Monday, November 16, 2009

Adventures with Windows 7: Descent into Hell

Day whatever: Dual booting.

As my previous entries on this subject have explained, my HP desktop has two physical drives: an old Samsung drive that I pulled out of my old Micron desktop before discarding it two years ago, and a Hitachi drive that came with the HP. When I first acquired Win7, I decided (for reasons that in hindsight don't seem particularly compelling) to install it over XP on the Samsung drive. After convincing myself of its superiority to Vista, yet also discovering that it wouldn't support legacy apps, I decided to install Win7 over Vista on the Hitachi and reinstall XP on Samsung.

I began by installing Win7 on the Hitachi. In practice, this was very nearly a full day's worth of work. Yes, the installation itself was very clean and seamless, but following up with the applications (because although the old files were saved, they 32-bit to 64-bit transition meant that everything had to be redone) and updates (many hours of downloading and multiple restarts), getting the system working just-so was pretty time intensive. Finally, however, it was done, and I set about installing XP-SP2 on the Samsung.

Bad mistake. Colossally bad mistake. For reasons documented quite nicely here, if you are dual-booting Win 7 and XP, you must install XP first. Otherwise, the XP installation will overwrite the information in the boot sector (or something) necessary for Win 7 to boot, and the XP information is not forward compatible. What the article doesn't say is that the damage this causes cannot be repaired, at least by the Win7 "repair" utility on the installation media, or by any other method I tried. Once done, Win7 must be reinstalled from scratch.

But just as bad was that the XP installation wouldn't complete! Oh, it completed enough to destroy access to Win 7, but after the first reboot (operating system installations usually require multiple reboots), I was told that a file needed by the installation didn't exist on the installation media. I checked the media and the file was there, but for some reason it wasn't reading. I tried another installation disk. Same result.

I then tried to start the XP installation from the beginning, but after reading a bunch of files, it announced that I had a "disk error", and ordered a reboot. So now I was stuck with a completely dead computer: I couldn't run Win 7, I couldn't complete the XP installation or start a new one!

Still hoping to salvage all my work installing the Win 7 OS and apps, I installed Win 7 again on the Samsung drive. This was successful, and at least allowed me to manually save my files. But nothing I tried to could undo the XP installer's damage to the ability of Win 7 to start on the Hitachi drive.

Okay, so I would have to start from scratch, starting with the XP installation. But XP still wouldn't install! I even reformatted both of the drives! Not the "soft" reformat that just erases the contents; no, this was a "hard", sector-by-sector, nuclear reformat. And I still was told that I had a "disk error".

The only thing left to fix that I could think of was the bios. As I contemplated the effort that would take, I decided, on a lark, to retry the XP installation, not from the newer ATAPI DVD reader that came with the HP, but on the older Samsung DVD reader that originally came with the old Micron.

It worked.

In hindsight, it's easy to see what the problem was, and many of you have already guessed it. The XP-SP2 disk didn't contain the drivers for the new ATAPI DVD drive. As it began the installation, it made progress because it was using the ATAPI drivers already installed on the Samsung hard drive; after the reboot, however, it only had the drivers on the disk itself. Those drivers worked with the Samsung hard drive and DVD player, but not with the new drives, including the one from which I had attempted to install the operating system.*

What good fortune that I had recycled the older Samsung DVD player from the computer; had I not, the XP installation media would have likely been useless (although I may have devised some order-of-battle that would have succeeded).

The drives were not the only devices for which SP2 didn't have drivers. The others were the network adapter, the video card, and the sound card. I first installed XP on the Samsung HD, and then promptly installed Win7 on the Hitachi. Once I used Win7 to copy the network adapter driver to the Samsung drive, I was able to download and install SP3, which did have the drivers for the new hardware.

Frankly, I still haven't solved all the problems associated with dual-booting yet. Somewhere in the course of the installation, the bootsector on the Hitachi stopped working again; however, the boot sector on the Samsung is still controlled by the new Win7 boot manager that let's me select the operating system, so this isn't critical (as long as it, too, doesn't become corrupted). And once I created a network on XP side, I couldn't connect my laptop anymore to the Win7 side. Any advice?

*Technically, the driver I needed was for the IDE ATA/ATAPI controller. I was able to update this automatically after I installed SP3.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The True Meaning of Tolerance

From the Washington Times:

Abby Johnson, the former Planned Parenthood clinic director whose about-face on abortion prompted her to resign her job, says she's gotten flack for her decision from an unexpected quarter: her own church.

Now she is facing a different kind of music at her parish, St. Francis Episcopal in nearby College Station, the home of Texas A&M University.

Whereas clergy and parishioners welcomed her as a Planned Parenthood employee, now they are buttonholing her after Sunday services.

