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Willus.com's 64-bit Chronicles
Diary of experiences with Windows 7, Linux, and other O/S's
See also my Windows 7 Tips.

Can the folks at Microsoft please, please, please stop deleting my printer driver every time they do a major update to my O/S? Windows 7 SP1, Windows 10, Windows 10 Creators -- these all deleted my HP Deskjet 970CSE print driver that I have to set up specifically to use my no-longer-supported HP Photosmart P1000 (17 years old and still working, baby). The Deskjet 970CSE driver happens to be a perfect substitution. But then I update my O/S and it's as if the OS update re-scans my printers and decides "Hey, there isn't a 970CSE connected, so the driver is obviously not needed. DELETE." Please fire the moron who thought this was a good idea!

The smart phone has officially passed up my 7-year-old desktop PC in CPU horsepower. On an average of Jet Stream, Sun Spider, Kraken, and Geekbench, my iPhone 7 is 30% faster than my Core i5-670-based PC (running Firefox or Chrome for the javascript benchmarks). My iPad 1, by comparison, from roughly the same vintage as my desktop PC (2010), looks absolutely prehistoric. It is 40 times slower than my iPhone 7. It is unreal how much mobile processing power has improved since the advent of the smart phone / tablet. Desktop CPU performance increases have been happening at a far slower pace in that same time frame.

Spurred on by web sites that told me I could ssh into my iPad if I jailbroke it, I went to jailbreakme.com which led me to the redsn0w site (for my iPad 1 with iOS 5.1.1) where I snagged the Windows install program for redsn0w 0.9.14.b1 (download link at bottom of screen). Unfortunately, this also requires that you install iTunes, which I was trying to avoid, but I figured I'd just remove it from my PC after the jailbreak, which I did, so no harm, no foul. I then installed OpenSSH per the instructions on the Cydia screen, and I use SSH Term Pro to connect to root@localhost:22 on my iPad to get a TTY. It's all effectively Debian Linux after that! So cool. I wanted to have some fun, so I bought the blAze iPad theme for WinterBoard and installed it for a different look to my iPad (see screen shots below). I then went poking around for how to get gcc. I found this site and followed the instructions (installing Apt7 is incredibly useful--it lets you use the "apt-get" command from the shell). But the gcc link is broken, so I got the gcc files from here (also here--if the links break, try googling iphone-gcc.deb). You definitely also need "ldid" (I think I used "apt-get install ldid"--that's a lower case 'el' as the first letter, not an uppercase 'eye'). It signs your compiled apps so that they run, e.g.
gcc -o hello hello.c
ldid -S hello
Without using ldid, the compiled app will simply abort if you try to execute it. It took me a while to figure that out. It's so cool to be able to (1) compile software on my iPad, and (2) access the full file structure and transfer whatever I want to and from my PC. Highly recommended! (Though, of course, jailbreaking is not sanctioned by Apple, and I take no responsibility for what happens to your iPad if you try to jailbreak it, blah, blah, blah, typical disclaimer stuff, etc., etc., etc.)

iPad Screen Shots (using blAze theme)

Lock screen
Home screen
Linux TTY

January 13, 2012 -- UNIMPRESSED WITH UBUNTU 11.1
I've decided that the way to go for running both Ubuntu and Windows 7 on my home PC is to use Virtual Box. If you google "Virtual Box" and then the name of whatever OS you want to install, you'll quickly find instructions for how to install that OS using Virtual Box. It works great. I installed Ubuntu not long ago and can now build linux distros right on my home PC rather than having to putty to a remote linux server, and I don't have to re-boot. I just run Ubuntu in a Window, and the performance is very respectable. It also allows me to experiment with Ubuntu's latest desktop platform (11.1), which I couldn't do via putty.

I don't have a whole lot of positives to say about Ubuntu's GUI environment (aka Gnome Nautilus). The guys who do Ubuntu need to spend some time in the Windows 7 GUI and copy it, particularly with regards to the start menu and right-click context menus that come up for files, apps, and shortcuts. I'm not saying this because I'm used to Windows. I'm saying this because after years of refinement, Microsoft has done a great job of figuring out how to make the GUI look simple and clean but at the same time put a lot of capabilities for advanced users into the context menus where they are easy to find. Ubuntu, on the other hand, has gone to a level of simplicity that I find extremely frustrating as an advanced user. I can't find any of the usual "under the hood" features that I can often quickly find in Windows. It took me several minutes just to find the terminal shell, for example.

