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  • Chronicles of Windows 7 Part 3: From Release Candidate to Final Version

    Posted on October 31st, 2009 Brian No comments

    I was running the Windows 7 Release Candidate for many months prior to the October 22 public release.  I had pre-ordered the new version, and it conveniently arrived on the release day.  Anxious to see what was changed, I promptly set about upgrading.

    Unfortunately, there is no easy upgrade path from the RC.  The process forces a complete re-install (although there are some work-arounds).  I’m okay with that, though, since I had beat my RC install to a pulp experimenting with different drivers and hacks to get my Qualcomm Gobi 3G card working.  (I never really did.)

    My Upgrade Process

    The upgrade process I took was simple: Plug in my external hard drive, back up my machine using Windows Backup – including a system image – and then wipe the drive and start from scratch.  I had used similar processes in the past, although usually using a Linux Live CD and dd.  However, the Windows 7 Backup creates system images in a VHD format, and Windows 7 can also mount VHD images natively, making this a much simpler solution.  Also, it neatly sidestepped any issues I might have had with my encrypted Bit Locker hard drive.

    I’m pleased to report that the re-install process was a cakewalk, and the recovery of my data was virtually flawless.  The only hiccups were caused by my own stupidly.  I limited the files I had backed up in order to speed up the process, and found out later I wanted them.  Fortunately, they were still on the system image, and the VHD mount worked as-expected.

    Though my technique may not be for everyone, it works for the tech-savvy control-freak like me.

    Stuff That’s Fixed

    The good news is that HP’s new drivers for the Qualcomm Gobi 3G modem work flawlessly in the final version of Windows 7.  Hopefully they’ll eventually switch to use the new broadband driver stack built in to the new OS, but I’m not holding my breath.  They do work, though, and that’s enough.

    The VMWare NAT issue was actually cleared up by an update to VMWare while I was still running the RC.  I am mentioning it here to close the loop on the earlier post.

    And that’s it, really.  It’s not that there aren’t any more fixes, but that the RC was so solid for me that I had no gripes worth mentioning.  For those who suffered through Vista’s growing pains, this is a huge step up for Microsoft.  I suspect the large beta program and massive release candidate program helped immensely in this area.

    Wish List

    Here is my one gripe: Windows sizes the desktop background based on which monitor is designated as your “Primary”.  I dual monitor using my wide screen laptop display and a 4:3 stand-alone monitor, and I prefer the stand-alone screen as my primary.  Thus, I often get stupid black bars surrounding the background on my laptop display, because the image has been sized for the non-wide screen.

    I am hard-pressed to think of a situation where this makes sense.  Hopefully Microsoft will make the “Fill” desktop background option actually fill on differently sized screens.  But in the meantime, this is a minor, minor thing.

    And it should tell you something that such a ridiculously minor thing is all that I can find to complain about.

  • Chronicles of Windows 7 Part 1: Qualcomm Gobi 3G Modem and VMWare NAT

    Posted on May 28th, 2009 Brian No comments

    So I went ahead and installed Windows 7 RC 1.  The process is remarkably smooth, and the OS is nicely polished.  The new task bar is a long-overdue change, formerly difficult or esoteric system tasks are now simple and obvious, and the Libraries paradigm in Explorer has pleasantly surprised me.

    But that’s not to say there aren’t some niggling issues.  This is a new release – nay, a pre-release – of the most popular operating system in the world.  There are bound to be some compatibility problems.  What is truly amazing is how well things work right out-of-the box.

    As I use the OS day-to-day, I’ll post some updates about real-life surprises and tribulations.  Here are my first two.

    Qualcomm Gobi 3G Modem

    Winodws 7 recognized almost every single piece of hardware on my HP Elitebook 8530w, including the silly fingerprint reader and the webcam I never use.  The one thing it didn’t already have drivers for was the built-in Qualcomm Gobi un2400 modem 3G.  What’s worse, the Vista drivers from HP’s support site don’t install, either.

    Fortunately, some amazingly enterprising soul figured out the problems, and was not only able to divine how to install the drivers, but then even wrote a schnasty little program to force-feed the Gobi modem its appropriate firmware.  Major kudos!  Unfortunately for me, it still doesn’t work.  There’s some magic incantation that isn’t being done quite right for my AT&T setup, so I’ll have to wait until the drivers get updated.  Hopefully that’ll be soon – paying for a data plan I’m not using is rather annoying.

    But, really, given how esoteric and fragile these 3G modems are, it’s not that surprising something bjorked their spaghetti-like functioning.  (Did you read the “More About The Firmware” section at that link?!)

    VMWare NAT Failure

    The only other true problem I’ve had is with VMWare Workstation 6.5.  It works like a charm, except that NAT routing fails to work correctly.  Interestingly, the guests can ping out, but other connections fail.  It’s a known issue, though, and will certainly be fixed soon.  And the work-around is simple enough: Just use bridging instead.