Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

Upgrading from Vista to Windows 7

12 November 2009 Comments off

For those still running Windows Vista and who may be interested in upgrading to Windows 7, I thought I’d document my experience for you. Short version: success, with minor caveats.

Long version…

It was with great… well perhaps some… okay, mild excitement that I arrived home on Tuesday to discover that my “free” copy of Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Upgrade had arrived in the post. By “free” I mean that my purchase of Vista Home Premium (64-bit) a few months ago came with an upgrade voucher included in the price. Every online retailer’s idea of pre-order is delivery on the doorstep on the day of release or the next day at worst; Microsoft’s idea of pre-order seems to mean 2-3 weeks after release in the stores. Still… gift horse, and all that.

Below I have shown the times to give you an idea of how long it all takes. My recently-built PC is an Intel Core i7 920 with 6GB DDR3 RAM and 1TB SATA2 HDD. Your mileage will almost certainly vary in terms of time.

Prior to sticking in the DVD — and praying to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that Microsoft hadn’t royally cocked up — I took a few steps to cover myself. This involved the following:

  • My C: drive contains the operating system and programs only. All my data is on another drive, and I have important C: data backed up elsewhere.
  • Downloaded the Windows 7 version of my network card driver to my desktop.
  • Downloaded the Windows 7 version of my video card driver to my desktop.
  • Disable all third-party software that start automatically.
  • Disable antivirus software, as the install program recommends.*

That was it, really.

Note: I dual-boot between Windows and Wubi Ubuntu Linux, so that’s worth considering below when I mention Windows boot menus, as it’s likely most Windows-only installations won’t show a menu most of the time. It also shows that the process will work if you multi-boot your PC.

First Run – Compatibility Check
Upon inserting the DVD and running setup.exe, I told it to install Windows 7 which, among other things, got it to run a compatibility check.

It flagged a number of devices and programs that “might not work after installing Windows 7”:

  • Devices: IDE storage controller and Canon scanner (purchased in 2000 and only usable via VueScan‘s generic driver).
  • Programs: iTunes (reminded me to de-authorise it first), DaemonTools, and the ATI Catalyst software for my graphics CrossfireX cards.

The install software automatically removed the driver software, but this caused some issues for my SATA DVD-RW drive until I made a BIOS change (to force ACHI emulation instead of IDE), then I removed the programs as recommended.

Now for the install process, as I experienced it:

  • 20:25: Ran setup.exe on the Windows 7 upgrade DVD. It performed and passed the compatibility checks, then started the installation proper (“copying Windows files”).
  • 20:30: Step 2: Gathering information.
  • 20:50: Step 3: Expanding Windows files.
  • 20:55: System rebooted, Windows boot menu showed a “Windows 7 Installation” option which was automatically selected.
  • 21:05: Continuation of file expansion.
  • 21:15: Step 4: Installing features and updates, screen flickered a few times (video drivers, etc).
  • 21:18: Reboot. Same boot menu option automatically selected.
  • 21:20: Step 5: Transferring files, settings and programs.
  • 21:40: Reboot. Boot menu now showed Windows 7 (rather than Windows Vista).
  • 21:52: Reboot. Came up doing video performance checks. It made me enter my licence key at this point,** and then began the Windows post-install setup process (update installation schedule, clock and timezone, network and firewall settings, etc).
  • 21:57: The Windows 7 login screen appeared. Once I logged in with my existing username and password it followed by preparing the desktop, personal settings, etc.
  • 22:03: Finally at the new Windows 7 desktop. Windows Update ran at this point and downloaded 65MB of updates. It included driver updates for my motherboard and peripherals (NIC, audio, video, etc). I let it do all of them, figuring Microsoft had screwed up third-party driver updates for so long now that they must have got it right by now. Want to bet?
  • 22:11: When updates were all installed, machine wanted to be rebooted so I did.
  • 22:25: Upon coming back up I realised that my network connection was no longer working. Windows Update had screwed up my NIC driver update (this is why I downloaded the Windows 7 version of the driver before starting the upgrade process). Ran the software to install the driver manually, and everything began working correctly. Did a manual installation of the video card drivers as well. This required another reboot.
  • 22:50: All done.

The compatibility check run was first performed at 19:10, so — including the preparatory work of downloading drivers and removing incompatible drivers and programs — the whole process took about 4 hours. It fair to say that you should be able to do it in an evening after work, providing you have second-guessed Microsoft’s track record and know what you’re doing.

With the exception of the ever-so-helpful third-party driver updates screwing things up, it all worked perfectly well after a bunch of installations and 6 reboots. The rest of the work to be done was adding the removed software, re-enabling software for automatic startup, and general customisation. Everything seems to be working fine.

The Aero Peek and the new taskbar are going to take some getting used to, but I’m happy.