For a guy who is used to Windows and who likes to develop command-line executables, I have to say that Windows has this dialed in. Not only can I incorporate an icon into the .exe file in Windows, but users can download the exes directly to their desktops and run them right away with no install necessary. This is not at all the case with Ubuntu or Mac OSX. Just look at how many more steps are involved for OSX and Ubuntu just to make a command-line application work from the desktop! Ubuntu is especially bad. Why isn't there a "run command" menu item in an obvious place? (Who on earth is going to guess to type Alt-F2 to get the run-a-command box?) And why can't I choose any program I want (via a file browser) for "Open With..." like in Windows? And why can't Gnome Nautilus figure out when I'm double-clicking on a command-line executable and automatically open up gnome-terminal for it? Windows has effectively been doing this for over a decade, and in my opinion, they got it right, because I never even had to think about it until I had to deal with Ubuntu and OSX.

On the other hand, I do like some Ubuntu features, for example the software updating and the feature where Ubuntu tells you the command for installing an application when you try to run it and don't have it. That is very handy and worked well. The appearance is clean and professional overall, as well. That's what's frustrating--Ubuntu has a lot of apps and many features that are very professional, but it's the little things--the dotting of the i's and the crossing of the t's, e.g. elegantly accomodating both novice and advanced users, that are holding them back from that broader appeal that will be required to win over the Windows majority.

After six years with the same family PC, and with my hard drives getting full, I finally pulled the trigger on a major upgrade, going with a new Core-i5 processor, lots of RAM, an SSD boot drive, two large HDDs for media storage, and Windows 7. As you can see below, I tried Linux for a while, but it didn't impress me and wasn't going to work for my family. I've been wanting to try Win64 computing, and with Windows 7 getting good reviews, a PC upgrade was the natural point to try it out. After spending a couple days with the new PC, here are some of my initial impressions:
  • Overall I'm very pleased. The machine is fast and quiet, the install went smoothly (once I got my memory sorted out--see below), and Windows 7 still feels like "Windows," which is a good thing for my wife and son. All my old software runs exept for some original DOS programs which were already emulated under XP, such as Buerg's list.com, a DOS file viewer, and pe2.exe, an old DOS text editor (I'm guessing I could find a DOS emulator if I felt compelled). I was even able to continue using my 10-year-old HP Photosmart P1000 printer (even though it's not supported by HP for Win 7) by using a deskjet 970CSE driver on it.
  • Putting three sticks of memory into a 4-slot motherboard is a bad idea (I tried this because one of the four sticks of memory I bought was bad). Yeah, I know, duh. I kind of figured 3 sticks wouldn't be optimal, but I thought it would still work. Well, I was right, kind of. The PC booted, but it was ultra slow (by at least a factor of 10!). It took me a while to figure this out, but I finally looked at my motherboard manual after wondering why the PC was so slow and saw that it recommended only 1, 2, or 4 sticks of memory. So I pulled out one stick, and bingo, everything started behaving correctly.
  • I'm not impressed with Windows 7's start menu. I really liked being able to put custom sub-menus in my XP start menu by dropping folders of shortcuts into it. With Windows 7, you can't do that! If you pin a folder to the start menu, it won't expand. Lame. I've been using "Favorites" as a workaround, but it's not as nice. More mouse movements and clicking to get what I want.
  • But I do like the Windows 7 task bar and quickly got used to the "dual-identity" icons which can both launch a program and also return to an already-launched window.
  • Thunderbird's migration options suck. There was no obvious way to point Thunderbird to my old profile folders and have it migrate the settings, mail messages, and address books. It's as if none of the Thunderbird developers have even thought about the fact that people might need to change PC's. I had to create a dummy profile and then manually copy the right files over to it.
  • I have to figure out how to calm down Norton Internet Security's annoying new "SONAR" detection, which keeps trying to quarantine all of my custom-written software.
  • Having my O/S and apps on a solid-state disk is so cool. That's probably my favorite part of this upgrade. Installs and launches go lightning quick. I highly recommend it, but do your homework and get a good drive.
  • 64-bit MinGW gcc worked right off. I used this download. Cool.
  • Overall I seem to be getting a 3 - 5 times speed improvement in my programs (single threaded). For programs I wrote myself, recompiling is important (see my recompile benchmark). Below are some comparisons.
    Old System New System
    CPU AMD 3200+ 2.0 GHz Intel Core-i5 670 3.46 GHz
    Total Cores/Threads 1/1 2/4
    O/S Windows XP 32-bit Windows 7 64-bit
    System Power Draw under typical load (includes monitor, cable modem, and printer) 190 W 105 W
    Crop and re-size 200 images (single thread) 548 seconds 90 seconds
    (80 s w/turbo boost)
    ffmpeg .mts to .mpg conversion (single thread) 43 seconds 16 seconds
    (14 s w/turbo boost)
    Beam-Wave Interaction Simulation (single thread) 79 seconds 30 seconds
    (26 s w/turbo boost)

