Wed, 31 Mar 2010

Windows XP offline files weirdness // at 12:00

I'm pretty fond of the offline files and folders feature in Windows, can't say I'm terribly impressed how Microsoft makes such a feature only available in “Professional” versions, when such a huge proportion of home machines are laptops where people have a NAS or external drive that ideally they should be using to hold their precious files.

Both at home and at work I've configured SAMBA on a linux desktop machine to export my home directory; at home our Windows 7 laptop has Pictures and Documents libraries on the server in $HOME/Pictures and $HOME/Documents, at work the clapped out Windows XP laptop does the same to the linux box there. The Linux boxes run unison to synchronise files, so the copies are consistent between the two.

An added degree of complexity is that the pictures and documents folders are really $HOME/media/pics and $HOME/docs respectively, the Pictures and Documents folders are symbolic links to the real locations. This all came about because my folder structure in my home directory is old, terse and unixy and I'm happy with it.

All well and good... so far. Windows 7 doesn't seem to have any problems, although sometimes its a little slow to synchronise, especially if I've worked on the files from the Linux side of the universe, and periodically I get a couple of hundred of the particularly useless Microsoft error message that:

The process cannot access the file because it is being accessed by another process

Of course there's no bloody indication or identifiying features of either process!

The real weirdness is the Windows XP system. Sometimes, and I cannot narrow it down to when or why, other than it has happened both on hibernation and on power-down, when the XP system shuts off it will delete the symbolic link $HOME/Pictures from the server. Of course the next time it powers on it tries to re-establish the SMB share to \\blah\Pictures and can't until I've realised and remade the link!

None of the software on either Windows system seems to have any problems with the offline folders, except Google Picasa, unfortunately, which is my image manager of choice. The developers seem to be stuck in a pre-Vista "My Documents" mindset and it didn't seem to like Vista's naming of folders or Windows 7's concepts of Libraries. Some days I just cannot convince it to refresh its view of the folders and let me see photos that every other application on the machine can see.

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Tue, 17 Nov 2009

The Great Windows 7 Upgrade // at 21:00

I took advantage of Microsoft's It's Not Cheating offer last Friday and bought myself a $50 Windows 7 upgrade online, paid an extra $141 to get a DVD rather than battle Telstra BigPond and download it all myself. The DVD arrived yesterday, here we go. So it begins...

Of course like 99.9% of the people out there with Windows Vista on their laptops we've got Windows Vista home premium, and the Windows 7 Upgrade that Microsoft will happily sell us is for Windows 7 Professional, which cannot be used to "upgrade" the system, only to perform a clean install over the top of it! If there's an easy path and a hard path you know which one they'll choose for you...

Backed up both our accounts from Vista with Windows Easy Transfer; 7.6G for Jo, 39G for me. Then did a very simplistic xcopy of everything onto the external drive, its not as if I don't trust the Windows tool and its unknown format, giant blob archive, its just experience at work here...

Meanwhile poking around on the Windows 7 upgrade DVD reading the help.

Wow that took a long time, my goodness Vista is slow copying files. The xcopy process took almost 14 hours!

This morning I logged back in and tried to start the setup program. Surprise, surprise, Vista can no longer read the DVD and shows a single README file telling me that I need to use a drive with UDFS capability! Hey guys, I was reading it yesterday and every day prior to today. Standard Windows fix for this one, shutdown, restart, TADA, a readable DVD drive. Pathetic.

Started the setup program and I'm drastically short of disk space; first I need to clear out about 1G to allow setup to download updates and start, then its 6.8G to let the upgrade commence, finally I need to clear out 11G for “recommended” operation.

Ugh, 800x600x16 colours, I sure hope we can find a better resolution than that once we're finished, of course the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor was useless, offering the advice that:

Check Windows Update after installing Windows 7 to make sure you have the latest driver for this device, otherwise it may not work.

Yes, I knew that already. That's not bloody advice, that's just "suck it and see, and if it doesn't work then too bad because you've already upgraded, sucker."

First half of the install takes about half an hour, only a little fun and games as Cam tries to help by tapping maniacally on the keys. The last step of six then takes about half an hour; no appreciable activity, just the words "Configuring."

Reboot; enter my account name and choose a name for the computer. Then try and remember the key for my wireless network. Um, err, its written down somewhere and I've lost the somewhere... Oh well, "Skip" and on to the next step.

Reboot; login. Ugh. 800x600 pixels bog-standard ancient VESA resolution at 4x3 aspect-ratio on a 16x9 aspect-ratio laptop; "Ugly fat-bastard mode". Try to change it and all I've got available is an option of 1024x768 — I guess that's an improvement.