"Now that I have taken this stand, some of the people there are not accepting of that," she told The Washington Times. "People have told me they disagree with my choice. One of the things I've been told is that as Episcopalians, we embrace our differences and disagreements. While I agree with that, I am not sure I can go to a place where I don't feel I am welcome."

The U.S. Episcopal Church has one of the most liberal stances on abortion of any mainline Protestant denomination and is a member of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), which supports legalized abortion.

A former longtime RCRC board member, the Rev. Katherine H. Ragsdale, is the newly installed dean of the Episcopal Divinity School, a seminary in Cambridge, Mass. She is famous for making a 2007 sermon in which she termed abortion as a "blessing."

[Abby Johnson and her husband] made St. Francis their home. They were confirmed Episcopalians, and their daughter, now 3, was baptized there. A photo on the front page of the church's Web site,, shows her seated at the right end of the front row, holding a girl dressed in pink. Her husband, dressed in an orange shirt, is to her right.

"Chief among our values," says a statement below the photo, "are service, tolerance and understanding of the people and events that God has put into our lives."

Now the Johnsons are "reconsidering" their membership. Another Planned Parenthood staffer who was a member of St. Francis has not attended since Mrs. Johnson made her new views public a month ago.

"I know Planned Parenthood told her to not have any contact with me nor attend the same church," she said.

Rochelle Tafolla, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Southeast Texas, said the employee had chosen freely not to attend St. Francis because she was concerned about encountering Mrs. Johnson.

Nothing here should surprise us. When the polical Left uses words like "tolerance", "free speech", and "democracy", it is in favor of these things only to the extent that they advance it's agenda. But once it achieves power, it can be as intolerant and authoritarian as the most avid reactionary.

I apologize for the light posting. I have been uncharacteristically buried in work, and can't promise when I will have sufficient free time to resume regular posting. Your best bet is to add me to your RSS reader (how does this work?) or google reader (which loads all the blogs you "follow" on blogger). That way, when I have new content, you'll get it.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

More News from the Religion of Peace

Muslims behave badly. Even when they are Americans. Even when they wear our uniform.

FORT HOOD, Texas – A soldier opened fire at a U.S. Army base in Fort Hood, Texas on Thursday, unleashing a stream of gunfire that left 12 people dead and 31 wounded. Authorities killed the gunman, and apprehended two other soldiers suspected in what appears to be the worst mass shooting at a U.S. military base.

The shooting began around 1:30 p.m., Lt. Gen. Bob Cone said at a news conference. He said all the casualties took place at the base's Soldier Readiness Center, where soldiers who are about to be deployed or who are returning undergo medical screening.

"It's a terrible tragedy. It's stunning," Cone said.

A law enforcement official identified the shooting suspect as Army Maj. Malik Nadal Hasan. The official said Hasan, believed to be in his late 30s, was killed after opening fire at the base. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly.

Why do we suffer these people to live amongst us?

Prime covers the story.

UPDATE: Ralph Peters opines at the NY Post.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Adventures with Windows 7: Day 4

Day 4: Networking

My laptop, running Windows XP, was already connected to the internet via the same wireless router that connected the desktop to the internet, so the physical connection was in place. The laptop's ability to access files on the desktop had ceased working, however, first on the "Vista side" of the desktop, and then on the XP side. I hadn't really done much in the way of troubleshooting the XP side since by the time it broke I knew I would be upgrading the OS anyway. But I spent a long time trying to fix the network on the Vista side, without success.

So I was happy that creating the network in Windows 7 was so easy. Win7 discovered the XP laptop automatically. In the networking options, Win7 has a "home" setting for maxiumum access. It also has something called a "homegroup" (yes, it's one word; is this an effort to appeal to urban minorities?), but to use homegroup, all computers must be running Win7. Since my laptop is still XP, I had two things to do. First, I had to rename my laptop's workgroup name to match the workgroup name on the desktop. Second, I had to enable file sharing for all files on the desktop that I wanted to be visible on the laptop. That's it! Once these two steps were done, I could click on the workgroup name in My Network Places --> Entire Network --> Microsoft Windows Network, enter my username and password (the same username and password that I used to login to the desktop), and I was good to go. It doesn't require us to create a special file on a memory stick and execute it on all the participating computers, like we had to with XP and Vista. It oocurs to me that for all my complaints about Microsoft's business practices, their product is consistently better than it has to be, considering its de facto monopoly status.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

How to Destroy an Economy

From the Washington Times:

Since February, the EPA has placed 175 surface coal mining projects under review and halted 79 of them because of their effects on surface water. For 30 years, the agency did not object to the air pollution caused when miners blast dirt into the air to expose coal deposits. Now, invoking the Clean Water Act, the agency is moving to block, at least for now, the projects when they sully nearby streams with the same pollutant.

