Migrating To a New System

I ran across a request for technical support on Facebook today. It seems that there is still a shortage of technical nerds in the outlying provinces of the country. This is understandable to me. Why would you live away from decent healthcare and a wide variety of shopping opportunities? It’s cheaper to live out in the boonies for very good reasons. It pays one to understand what the tradeoffs are for that relaxed country living.

There are no computer outlets in Rotan, or pretty much anywhere USA that can be navigated by referencing the one stoplight in town. This means that if you want your computer upgraded you will have to DIY it or you will have to go somewhere USA that features more than one strip mall. I’m a cheapskate even if I do pay through the nose to be near places that can do stuff for me, so I tend to DIY most things before calling someone to fix the mess I’ve made.

In this particular instance, the person was inquiring about getting their programs and data onto a new system. I’ve done this countless times with my own data and with other people’s data. It’s a pretty straightforward process. First, find everything that came with your old system. This is the justification on my part for keeping every stray bit of garbage that ships with my computer systems and other technical doodads. There is an entire garage full of useless empty boxes that can attest to this tendency of mine.

Hopefully you’ve tossed all the installation media that came with the original system into the empty shipping box, along with every other program you installed over the years that you’ve used that system.

Without the original installation media, it will be hard to make the programs work if you transfer to a new hard drive or a new windows installation. My suggestion would be to track down the programs you know you will need to re-install, first. Then make a decent backup. There are several pay systems out there that will back up you data for you, but you can also DIY that yourself with a series of DVD’s, or just get a separate backup drive and make a backup on that drive (this is something everyone should be periodically doing, and virtually no one does. Until it is too late) make a backup before proceeding further.

Crack the case open on both systems and see if the drive cables are the same type. If they are, then try to move the old drive to the new system. There may be some fiddly BIOS settings you will need to do in order to boot to the other drive, so you will probably have to get into the BIOS at startup to make that work. There should be a visible prompt on the screen advising you of how to get into the BIOS. Nearly every computer does this.

If the old drive boots in the new system, you are golden. No worries. You can reformat the new hard drive that came with the system and use it for data storage. Like backing up, putting your personal data on a separate drive from the operating system is just good computer hygiene. If the OS craps out on a separate drive (the most frequent problem) you can just reformat that drive and reinstall the OS without disturbing your personal data. Be careful to reformat the right drive! Can’t tell you the number of times that error has been made. Even I have done it.

If the old drive doesn’t boot in the new system, or if it is a different type of hard drive, then you are going to have to re-install the programs yourself or pay someone to do it for you. At least you will have the media to install from because you found the media before starting this process. Then you do the opposite of what I described above, and remove the old OS folders from your data drive, placing your data where you can find it again somewhere else on that drive.

The process is not easy. I will not say that four letter word willingly on any subject. However, it is doable by anyone with the patience it takes to carefully go through the steps I’ve outlined above. I hate dealing with hardware myself. I’m always convinced I’ve just made another expensive paperweight every time I crack open a case. The number of times that has been true has been less than double digits, and I’ve cracked open somewhere near a hundred different computer cases over the years.

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Reset TPM? I’d Rather Not.

Ever since the Windows 10 update two weeks ago, the older desktop system here at the house has been whining at me to clear the TPM. When the error message first popped up I contacted my go to technical guru, The Wife, and she could not possibly have been more nonchalant about the problem.

Trusted Platform Module. Part of the windows security fun, fun, fun. Should not cause problems. Make a backup before you reset it and be ready for something to balk, possibly.

Make a backup? This is my backup! It is a recompilation (still incomplete) of several systems and OS’s dating back a decade and more, and I really am not ready to archive all this stuff yet. I should have been done with this months ago, but procrastination and family crisis have slowed progress, and I hate doing records maintenance. Consequently, I’m still only about halfway done and the system is almost old enough for me to need to replace it already.

