Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Big Vista Sweep, part I

So, as you imagine I have a lot of machines lying around my house. Some UNIX, some Apple, and some XP and XP Media Center. The XP machines have been rock solid and stable for years. I rarely boot them, and - despite the media blitz to the contrary - they have not been hacked or zombified or...well, anything.

With all that stability, I started to get, nothing left to do but destabilize. I bought a fleet of Vista OS's of various flavors with the intention of installing them to each of the following machines:

  • A Sony SZ370P Laptop. (Tagged as "Vista Ready") Native OS: XP Pro, SP2. Target OS: Vista Business This thing is my work laptop and a workhorse. I use it to code, do office apps, run test suites for work, web usage, etc etc.
  • A Sony RC210G Desktop. Native OS: XP MCE 2005, SP2. Target OS: Vista Ultimate. Another workhorse. Actually, that's pretty light - this thing seriously kicks ass. It has a legit RAID system inside, amazing graphics and video ability, and 7.1 channel audio. In a former life I did scientific visualization graphics and high end special effects work. I still keep my hand in that stuff, plus do a lot of video editing on the side as a hobby... this thing doesn't even breathe hard. Oh, yeah - and its passively cooled. (No fans. Shhh!)
  • An Alienware DHS-5 Media Center 2005 server. Native OS: XP MCE 2005, SP2. Target OS: Vista Home Premium Also a work horse, also kicks ass. I have 3 terabytes of RAID array (RAID0 configuration) attached to this thing, and it manages and maintains all of my digital media. Everything in the house feeds it, and it plays out to all of the display and listening devices in my home.
  • A Winbook Jive Mini. Native OS: XP MCE 2005, SP2. Target OS: Debating that now. Winbook was purchased last year by Microcenter. (Microcenter has a fleet of east coast computer stores.) When I was looking for a replacement "outside the firewall" machine to run Azureus on, I bought this thing at Microcenter. I didn't want to spend a lot of money since this was just going to be the "bait" that I threw to the hacker wolves on the other side of my firewall, so I bought the floor model for $500. This thing would work great as a media center machine, by the way, for a small apartment. Small, quiet and fits in an entertainment cabinet.
  • A Sony TX "Ultra portable" laptop, dubbed "the wee one." Native OS: XP Professional, SP2. Target OS: Vista Business Not as powerful as its older brother the SZ, but this is my personal laptop and the laptop of choice for business trips or personal trips, or just tossing in my bag when I go to the gym so I can grab a cup of coffee later and websurf. Paired up with a Verizon EVDO aircard, I'm online all the time. (You can debate whether that is good or bad, but this blog is about tech and social change, right?) This will be the last machine that I Vista-fy. I need a control subject.
So, that's the cast and crew. These upgrades are going to take place throughout the next month, so I'll be posting the status of each mind transfer as I get through each one.

...the story so far:


Mind Transfer #1: The Sony SZ Laptop.

Sony SZ370P laptop
Native OS: WIndows XP Professional, SP2
Memory: 2 Gig
Hard drive: 120Gig
Extra Devices/Features: SVGA Camera (built in), Support for most digital memory sticks, dual graphics cards (one high end/high power consumption, the other standard graphics/low power consumption)

Ok, so I thought I would ease into this with the machine that would either be the easiest to upgrade, or the hardest. (Cutting to the chase, it was the former.) This machine was purchased as "Vista Ready," which means Sony was obligated to send me a copy of Vista Business when it became available. I was nervous for two reasons:

  1. Sony, as you may or may not know, makes fairly robust, high-end machines that have a shitload (technical term) of highly specialized, Sony-specific hardware aimed at optimizing their machines for media. The end result, of course, is that their drivers are pretty twitchy. (Sony is not known for its software or support, so the reliability of new drivers from Sony is always in question.)
  2. I've done a Sony-specific "we promise you that this will work" upgrade before, and completely hosed a desktop. Ugly, very ugly
The upgrade arrived as a single DVD. I watched in abject terror as the DVD installation:
  • stripped out my native drivers
  • stripped out my Sony specific drivers
  • installed Vista Business
  • installed Sony Specific drivers
  • installed native drivers
A final reboot, and....success! The SZ370P had a new consciousness that was Vista. It works, all of it. Even the built-in camera and the AT&T GSM Modem. I have been using it now for 2 weeks without any glitches or problems.

Turns out, Sony must have hired a few release engineers since I last tried this stunt.

Verdict: Success. Round-trip Rocket Time for Upgrade: 4.5 Hours. Rocket Cost: $0

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