Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Windows 7 Installation: Chronology

On January 1, I began installing and learning about Windows 7 as an upgrade from Windows XP.  I installed just a few things -- antivirus, for example -- as I continued to research various items.  In the next several days, I reached decisions about assorted aspects of the emerging setup.  For example, I decided that Windows 7 would be my foundation layer, replacing Ubuntu, and that I would use VMware Player (or Workstation, if possible) to run Windows XP, and possibly Ubuntu or other operating systems, in virtual machines running on Windows 7.

On January 4, I awoke to find that Internet Explorer (IE) had frozen up and had to be restarted.  I was pleased to see that, when it restarted, it saved my open tabs and attempted to reopen them.  But the thought that Internet Explorer could crash when it was doing almost nothing on a new installation was a bit of a setback for the idea that Win7 was stable enough to serve as a foundation.  I did continue to use IE, but I also downloaded Google Chrome, and made that my default web browser.

I spent much of the days of January 5 and 6 trying to resolve networking problems.  January 7 and 8 were especially devoted to moving and rearranging partitions.  I was setting up two computers for somewhat different purposes.  Partitions were large, so these steps took a long time.  I had to be actively engaged to work with those network problems, but was more able to let the computer go for hours during the partitioning process.  I spent a lot of time on January 6 and 9 trying to make a RAID0 array work.

Some of these days were devoted to other projects, but this was all still very time-consuming.  As of January 11, I really had not gotten very far.  The soution to the networking problem, I hoped, would be to reinstall Win7 from scratch on one of the two computers I was trying to network.  I learned that it was not possible to restore an image of a Win7 installation to a Win7 software RAID0 partition.  Hence, on January 12 I looked into other RAID options.  That day, I also discovered the possibility of booting into native virtual hard disks (VHDs), and spent a lot of time learning about those.

On January 13, I reviewed progress in light of what I had learned and experienced to this point.  I decided to scale back to a simpler system.  This meant the end of the VHD pursuit, for at least the time being, and probably also the RAID0 arrangement, possibly in favor of a future RAID5 solution.  The Win7 system was performing much faster than WinXP had been, either natively or in VMware on Ubuntu, so I was not presently sure that I would even need RAID-like speed.

To consolidate my progress, I wrapped up the first comprehensive post describing my installation of Windows 7, and started a second post and a second installation.  After further networking hassles, that installation was done on January 17.  At this point, I moved beyond basic connectivity to network enhancement.  One step was to synchronize the computers.  I spent much of January 17 and 18 researching programs that would do that and putting those programs into effect.  This involved getting a parallel Windows installation running on the second computer.  By midday on January 18, and intermittently thereafter, I was working more on new additions, especially Input Director and Teamviewer, to tie the two computers together into one workspace.

Input Director seemed to produce unexpected problems requiring a reinstallation of a backup image on computer B on January 19.  I spent a considerable amount of time, that day, reconfiguring that reinstallation, refining it with additional tweaks (and putting those tweaks on computer A as well), and saving it to an updated image.  From then through January 21, I was gradually mixing in more of my other work while continuing to work through minor problems, further adjust the system, and (in one case) recover from an error involving the accidental deletion of a large number of files.

After January 21, I focused increasingly on getting my actual work done.  There continued to be tweaks and the occasional stray problem that needed fixing.  These actually consumed a fair amount of time, but not nearly as much as before.  By January 25, I had reached a point of being able to focus almost entirely on getting work done.  I hoped that this large investment of time would not only have been interesting (at times) for its own purposes, but would also have productivity payoffs, for me and others, for years to come.  I had been using Windows XP for years and, throughout 2010, had seen how much time I could lose to a slow operating system.  So far, Windows 7 seemed to be a significant improvement.