Tuesday, December 8, 2009

My Windows 7 Upgrade – Part 2

The death of Batman

In yesterday’s blog I told the tale of my Windows 7 upgrade, beginning with why I felt it made sense to mess with my Operating System and continuing to the point where I actually executed the Windows 7 install process. One reason for the upgrade that I didn’t mention – my new computer in my office came with Windows 7 and I’ve used it just enough to conclude that I like it. That certainly helped push me in the direction of the new O/S.

The XP to 7 upgrade, I had read (and been told by the Mac commercials), was a total wipe and reload. Which was fine, because that’s really what I wanted – a clean slate. I had moved my Windows 7 digital download onto a flash drive, and executed the install by running the setup.exe. That’s practically the last thing I had to do until the upgrade was complete.

It asked me to make a choice between a simple upgrade and a total wipe, which I thought was odd because I was pretty sure that a simple upgrade wasn’t actually an option. I suppose I should have selected that choice just to see what happened, but I didn’t think of it at the time. Instead, I told it to go ahead and blow away XP. I selected my desired drive volume, entered my CD-Key, and then walked away. The rest of the upgrade, including reboots and post-reboot activities, proceeded entirely without me. I admit, I was very impressed. It was the cleanest, friendliest Windows install I can remember. It gave me a really positive vibe that, for the first time in years, Microsoft had gotten it right.

It wasn’t perfect, though. One thing I noticed after spending some time moving my data back over to my main hard drive was that there seemed to be a lot of crapola that I hadn’t expected to see. The installation process had advised me that my old Windows directory would be renamed Windows.old and would still be hanging around in case I needed it, however it appeared that much of my “Program Files” folder and various folders on the root of the C:\ drive were there also. The setup application had never specifically promised me a complete wipe and reload of my drive, so it was my own fault for assuming that I was getting a Format C: when it appears all that really happened was a rename of the Windows directory.

The good news is that, functionally, the end result was the same for me – I got a fresh install of Windows 7 with none of the old Windows XP registry or system files hanging around to mess things up. I might have preferred to have blown away the whole C:\ drive and reloaded everything from scratch, since it’s plausible that there could be a conflict at some point down the road between a new application being installed and some old debris still cluttering up the “Program Files” directory, but I consider that to be unlikely enough that I’m not going to bother doing yet another re-install.

One other wrench in the works involved the game that I’m currently playing – Batman: Arkham Asylum. I had found the “saves” folder and backed that up, believing that it, in fact, contained my saves. I don’t know why I expected the “saves” folder to contain saves, but being kind of a crazy, wacky guy, that’s what I thought. Well, it didn’t. I don’t know what the teensy little file in there was for, but when restored to the Saves directory after reinstalling the game, it did not grant me access to my saved game. I am now replaying Batmat: Arkham Asylum from the beginning.

There were other little oddities, just to show that Microsoft still has some work to do to get to a completely hands-free, pain-free install. I have an HP Color Laserjet 2600n printer. The “n” stands for network, which means that I can plug it directly into my home network and it will take an IP address and make itself available to any PC that’s also on the network. It’s also cheap as hell to print on compared to those damn inkjets I used to use.

When I set up my Windows 7 PC in my office, I told it the IP address of the printer and it found it with no problems. It grabbed the driver out of Windows 7’s list of available drivers and it set it up as my primary printer, pretty much hassle-free.

My experience with my upgrade was not analogous to that. In fact, when I gave the IP address to my primary PC, it told me it didn’t have the driver for that printer and made me go find it on the web. Huh? I know the driver’s built into Windows 7, because I already added this exact printer on another Windows 7 machine. Ok, fine – off I went to HP’s website to download the driver. Now, remember, this is a 2600n, and the n stands for “network.” But what’s the ONLY Windows 7 driver I can find for that printer on HP’s site? A driver that requires me to plug in the printer via a USB cable! Huh again?? That doesn’t even begin to make sense. But, AH-HA! Since the Windows 7 setup didn’t format my hard drive, the OLD driver I used to use is still there – I’ll just point to that. So I ran the “add printer” wizard a second time, told it the printer’s address, and prepared to point it to the old driver. Except this time, just to mess with me, Windows 7 found the proper driver on its own (like it should have the first time) and set the printer up nice and neat.

But in fairly short order, and with the only issues being relatively minor (and the Batman issue being, ultimately, my fault. Or the game-maker’s fault. Either way, it wasn’t Microsoft’s fault.), I had my new Windows 7 environment up and running. It was quick and clean and very slick. I was glad I made the change.


The reload did not fix my Firefox problem. I can only conclude that Firefox objects to one of the 18 or so tabs that I have open simultaneously. It used to be 20, but I’ve closed a couple in an attempt to find a root cause. In theory, I believe Firefox should have no problem with all these tabs, even though it seems like a lot (even to me). I’m pretty sure that just one of the websites I have open must have some bad code on it somewhere that’s causing a memory leak or otherwise giving Firefox a lobotomy at random intervals. Regardless, the upgrade did not correct this problem as I’d hoped. The good news, however, is that it DID fix the problem I had with that borked .msi install that had refused to complete and was preventing any OTHER setup files from working.

One thing was missing, though. My computer in my office came with this great little “dock” across the top of the screen from which I could quickly launch various applications, and it even had sub-menus of applications (like all the Office apps, for example). It’s a very nice feature, sort of similar to the fancy toolbar/dock thingie on a Mac, and I hunted high and low to figure out how to turn it on on my main PC. In the process, I discovered all sorts of features of my new Windows 7 system, such as a neat tool that “evaluates” all the hardware on your machine and gives you a score that indicates how many of the fancy features you ought to have turned on. For example, Windows 7 comes with the “aero glass” interface, just like Vista had. It turns things like the Title Bar at the top of a window and the Taskbar at the bottom of the screen transparent – you can see through them to the stuff underneath. It looks really neat, but it’s not recommended for systems with too little RAM or a slow processor – it will slow them down too much.

Anyway, I hunted and I hunted and I hunted, and finally I went down to my office and fired up my computer there. A little examination of the doc revealed that it wasn’t a Microsoft product – it had been added by DELL! I’ll be darned! said I. Luckily, the company that wrote the app for DELL had left their name on the copyright screen, so I was able to discover the very nice Stardock Objectdock software, which is a free utility that does exactly the same thing as the DELL dock did for me. It’s actually even more powerful than the free DELL one, in terms of how you can customize it and configure it.

With that mystery solved, I was off to discover more neat tricks with Windows 7.

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