Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Trying to Live with Windows 7

With time off for the holidays, I decided that it was time to nuke my now-seedy Windows Vista PC at home and replace the operating system with Windows 7 Ultimate.

Of course, one of the main reasons that Vista had gone to seed was my trying to "upgrade" to Windows 7. That went through a lot of motions, but it ended up freezing up my PC and leaving me to back off to Vista. Every day after that was a pointed reminder of why it's usually better to just reformat and install fresh.

I took the chicken's way out for the fresh format, pulling my "working" Vista multi-boot system disk and putting in a new Western Digital (1 TB) Caviar. The old system disk was a small (70 GB) and very fast (10k rpm) WD Raptor, which has been in continuous use since early 2004. Best not push my luck with that old Raptor.

Windows 7 installation was uneventful and fairly fast. The fun began when I tried to piece Humpty Dumpty back together again. Here's a short list of issues that I had:

  1. Try as I might, I could not acquire a networked HP LaserJet printer that was connected to another machine.
  2. My old NTI Backup Now! version 4.5 software was incompatible with Windows 7.
  3. Although my multi-boot system drive was swapped out, the Ubuntu Linux operating system resided safely on another drive. I just had blown away the GRUB master boot record, which I needed to rebuild.
  4. I was afraid that I'd have issues with my old Hauppauge WinTV card and software.
The HP LaserJet 2600N
After configuring and sharing my new OS on my local network neighborhood, other PCs could see me and connect to me; however, I could see the other PCs but not connect to them. Expedient solution was to make my PC the host for network printing. That, too, started out poorly, as test prints just sat in my print queue without printing. Long story short: other users had reported that I should turn off "Enable bidirectional support" in my printer port settings. That and updated drivers solved problem #1.

NTI Backup Now!
Before I upgraded, Windows 7 warned me that my version 4.5 of NTI Backup Now! would be incompatible. An upgrade to the 5.x version was fairly inexpensive, but I forgot one thing: when I went to a new disk drive, I left behind my old NTI Backup program. The 5.x license was an upgrade version, which required that the previous version be installed. I could NOT install the 4.x version under Windows 7. Oops. Fortunately, I found that I had an electronic version for the NTI suite on another drive. For whatever reason, that version was able to at least install an attenuated version of the old NTI Backup long enough for me to then install the upgrade version.

Multi-boot Manager
I was using the built-in Windows boot manager, via BCDEdit, to boot into my Ubuntu Linux partition. After upgrading, I needed to re-create the master boot record entry that would launch Ubuntu. I got in a little over my head when I found that I did not know how to use the Ubuntu Live disk to write a new GRUB entry on my C drive. Most fortunately, I had the foresight to backup the original NST_grub.mbr file. When I put that file back onto the right spot of the new C drive, I was able to convince BCDEdit to configure it back into the multi-boot environment. Hurrah!

Hauppauge WinTV
The Hauppauge started giving me grief back when I first started with Vista, so I wasn't hopeful about Windows 7. After loading up my old drivers, however, I was able to get the WinTV tuner working. Color balance was loopy, though. Every time I fired up the TV, Windows would warn me that the color scheme as changed back to Windows Basic. This means that I always have to go in to Hauppauge preferences and tweak the color balance. Ok. For whatever reason, I could not get the remote control to work, but that was hit or miss (mostly miss) under Vista. I thought that finding and putting in new drivers would help, but that just screwed things so bad that I had to uninstall all of the new drivers and fall back to the old ones.

Lessons Learned

When you run into installation problems with old software, always check the net for new drivers. That solved most of the minor problems. When you have old hardware/software combos like my vintage Hauppauge card, don't expect miracles. Learn to live with it, or plan to upgrade it. I'd love to figure out what's wrong with my Windows Network Neighborhood setup, but at least everyone can print.

It's nice having a fast, clean OS running again.