Plug in to the wired network, connect to the Internet and hit Windows Update — 8 security updates and 7 optional, and the optional ones all look to be drivers for my hardware. 59.2M downloading, slowly, ever so slowly.

Waiting, waiting, waiting. Oh, failed. "Windows cannot install updates because Windows Update is installing updates". Ah. Obvious. "Try again later." So I did, and it installed seven updates, then rebooted.

Login and start Windows Update again. Hmm, "Most recent check for updates: Never." I do not think that is correct, I distinctly remember checking for updates five minutes ago! Five important updates and four optional ones this time.

A few more reboots — yes I've got my 1280x800 resolution back — start reinstalling the applications, start rummaging around through C:\Windows.old\ and purging as we reinstall so that there's a usable amount of disk space.

Connect up to the SpeedStream router via the wired interface to find out the WEP key, then reconfigure the wireless network. Easy enough, but I really should find where I wrote it down — inside the cover, in the manual, but where is the manual?

After a fruitless search for the destination end of the Windows 7 transfer tool I re-attach the external USB drive and double-click on one of the two archives, perhaps I should have read the instructions and saved myself some fruitlessness — twenty minutes and eight gigabytes later and I've restored all of Jo's photos. Now to repeat with the 40G of data for my account, after first clearing yet more space on the disk.

Tada! We're up, we're running, we're 95% full on the disk and sometime soon I think I'll have to find out what hideous hoops I have to jump through to replace the 100G disk in the laptop with a 300G or 500G one, whatever the largest laptop non-SATA IDE drive is.

Oh, big surprise and THANK YOU VERY MUCH to Microsoft. The Windows Easy Transfer archive of my files includes everything... everything EXCEPT 17G of my photos! Restored a nice empty Pictures folder just ready for me to curse and swear and copy back all my photos from my other backup because... wait for it... I DON'T TRUST THE MICROSOFT TOOLS BECAUSE THEY DON'T WORK!

Then endless hours of reinstalling applications from my great archive of application installers, followed by watching as they download complete upgrades of themselves because my installers are out of date! The endless treadmill of patches and application upgrades.


1. Doesn't look as though they can get that right, according to the receipt email on the 11th:

  $63.95AUD The charge(s) will appear on your credit card as
  "DRI*StudentOfficeAU". Microsoft Windows 7 Professional Upgrade - 32
  bit
Checking my credit card account today, the last three transactions are:
12/11/2009 Dri*Studentofficeau Orderfind.Com $49.95
13/11/2009 Acp Publishing P/L Sydney $49.95
16/11/2009 Dri*Studentofficeau Orderfind.Com $14.00

Why on earth does it take them a second transaction and an extra four days to include the DVD? I haven't bought anything from ACP Publishing that I know of, so is that a double charge, or just a coincidental random wrong charge from ACP?

2. Revisited 2009-Nov-27: Pure coincidence, the ACP purchase for the identical amount was a magazine renewal I made weeks ago that has taken until now to appear in my statement. I wish ACP could print the name of the subscription, especially as it seems to take them at least ten days to process an online purchase!

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Thu, 12 Jan 2006

iPod vs Windows ugliness // at 00:00

A minor stupidity on my part and I plugged my iPod into the laptop while I'd mapped a network drive to the lowest available drive letter. The iPod started flashing its “Do not disconnect” message, iTunes started up and all looked normal... after a long time I had a look and saw that iTunes had decided that the iPod's name was the volume name of the network drive, but still nothing was happening.

Eventually I stopped it and restarted. Next time around iTunes seemed to think that the iPod had been renamed, but then claimed that it was synchronised to a different library, so I had to go through the whole rigmarole of blowing away all 6713 songs and reloading the lot — a ridiculously time consuming task!

Even after it had finished everything is still not right. Somewhere along the way the iPod has lost 23G of storage, only a subset of my library can now be copied! Next step is to restore it via the iPod updater, but that stalls wanting me to plug it into the external powersupply — the USB power isn't good enough! It shouldn't be this hard!

Interestingly, there seems to be a new folder called iPod Control created on the fileserver volume that I had mapped to drive F:, and it seems that iTunes was busy filling it up when I interrupted it! Definitely a no-no there Apple!

Stay tuned for tomorrow where I see if I can successfully access all 40G of the iPod and transfer my entire music library into it....

Note to self: DO NOT plug the iPod in when there's a network drive on the first available drive letter!

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