable IE 8. So there was definitely something out to get me–now I had proof.

After exiling SP3 from my machine for being pretty much a complete and total failure, I’d also a while later gone ahead and got rid of Eset’s Smart Security product for a whole host of other, unrelated reasons I’ll get around to posting at some point in the maybe not too distant future. That fixed a few dozen other slightly irritating, but not ultimately hindering, problems. After seeing SP3 crop up on some of these machines and ultimately not cause mass amounts of destruction, I decided just before I came down here to install it again on mine. I took that opportunity to test IE 8 out on a non-frankenputer as well, but I’ll save that for when I figure out what about the offending machine is making it break. And, surprise of surprises, it didn’t result in extreme amounts of bloodshed, or physical damage to the computer.

So, after much of the getting pissed with Microsoft for making yet more work for me, and after confirming not once, but five times that SP3 did not, in fact, break me severely on install, I officially withdraw any cursing, swearing, or overall snarkish remarks directed at Microsoft on its behalf. Instead, I shall officially aim those remarks at Eset/Nod32, and add them to the 50 billion others I’ve had plenty of time to prepare and direct at the offending antivirus manufacturer. But don’t worry, Microsoft still has much for me to snark about–I still have to figure out in exactly how many pieces they’ve managed to break .net framework on this machine, which may or may not warrant a separate entry. But SP3, at least so far, is not as evil as it looked a few months ago. Good job, MS. Now fix your framework, goddammit.

I have too much time, methinks.

So in between getting things settled up for Christmas, and taking Jess (samari76) out for her birthday, I’ve had a bit of an opportunity to do some technological geeking. I’ve been toying with the idea of installing a local copy of various versions of Linux, mostly for the awesome factor that would go with it. That, plus trish is rather curious to see exactly what the system looks like. So with mucho assistance from Mike (lightvortex), I got my hands on an iso of Gentoo, A.K.A. my OS of choice. Burned two live CD’s, one for my eventual booting/possible installing, and one so Trish can look at it on her own schedule and optionally install it when she decides it’s something she’s got time to dink around with. If I ever do get around to installing Gentoo locally, I’ve still got the HP laptop sitting in the other room that’s been in a sort of semi-state of retirement since about September/October of last year, when I got my hands on this machine. I’m giving serious thought to plunking Gentoo on that machine, and taking the Orca screenreader for a test drive. Thought about a couple others, but from doing my own poking around Orca’s got the most publicly available documentation/information on it. I’m not *overly* impressed with its selection of speech synths, but considering it’s free software, plus is completely and totally open source, I don’t see that being a permanent problem. If it turns out I actually enjoy locally using Gentoo,I may do exactly the same thing with the desktop here; ditch the copy of Windows and subsequent copy of JAWS for Windows I have on here, and stick Gentoo in its place. God knows there’s about 40 billion equivalent programs I can use to do the same every day things I do on here while using that particular OS. Now I just have to muster up the nerve to actually take the plunge. One of these days I’ll let loose with my Windows versus Linux post. But for the moment, I’ll just leave it at Linux will pwn j00. And yes, Rox’e (pawpower4me), it even pwns your macs. Like wo.

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