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Upgrading from Vista to Windows 7

November 12, 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.

Preparation
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.

Installation
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?

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Categories: technology Tags: ,

Unexpected Saturnian delight

March 9, 2009 Comments off

Since my initial test use of the telescope last Thursday evening, the weather here has been… let’s call it sub-optimal. Aside from the usual rain and such one gets this time of year, the British Isles seem to get more than its fair share of high-level total blanket cloud cover. It’s so frequent and pervasive that I long ago began referring to it as “English blue”. I suspect it’s something to do with the Gulf Stream that also makes this little part of the world far warmer that it should otherwise be, and makes the west coasts of Ireland and Scotland quite verdant and… soggy. Swings and roundabouts, I suppose.

Yesterday afternoon I was visiting friends for Sunday lunch (how civilised!) and we were amused by the blustery weather and hail for much of the afternoon. So I was completely unprepared, when I finally left later that evening, to look up at a crystal clear sky with only minimal, fast-moving cirrus. I drove home liked an excited little boy, knowing I’d very soon be stargazing. Since my last viewing I’ve set the telescope up correctly, read the manuals, and have an idea of what I want to view this time. It was also a good time to test my back garden as a viewing platform – the street lighting at the front being prohibitive soon after night vision is gained.

Running Man Nebula (image from NRAO)

Running Man Nebula (image from NRAO)

On the mental list tonight was Betelgeuse, Rigel, Orion Nebula (M42), Horsehead Nebula (IC434), Aldebaran, Sirius, Procyon, Pleiades (M45), Andromeda Galaxy (M31), Saturn and the Moon. There were a few more I’d have liked to see, but the Moon was far too bright.

With the 2 eyepieces and Barlow, I had 60-273X magnification available to me. Neither Rigel nor Sirius were visible, as the former had set below my roofline to the west and the latter hadn’t risen above the valley wall to my south, but Betelgeuse, Aldebaran and Procyon came up nicely. Though even at 273X they were just slightly brighter lights, with the exception of Betelgeuse and Aldebaran whose redness became nicely visible. The Pleiades were also very nice.

When I setup to view the Orion Nebula, because of the inversion of the image I didn’t realise at first that I was actually viewing the Running Man Nebula (NGC1977) but was very impressed with the 5 bright stars I could see against the cloudy background. I think it is more impressive than the Orion Nebula when view through a telescope.

The reason is that it appears black and white to the eye, as there’s something about the colours being indiscernible in real-time over those distances, whereas a camera’s long exposure can pick up the colours. I’d read about this, but it’s the first time I’d experienced it. I also think it was the first nebula I’d ever seen, as I don’t recall ever seeing one when I did astronomy as a child.

Flame Nebula (image from AstroCruise)

Flame Nebula (image from AstroCruise)

Next was an attempt to view the Horsehead Nebula, but I couldn’t remember exactly where it sat relation to Alnitak. So instead of viewing it, I ended up viewing the lovely Flame Nebula (NGC2024). Again, it was in black and white, so my mind’s eye filled in the colour gaps, and it was most impressive.

Then there was the Moon, and again it took my breath away. It was almost full, but there was enough shadow left to allow me to focus on the craters at the shadow’s edge and observe them in relief against the background. It was amazing to see. And when I added the 11mm eyepiece with 2X Barlow, I was able to see a very high level of detail. Smaller impact craters were easy to examine, and each Sea took up the entire view.

Tonight I was determined to view Saturn, as I missed it last week. For those of you familiar with the fantastic but now-departed TV series Firefly, you’ll know the camera technique of showing a dot in the distance, then there’s like a “click zoom” which shows the identifiable object at a distance, then another “click zoom” and it will be closeup (in the show it’s typically used in space scenes outside the ship). That’s exactly what it was like viewing Saturn. To the naked eye and when lining it up in finder-scope it was just a bright ‘star’, then viewing with a 25mm eyepiece it ‘clicked’ as a tiny but clearly identifiable yellow/biege planet with a –strikethrough– line of flattened rings, and then with a 5.5mm eyepiece (11mm with Barlow) it was much bigger and breathtaking. It just sat there, quietly inspiring awe.

And much to my surprise, I was able to identify 3 of its moons: Tethys, Titan, and Iapetus. I was initially unsure of Tethys and Iapetus, but a check of Starry Night and online confirmed it was.

Lastly, I planned to have a look at the Andromeda Galaxy, but at exactly the wrong moment my neighbours decided it was their bedtime, so switched on every light on their top floor which – when combined with the British dislike for closed curtains – meant that my back garden (the lawn part is raised) was completely flooded with bright white light for about 30 minutes. This, along with the almost full Moon, washed out my night vision – it was time to call it a night.

Even packing up under such circumstances, I was extremely happy with the night’s viewing. I’d seen most of what I’d intended, and had replaced some of the desired objects with other ones, and I’d had good opportunity to practice my constellation identification.

I’ll not pretend that I didn’t have some help, and that came in the form of the brilliant GoSkyWatch planetarium software for the iPhone. Not only does it look great, but it has an excellent database of objects and is extremely easy to use. And its “night mode” ensures that your night vision doesn’t suffer (my only niggle is that the searching and setting screens are still full brightness black/white), making it easy to use during your stargazing activity. I find this easier to see and more convenient that a planisphere, as with that I’d need to juggle the red torch, too. The software is worth every penny of its £5.99 (US$9.99) price tag.

A great evening, in all. And as the title says, both Saturn and the opportunity to view at all was an unexpected delight. Can’t wait until next time!

Categories: science Tags: , ,