June 10, 2008 -- BOOTING DISASTERS
After six months of hardly touching Linux, I decided to reclaim my disk space from the Linux partition I'd created since I ultimately could not get Ubuntu to boot or to come out of standby consistently on my system, and since my wife's reaction to Linux was most assuredly negative. Using Partition Magic 8.0, I merged the partition back into my NTFS partition, but this was an unmitigated disaster, because I removed the partition with the GRUB loader that Linux had installed, and immediately afterwards, my computer wouldn't boot! Word to the wise: if this happens to you, put in your XP start-up disk, go to the command-line recovery console, type "help," and try the commands that look like they'll fix the boot. There are two, and FIXMBR (fix master boot record) did the trick for me. Do not, under any circumstances, select "Repair my XP installation," like I did before I discovered the FIXMBR command! This completely trashed my XP installation, reverting it back to its 2001 state. It did leave my files and settings and apps intact, but I had to spend four hours updating XP back to its modern state--very painful! A week later, I tried to merge my main boot partition with another partition (combining two 120 GB partitions into one 240 GB partition) using Parition Magic 8.0, and that was also very bad. I had to fix it with the command-line recovery console again, and it ended up not "taking." That is, once I finally got my system to boot again, the partitions hadn't been merged. I'm not impressed with Partition Magic 8.0. This thing is supposed to be on its 8th major revision, so you'd think it would guarantee that your computer could boot after it did its work!

January 6, 2008 -- SOME PROGRESS
IrfanView doesn't work quite as seemlessly as I thought in Wine. It is functional, but the keystrokes don't work for some reason, and I can't get it to seemlessly be my default image viewing app. Fortunately, the default image viewer in Gnome isn't terrible. It has some of the key features I like about IrfanView--a hot key to go to the next picture in the folder and hot keys to switch between native resolution and "fit to screen." But it's not nearly as complete feature-wise as Iview. Next I want to add image rotation options to the Nautilus menu when I right-click on an image. I think I've found some threads that tell how to do this. One of the important things about that will be not to change the mod date on the image when I rotate it.

December 28, 2007 -- TIME TO EXPERIMENT
I am using (or abusing, as my wife would put it) the holiday break this year to start investigating Linux on my PC. My ultimate goal is to be free of the chains of Microsoft and shed their O/S before I feel compelled to upgrade to Vista. I bought Partition Magic and re-sized one of my HD partitions so that I could add a Linux partition. I then installed Ubuntu 7.10 and started tinkering. It's slow-going, but I am getting more confident about making the leap. I initially spent a couple frustrating hours figuring out how to get Ubuntu to successfully wake up from standby mode (it is a must for me to have standby mode be workable). I needed to switch to a more suitable video driver for my ATI All-in-Wonder 8500DV than Ubuntu originally selected in the install process (it chose a generic VESA driver). Other things have gone more smoothly. Most of the games I have (Hoyle and other) play perfectly in Wine (a Windows Emulator for Linux). Wine emulation was also improved when I switched to the more appropriate graphics driver. Quicken 2007 does not work in Wine at this point, but MoneyDance ($30) looks like a very good alternative and did a good job importing the .QIF file exported from Quicken. Today I just got the forward and back buttons on my Microsoft Intellimouse to work (not at all obvious, but somebody had already done all the legwork at UbuntuForums.org).

Linux has a ways to go to catch the polish and robustness of Windows, but it's come a long way and I like what I see. For one thing, Ubuntu automatically mounted all of my Windows NTFS volumes when it installed, so I can read and write to all of my Windows HD partitions. That makes file sharing a snap. I didn't try installing Ubuntu on an NTFS partition itself, though. I wasn't that brave. Linux also seemlessly intermixes 64-bit and 32-bit environments. You truly get the best of both worlds. Wine is hit and miss. It runs a lot of Windows programs very well, but others (usually newer stuff which presumably uses some newer API calls) flop. I'm committed to it, though. I don't want to install VMWare. What's the point of switching to Linux if I have to keep around a legitimate copy of Windows, after all? My wife's only comments so far have been "I'm not impressed!"


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