It seems it’s true when they say that Windows 7 has unbroken Vista in the same way that Snow Leopard has unbroken Leopard. Time will tell, I suppose.

* If not for the inbuilt firewall in my ADSL router, I would be seriously concerned about Microsoft’s decades-old requirement to disable antivirus software when installing or uninstalling their operating systems. Not so much an issue anymore, but was a critical problem back in the dialup PSTN days.

** It asked me for the licence key almost 3 hours after beginning the installation process. Why on earth didn’t it do this at the start?

Categories: technology Tags: ,

The Slashdot Effect & moved to new hosting provider

19 September 2009 Comments off

For well over 10 years I’ve been hearing about the Slashdot Effect, since the advent of Web 2.0 I’ve seen it countless times on popular social sites like Digg, Reddit, and of course Slashdot, and years working as a security consultant gave me plenty of experience with denials of service (DoS) and distributed denials of service (DDoS) attacks. The Slashdot Effect is similar in both execution and results to a DDoS in that a single, often harmless, action by a huge number of computers brings the target server to its knees.

Of course there is one huge difference between the Slashdot Effect and (D)DoS attacks: the former is what the Internet is largely all about– spreading information or something cool to as many interested people as possible. The latter is normally about malice and criminal intent.

Sometime after I posted my previous post to this blog, a kindred spirit and fellow Twitter user (from whom I originally borrowed the image, giving source attribution as always) kindly shared my post with StumbleUpon. Oh. My. FSM.

From ~03:00 UTC yesterday this blog began serving the follow page:

Bandwidth Limit Exceeded error

It lasted for most of the UK morning until I got into my day job and eventually got around to doing my customary quick check of the admin page, and was greeted with the above error myself. In retrospect, a 1GB monthly “soft” bandwidth cap wasn’t that unreasonable for a modest blog such as this, but imagine everyone’s surprise to discover that 1.7GB was served within the space of just a few hours. O_o

To put it into context, WordPress Stats shows that my previous peak viewing days were all below 500, and the daily average was much lower. Yesterday saw that ramp up almost an order of magnitude. All my pretty jagged lines showing how many visitors I’d had per day were suddenly all flatlined as the graph’s Y-axis re-scaled itself to show a mountain peak with no peers. Here’s what it looked like shortly after lunchtime yesterday:

Wordpress Stats: the Slashdot Effect

Kinda cool, really.

So once I got my hosting provider to lift the bandwidth cap, I began taking the necessary steps to move the site to a new provider after finding one recommended by a friend that gives unlimited, well… everything: bandwidth, storage, domains, databases, mail accounts, etc, etc. What’s more, I managed to get the hosting plan for half price due to the beauty of automated signup process tracking and aggressive new customer policies…

Last night I spent the evening (not the most exciting way to spend a Friday night) setting up the new system and migrating the blog to the new provider. For those of you who tried read the blog via the website during this time, please accept my apologies for the downtime: it was unavoidable while the DNS server changes had to propagate across the Internet. If you want to blame someone — blame Paul Mockapetris (I’m such a nerd).

So it’s with delight — and not a small amount of relief — that I present to you Hurtling Through Space at its new home.

From this point forward the only negative impact this move should have is that those of you who have subscribed to posts will have lost those subscriptions (I’ll email each of those who left a valid email address to let you know, in case you miss this post). Please let me know if you find something wrong with the site — I haven’t fully tested it yet.

On the positive impact side, the address and everything remains the same, and it should be more reliable, faster and able to withstand the whimsy of Web 2.0 traffic floods.

Have at ye, ye worthless scurvy dogs! Arrrrr!

Categories: technology Tags: ,

The much-promised jetpack leads to screaming

30 May 2009 Comments off

While reading an interesting article on CNN International’s Technology website (via the Facebook newsfeed of Point of Inquiry‘s D.J. Grothe) — about why we don’t have all the cool space-age gadgets we were promised as far back as the 1964 New York World’s Fair — I laughed so hard I had just to share (emphasis mine):

The jet pack, though, has never really taken off, Wilson says. The problem is its practical application. While a rocket belt could propel a screaming human to 60 mph in seconds, its fuel lasted for only about half a minute, “which led to more screaming,” Wilson says…

Nor could a jet pack be of use to ordinary people who wanted to avoid rush-hour traffic, Wilson says. Jet-packing hordes could transform the skies into an aerial demolition derby, with air rage and drunk drivers turned into wobbly human torpedoes.

I recommend reading the article, entitled Why Our ‘Amazing’ Science Fiction Future Fizzled, in its entireity as it’s quite interesting. You’ll probably spot a number of items and concepts from the subsequent 45 years of popular fiction and television.

It also goes some way to dispelling some of the “Where’s my jetpack?” melancholy, which I even remember hearing the character Red say in episodes of That 70’s Show.

Categories: technology Tags: ,