This error was simply a bang (exclamation point over a hazard triangle) on the Microsoft Defender notification, not a bios level error that occurs repeatedly during bootup, and I haven’t tried doing a clean install on this system yet. I don’t do operating system installs without physical media being present. I’m a veteran of Windows and DOS since the 90’s and a Linux dabbler since 2000. You simply did not do operating system installs without the ability to finish the install with no internet connection. Back in the bad old days, that was a certain sign of imminent doom. Reformat and reinstall with physical media. Consequently, I’m still not interested in doing them now. I was shocked when Windows 10 successfully installed and then upgraded itself over the internet. I have been shocked every time it has worked since Windows 10 came out. A truly unprecedented occurrence in my entire history of computer usage. 

Windows 10

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I had no problem upgrading to Windows 10, that is the shocking news in this article. I didn’t  loose any data in the change because I haven’t relied on Windows software to do anything aside from run my computer in well over a decade now. I use Chrome or Firefox to surf.  Irfanview to view photos. Google Docs to write documents.

There is malware protection native in Windows 10 as there has been since Windows 7, they just don’t tell you where it is and that it is running anymore unless you go looking for it in notifications; notifications which are now on the taskbar at the bottom of the screen.  In the series of buttons on the notifications bar that comes up when you click on it, you will see one called settings. This can also be found from the Start menu which Microsoft wisely put back after taking it out of Windows 8.

Settings is where all the functions which used to be found in Control Panel are now located. Rather than have some arcane vernacular unique to Windows, Microsoft has elected to make their OS more like the other OS’ on the market making the learning of multiple platforms less tedious.  A wise decision on their part since most people now use an Android variant as their OS.

No one likes change.  The Wife complains every time her software is updated and she is my go to tech for hardware.  I don’t do hardware, but software I have few problems with.  Windows is now more like the other three OS’ that I use.  I find that 10 is a major improvement from 8 or 8.1.  It has been the least painful upgrade I’ve done in a lifetime of using Windows (starting with 2) DOS, Linux and when I’ve been forced to, Apple products.  It found all the drivers necessary to run my hardware before attempting to install new software.  For the FIRST TIME EVER I did not have to go out on another system and track down drivers that would have been available had the OS simply checked in advance before replacing the previous software.  I didn’t have to do anything other than restart the system and everything worked perfectly. I was as shocked as you are right now.

This is my basic rule of thumb when modifying anything on a computer; backup the data! Always backup your data because it will inevitably be lost.  Every single time I’ve upgraded in the past, this has been a true statement.  This is the first time that I felt no pain at all in changing to a new OS. I’m seriously waiting for the other shoe to drop.  It couldn’t possibly be this easy.

I hear your fingernails being dragged through the dirt as you try to desperately cling to the version of Windows you have now. Don’t deny it, you are terrified. Here is a newsflash for you, you will eventually have to upgrade. There is no avoiding it. On the other hand, there is no need to upgrade now. At some point your hardware will fail and you will be stuck using the latest version of whatever, and you’ll wish you had familiarized yourself with the software previously so as to ease the transition.

Here’s a bit of wisdom from my days as an architectural CAD guru. When AutoCAD transitioned to a Windows-based format the pushback from users who liked the DOS-based version was deafening. Professionals in the design business were swearing up and down that they would never switch to the new version; and yet within a year, all of them had changed programs. Some of them changed to non-AutoCAD drawing systems and had to learn a whole new program anyway, but none of them still used AutoCAD 10. There was no point in continuing to use it because the nature of collaborative design dictated that they had to move with the times. They had to do what everyone else was doing or be left behind. Be driven out of business.

Embrace change. That is my advice. Upgrade or switch to using Linux. You’ll thank me for it. 

Troubleshooting Windows

For the first time in a year, the Google doodle does not crash my computer. All I had to do was delete Firefox and rip out every reference to it, then delete every installed program that I couldn’t recognize. Weirdly, somewhere along the line, my persistent flash problem went away.

Typical for Windows. As the joke goes, three engineers are driving cross-country, when the car stalls and they are stranded at the side of the road.

