Archive for category Windows

Back to Windows

I’m a little wistful about it … but I’ve returned to Windows for my primary office working environment, after a lengthy experiment with Ubuntu. I really like Ubuntu, but the challenges of using it in a Windows-centric environment (Active Directory, Exchange, etc.) just made the extra effort to adapt hard to justify.  CrossOver with Office 2007 is OK, but just annoying enough; same with Evolution and Exchange.  Dealing with Active directory shares when your OS is “not supported” is frustrating.  And Windows generally has better GUI tools, although it’s hard to say whether those benefits outweigh the vast superiority of the Linux command line.

In any case, now I have to deal again with the problems that made me want to switch to Linux in the first place — principally that it’s a much better environment for open source software development.   I may give Cygwin another try, or run Ubuntu in a VM, we’ll see.  I’m pretty attached to Emacs, and have used it in Windows, so that’s good.

It’s rainy and cold outside today …

Before wrapping this up I’m going to post how I replaced GRUB with the Windows 7 boot loader, since I found a number of variations on how to do this.  I booted to a Win7 DVD, took the repair option, deselected Window 7 from the Windows OS auto-find list (one article I read stressed this deselection; I’m not sure it really matters), clicked Next, then selected the Command Prompt.  The two commands that worked to restore the Win7 boot loader were, in order:

bootrec.exe /fixboot
bootrec.exe /fixmbr

Exit the command prompt and restart from the HD.

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chntpw saves the day

Of course, I don’t know how it happened … but I “lost” my Windows password.  And of course my account was the only active admin account on the machine (the default admin account was not enabled) — and I did not have a password reset disk.  What I did have, fortunately, was Ubuntu installed as a second OS.  And fortunately, before I gave in and reinstalled Windows, or spent $20 on a password reset tool, I learned about chntpw.  Now, it took some trial and error to get it to do what I needed, even after installing the newer 64-bit Debian package (the Ununtu 10.04/64 package doesn’t work, at least not with Windows 7 at whatever patch level I’m at now).  I found that the only thing that worked was to enable the default admin account (Administrator).  I tried setting my password to blank, resetting my password, and unlocking my account.  All that only succeeded in disabling my account completely.  But whatever, the Administrator account did the trick, nothing was lost, and several hours were saved.  And there was much rejoicing.

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From Windows to Ubuntu: Trial and error

I don’t know exactly when it happened, but I guess I finally snapped: I decided to switch my primary desktop environment from Windows to Ubuntu.  So I installed Ubuntu 9.10 64-bit at work and home alongside Windows 7 and started down the new path.  By and large I’m happy with how it’s going so far.  I really like Ubuntu; in many ways it’s a better fit with the way I work.  But there are some pain points, and Windows conveniences that I miss.

Probably the biggest problem initially was the lack of support for 64-bit Linux on our Cisco VPN.  There are supposedly workarounds that involve creating symlinks, but I haven’t tried them yet.  I could have used the 32-bit distribution, but I’m greedy to exploit the capabilities of my hardware.  On Windows I also used RDC when working outside the firewall, so I started working with Ubuntu’s remote options.  Basic VNC wasn’t very good, and my sysadmin tipped me to NX, which seems to work pretty well, so problem more or less solved.

Second issue: Microsoft Exchange.  We had just migrated from Lotus Notes, which I had been bypassing for mail because I hated the client and the web UI was pretty bad, too.  Evolution with MAPI seems to work reasonably well, although I’ve had problems getting an initial connection to Exchange established.  I’m not sure that Evolution is much better than the Exchange web UI — even the “light” version isn’t too bad.  Anyway, I would say that for a general audience who has to use Exchange this is a weak point.

Then of course there’s MS Office.  I have some experience with OpenOffice.org, at least with Writer and Calc (the Word and Excel counterparts, respectively), but have never used the database piece (Base), and I do use Access from time to time for various tasks, including visual query building for complex queries.  This is a good opportunity to expand my OOo knowledge, but you know, sometimes you just want to knock something out using a familiar technique, so it’s a minor setback.

For Subversion I got quite accustomed to Tortoise and it’s explorer integration.  RapidSVN seems pretty good, but again, a bit of an adjustment there.

Those are the main issues I’ve found so far.

Cisco VPN update: The AnyConnect Web VPN install actually worked without resorting to the manual workarounds that many sources report as required to get it work on 64-bit Linux.

Exchange/Office update: CrossOver Linux 9.0 works well for Office 2007, and you can run Outlook instead of Evolution.  You’ll want to apply the Free/Busy time registry fix at http://www.codeweavers.com/compatibility/browse/?app_id=2841;tips=1.

Ubuntu 10.04 upgrade: If you’re dual-booting Windows and you can’t boot into Windows after upgrading to Ubuntu 10.04, this is probably the answer: http://sourceforge.net/apps/mediawiki/bootinfoscript/index.php?title=Boot_Problems:Boot_Sector.  Yikes!  Other annoyances: Emacs “warning spam” (see https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/light-themes/+bug/538499), and default min/max/close window controls on left (see http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/13535/move-window-buttons-back-to-the-right-in-ubuntu-10.04/).

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Vista x64 challenges

On balance I’m satisfied with Vista x64, but I’ve run into a few challenges and at least one casualty.

The casualty was my Palm Tungsten E2, which can’t connect to Vista64 with the USB cable.  According to Palm, you can connect with Bluetooth, but I don’t have Bluetooth on the computer.  Fortunately I don’t use the Palm much anymore and I synced mainly to back it up.

As for the challenges, it seems that some applications, notably OpenOffice.org 3, have to be installed using XP-SP2 compatibility mode.  Also, some installation software doesn’t trigger privilege elevation which may be required to write to certain registry keys or system folders, so the “Run as Administrator” and “CMD prompt here as administrator” Elevation PowerToys are practically necessary.  Sun’s Java RE (which I probably wouldn’t install except that it’s a dependency of OOo) has an annoying bug in its control panel such that you can’t change the settings, so you can’t disable automatic updating.  The workaround is to run bin/javacpl.exe as administrator using the Elevation PowerToy.  Using 32-bit Windows help files (.hlp) requires a special download (this affects all Vista versions) as Microsoft is no longer updating the older help program and so doesn’t distribute it with the OS.  Only two of the four buttons on my Kensington Expert Trackball Mouse work, and Vista thinks it’s a regular mouse — but it wasn’t working fully under XP-SP3 either.  Don’t bother to install the MouseWorks software, although some folks claim they’ve gotten it work (or at least the OS to use the driver).  I would guess at this point Kensington isn’t going to release a Vista-compatible driver for the older devices.

I can live with two buttons.

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