The agency also has, for the first time, revoked a permit for a surface mine because the project in West Virginia could violate the Clean Water Act.

More broadly, the agency has announced there could be a link between greenhouse gas emissions and public health and welfare - a prelude to new mandates for corporations to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. The agency also agreed to allow California to regulate tailpipe emissions, increased fuel efficiency standards for cars for the first time in more than 25 years and won White House approval to rein in greenhouse gas emissions from the nation's largest polluters.

And that's just the beginning.

I remember a magazine article from long ago about Vietnamese refugees stuck for years in Thai refugee camps. The Thais had no use for them, and they were rightly afraid to move back to Vietnam. (Are there still such camps in Thailand?) One line from the article I remember crystalized the damage that this kind of dislocation could do. It said that there were working-age young men, born in exile, that had "never seen a water buffalo."

There are many skills that, once lost, are very difficult to recover. They are the kind of skills that are passed from journeymen to apprentices, not the kind learned from books and academic journals, and therefore not the kind with which Obama's minions have any experience. Once the opportunity to practice the skill is suppressed (or regulated away), the skill rapidly decays.

The EPA is almost certainly costing a lot of coal miners their jobs. These miners are not suddenly going to put on a shirt-and-tie and start doing office work; they will likely be stuck in the economic equivalent of a refugee camp. Further, they will lose the opportunity to pass their skills to the next generation of miners. And I'm pretty sure this is not the way of growing the economy out of the recession.

And what for? I've never lived anywhere in the U.S. (and I've lived a lot of places) where I couldn't drink the water or breathe the air. For whose benefit, exactly, is the EPA undertaking these regulations?

Adventures with Windows 7: Day 3

Day 3: Multi-OS file access

I started this post to complain that Windows 7, installed on the "C" drive, would not allow access to the user files on the "D" drive, on which I have installed Vista. But since I noticed the problem, a passle of automatic updates installed on both the Vista side and the Win7 side, and now there doesn't seem to be a problem.

Another legacy app failed: Creative Memories Memory Manager, a digital photograph organization tool. Version 1 didn't run on Vista either, and the upgrade I downloaded from the Creative Memories website locks up and crashes. (Windows 7 apparently terminates programs automatically that hang on "Not Responding" for more than 30 seconds or so.) Version 2 did run on Vista, so this is a disappointment, but Mrs. Φ recalls having to get with MM tech support to make it work, so maybe they can help us through the process again. OTOH, the Creative Memory website doesn't claim version 2 works on Win7. It does say that version 3 works on Win7, but v3 is a $16 upgrade.

What do you think about charging money for "upgrades" that do nothing but work on newer operating systems? MMv3.0 does provide new features, so I suppose they are entitled to compensation for providing something new. But how difficult would it have been to put out a v2.1, say, that maintained the same features of v2.0 but ran on Win7?

Yeah, I know: they're a private company and can charge whatever people will pay, etc. Just sayin'.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Election Roundup

My voting jurisdiction didn't have an election yesterday, but around the country, it was a mixed day:

On the upside:

  • Virginia and New Jersey have new Republican governors. Best of luck, gentlemen; you're going to need it.

  • Maine voters overturned the legislature's gay marriage law. Gay marriage is now 0 for 31, every state to which it has been put to a popular vote.

On the downside:

  • Hoffman loses in NY-23. On a positive note, he did better than insurgent candidates usually do.

  • Ohio votes for gambling, regulation, and reckless spending. How did such a fine state come to this? The campaign for casino gambling made the claim that Ohio gamblers were losing their money out-of-state. Now they can lose their money to casino companies headquartered in (I assume) New York.

Adventures with Windows 7: Day 2

Day 2: Hopes Rise and Fall

As I was browsing the new features of Win7 Ultimate, I discovered something called Windows XP Mode. This is an XP virtual environment run directly within Win7 specifically for legacy (XP) applications. XP mode runs over another feature called Windows Virtual PC, that allows the creation of a virtual operating system environment for any operating system for which the user has a valid license. Both are downloadable for free for users of Win7 Pro, Win7 Ultimate, and some versions of Vista.

My first thought was that this might allow us to run those old Disney Interactive programs without dual-booting. Unfortunately, it turns out that these programs require the CPU to have something called Intel Virtualization Technology. (There is an AMD equivalent.) Although my laptop has it, our family desktop does not.

Microsoft has a downloadable program that checks to see if your CPU has the technology and whether the technology is enabled in the BIOS. If your CPU has it, then Virtual PC could solve any issues of backward compatibility with old software, even beyond the capability I wrote about yesterday. According to Microsoft, the main limitation appears to be accessing peripherals from within Virtual PC.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Every Age Has Its Own Horrors

From the Washington Times:

A San Francisco cosmetics company has ignited an outcry among pro-lifers for including an unexpected ingredient in its anti-aging creams: skin-cell proteins from an aborted fetus.