The first engineer, a mechanical engineer, pops the hood and begins checking linkages. No luck.

The second engineer, an electrical engineer, checks the battery and alternator and starts tracing wiring. Also, no luck.

The third engineer, an MCSE certified Microsoft software engineer, opens and closes all the doors, rolls all the windows up and down and unpacks then repacks all the luggage, then gets back in the car and sits. When the other engineers ask him what he’s doing, he explains, “I reset everything, it should run now.”

Yes, it’s an old joke. Not as old as Doctor Who, but because Windows software works in inexplicable ways, I did finally get to play the 50th anniversary Dr. Who doodle game today. Yea team.

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Cheapskate Technical Woes

So I’m helping The Wife tonight. She’s trying to get some customer’s computer systems out the door. One of the systems is being extra problematic; an archaic old system that is older than The Son (he’s 8) running Windows 98 (not even SE) IE 4.0; and, no lie, a flat panel monitor.

[It’s like buying a new wagon for the dead mule to pull. But what do I know?]

Microsoft is no help, you can’t even get on their site with IE 4.0 these days.

Firefox says it will run, but after bashing our heads against the error “oleaut32.dll:77” I ran a Google search and came up with this:

http://www.faqts.com/knowledge_base/view.phtml/aid/15670

The problem indicates you do not have the complete OLEAUT32.dll file –
either you’re running Windows 95 or an older version of Windows98. Go
to Microsoft’s website and download the DCOM upgrade package depending
on the version of Windows you have got (alternatively just search for
DCOM on Google or something) – the current link that I have is
http://www.microsoft.com/com/resources/downloads.asp

Once you have run this update, this will update your OLEAUT32 dll for
you, and php should run without the error.

Having nothing else to loose, we installed the Dcom update and were finally sucessfull running Firefox 2.0; which allowed us to access the Windows update site and install the remainder of the Win98 patches, including IE 6. Problem solved, out the door it goes.

Never mind the system is worth less than the time we spent fixing it. Ah, the sweet taste of victory.

Image Viewing and Editing

One of the tech sites I frequent was asking “what editing software do you use?” I don’t have a video editor that I like (I’ve just gotten into fabricating my own PVR and I haven’t settled on an operating system yet, much less a video editor I like) but I definitely have an opinion on image viewing and editing…

Image Viewing: IRFanView

I hated this program when I first started using it. The sys-admin at one of my previous employers had loaded it as the default image viewer, and I could not understand why. After several years of fiddling with other programs, I can now tell you why.

Quick loading, and I mean FAST. Photoshop, JASC, etc, all take 10 minutes to load (or it feels like it) with IRfanview you double click and your image is right there.

Editing tools are very basic (which is why I hated the program initially) but they are more than sufficient to handle the average users requirements. Image scaling, lightening and darkening of the image, etc. If you want to major editing, get program made for editing. If you want to view images and do basic manipulation, IRfanview is the program for you.

Image editing: Gimp it

When I need to manipulate files, I pull out ‘The Gimp‘. Why would you pay for Photoshop when this program does everything Photoshop does, and does it for less? Someone else posted this on the same thread, which sums it up for me:

I think that when you struggle for software in a particular area you should always start with free unless you are compelled. That way you can learn the technologies. the techniques, the strengths and the weaknesses. If the free software does what you need, then great! If it doesn’t, you’ll be able to look at the commercial offerings with specific questions and specific needs. This improves your chances of finding what you need on the first try without buying a lot of unnecessary software.

When I finally start taking the PVR seriously I might have a video editor to recommend. And I’ll be doing that right after I finish remodeling the house.

Things You Wish Your Computer Had

Editor’s note

I created none of these images, they were the content of an eMailed Microsoft Office Document. I have no idea who created these although the doc itself has a creation date of 01/24/2001 and the author’s name was set to Steve Brook of WGBH Interactive. The email made me laugh and I saved the images from it for all of this time (2020) I am backdating this post to that date.