Wednesday, March 17 2010
It was a beautiful day, with lots of sun and temperatures reaching up into the mid-60s. Not bad given that it's technically still winter (although, truth be known, we're statistically past the coldest 91 days of the year for this region and therefore we're now in regional springtime).
Unfortunately I spent much of the day in front of Gretchen's computer ("Badger") installing a new motherboard based on an Atom 330 processor (as well as a new silent power supply). Occasionally I've been able to swap out motherboards, install a few drivers, and Windows worked fine. Evidently the Atom 330 (which presents itself to the operating system as four separate processors) was too different from the Pentium 4 I was replacing for this trick to work. I got a bluescreen of death and I knew how I was going to be spending my next several hours.
So there I was, installing Windows XP from scratch. And then there I was installing Gretchen's applications. She doesn't use as rich of a suite of software as I do, but some of my favorite programs have to be there in case she needs to edit a photo or change her website. This collection includes Firefox, Microsoft Office 2003, Winamp 5, the Flash plugin, Java for the web, Across Lite (a crossword puzzle program used by the New York Times), Google Chrome, Picassa 3, Photoshop 7, Macromedia Homesite, Vuze, Filezilla, and Nero. Because all her email is on the web, Gretchen is actually even more web-rooted than I am, and she's come to depend on Firefox tabs providing windows into her most-important web haunts. She actually gets angry if someone closes her main Firefox window, since recreating all those tabs from scratch is real work. Luckily for me, the precise state of Firefox can survive an OS reinstall; all you have to do is copy the content of an old profile (say, C:\Documents and Settings\gretchen\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\39c2yaxq.default) into whatever new profile that a new installation of Firefox creates (perhaps C:\Documents and Settings\newuser\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\79s2vamk.default). The same is also true of Vuze (which can contain a very complicated set of Bittorrent sessions interrupted by an OS rebuild). My only problem with these programs is that they attempt to cloak where exactly they store their user data. The location of that information should be trumpeted, not hidden. It's our information, and copying and moving it should be easy, not a Byzantine skill known only to 1337 hax0r2.
The new computer makes almost no noise (and all of what you hear is from the hard drive) and uses about a quarter of the electricity of the old computer. And based on the published benchmarks, it should run about twice as fast.
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