Children of God for Life, a watchdog group that monitors the use of fetal material in medical products, called last week for a boycott of all treatments manufactured by Neocutis Inc., which acknowledges that the key ingredient in its product line was developed from an aborted boy.

"There's just no excuse for using aborted babies in skin-care products," said Debi Vinnedge, executive director of Children of God for Life, a 10-year-old organization based in Murfreesboro, Tenn. "The reaction, the shock and anger I've seen is incredible."

In a statement released Friday, in response to a wave of condemnation from pro-life and religious blogs, Neocutis defended the use of its trademarked ingredient, Processed Skin Cell Proteins, or PSP, arguing that the fetal cell line was harvested in a responsible, ethical manner for use in treating severe dermatological injuries.

Can lampshades be far behind?

Adventures with Windows 7: Day 1

Day 1: Installation

I elected to install the 64 bit version of Windows 7. The first thing that you should know is that if you are installing a 64 bit operating system on top of a 32 bit operating system, you must do so by booting from the installation media. The reason is that the installer for the 64 bit version is . . . 64 bits, and won't run on your 32 bit version.

Is this a problem? Only if you want to keep all your programs, files and settings; these are only restored if you run the installation from within the outgoing operating system. But the good news is that the Windows 7 creates a directory called Windows.old that contains three folders and all associated subfolders: Documents and Settings, Program Files, and Windows. Keep in mind, though, that while you may save your program files, they are not installed, in the sense of having registry entries, menu shortcuts, etc.

I obtained the "Ultimate" version of Windows 7. I'm not sure what's ultimate about it. It came with almost none of the default programs I'm used to, like mail, moviemaker, but they are downloadable for free from the Microsoft website.

The footprint seems very small. I installed Windows 7 on a 30GB drive, and it managed to fit not only itself but all the backups with 2GB to spare!

The stories I heard about driver issues with 64 bit Windows do not seem to apply. All my peripherals seem to be working correctly. Money95 still works. Matlab2007a does NOT work, giving me an error indicating that it isn't comfortable with the 64 bit operating system. I'm not too worried though, because I have the 64 bit version on my installation media. Windows 7 comes with a function under "Programs and Features" called "Run programs made for previous versions of Windows." I used this function to successfully reinstall MS Office 2003 (32 bit version). But it has proved no help with Disney Interactive "Mickey Mouse Kindergarten", et al. I'm not sure if this is a 32-bit vs. 64-bit problem, or the fact that this software hasn't worked on anything since XP.

What's up with having two program directories, one named "Program Files" and the other named "Program Files (x86)"? Weirdly, I have a folder in each labeled "CA" (my antivirus program), and yet I didn't install CA in either of these directories!

On a positive note, Windows 7 seems super crisp, but that may be just because the registry hasn't been cluttered yet.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Movie Potpourri

Other movies I've seen lately:

  • Gone Baby Gone: outstanding movie dealing the moral ambiguities of Child Protective Services. One of the best films of 2007.

  • Eagle Eye: a fun, politically double-edged romp about the danger of information technology.

  • Leaving Las Vegas: yuk. I mean, I guess it was well executed, and it won Nicholas Cage an Oscar, but really, who wants to watch this crap.

    Parenthetically, whatever happened to Elizabeth Shue? Her role in Leaving Las Vegas (1995) got her an Oscar nomination, but her work since then has been sporadic, mostly in minor films for which I can't even recall seeing a trailer.

  • 10,000 B.C.: I can imagine Warner Brothers' thought process went something like, "Hey, if Mel Gibson can make Apocalypto, then we should be able to take the same storyline, add in some cool CGI of giant critters like woolly mammoths and sabre-tooth tigers, set it in 10,000 B.C. to make sure that no identity interest groups get on our case, and then put in lots of anachronisms like metal weapons and ziggurats, and the public will buy it! Because, you know, Gibson made Apocalypto . . . ."

    There aren't too many movies so bad I don't finish them, but this was one.

  • Equilibrium: What should we make of the fact that we find animal suffering more affecting than human suffering? Equilibrium treats us to the graphic murder of an untold number of people charged with "sense offense", but when the Grammaton Clerics find a dog kennel, the butchering of the dogs is kept safely off screen, and it's a puppy that inspires compassion in Christian Bale's character where human beings have not. Is it a sign of Western decadence that we love animals more than our fellow men? Is the elevated status of household pets part of our Anglo-Saxon heritage? Or have all cultures always had a soft spot for defenseless animals?

UPDATE: In the comments, Peter provides a detail about 10,000 B.C.:

[I]t featured one of the best movie bloopers of all time: a startled character exclaiming "Jesus!"

All too believable.