January 2011 Archives

Quadro's Smaller Screen provides special challenges to my workflow during stand-in operation

The 1024 x 768 pixel display on Quadro, a Tablet PC, requires some adaptation in carrying-on activities that are ordinarily carried out using a 24” 1920 x 1080 display.  The crowding of icons onto the left side is a concession to when the screen is rotated into portrait orientation for use.  The icons are in an area that is never cropped, squashed, or rearranged when the screen is rotated from one aspect to another.  Although Quadro has a DVI port, I would rather use the 24” display with the new machine at once and not depend on it for the stand-in.

Desktop Stand-In Support

While my main desktop system, Scampo -- a 2005 model Gateway 831GM Media Center PC,  is failing and is being decommissioned, I need to be have essential functions on my Tablet PC, Quadro, until the replacement machine is fully installed and configured.  The Tablet PC was already going to be kept in reserve for those web-development function that I have not been able to replicate under Windows 7.  The decline of Scampo accelerated the establishment of the necessary software on Quadro.

Essential Functions

There are many functions on the desktop system that I do not require on the Tablet PC as a working stand-in.  I can exclude photo-processing, video-development, and audio-processing software.  I can also exclude software-development software such as Visual Studio, development SDKs, and MSDN Libraries.  What I need is a means to ensure perpetuation of essential communication, access to files and documents, and web-site development.

  1.  Access to Files and Documents
      
    Quadro is already tied into the Centrale SOHO LAN and the Windows Home Server.  All material that is moved to shared space on WHS is available to Quadro and will simply be used from there.  Quadro is also backed-up to the Windows Home Server every day.  Quadro is also tied into Windows Live and has shared access to the contacts and calendars maintained there.

    I have Microsoft Office 2007, Acrobat Reader, and OpenOffice.org 3.2 to handle my immediate document needs.  I have not installed Microsoft Money Plus; I will if I need to update accounts and monitor balances as part of month-end activity. 
     
    I also have WinZip and jEdit for document forensic work and operating with XML documents, should that be required.
      
  2. Essential Communication
      
    All of the Outlook PST files that were in use on Scampo have been moved to the Windows Home Server.  I have completed use of Outlook from Scampo and archived the files for the last time.  I brought the files into the appropriate directory used by Office 2007 Outlook on Quadro and made them the PST files in use.  I also installed the latest version of Outlook Connector to complete the tie-in with Windows Live Hotmail Contacts and calendars.

    I also have, on the Windows Home Server, all of the Favorites and shortcuts from Scampo that make it easy to find internet accounts and resources that I need on a regular basis.  The password safe form Scampo is replicated on Quadro, which is now the master version.
      
  3. Web-Site Development

    For blog posts, such as this one, I have Windows Live Writer configured for posting to blogs hosted on nfoCentrale and already converted to Movable Type.
     
    For editing web pages I have FrontPage 2002 installed and operating properly with the
    Internet Information Server on Compagno, the old laptop that holds my web-site development and that was the first to be retired and migrated until Scampo began to fail.
      
    Also, Visual Source Safe 2005 client is installed and operating successfully with the VSS repository that is also on Compagno and used for automatic version control of the web-site development via the integrated FrontPage extensions.
      
    This is sufficient to provide continued web-site development and also serve as a stand-in during the retirement of Compagno and movement of web-development server operation to the Windows Home Server.

Fortunately all of this was achieved in time to take over my day-to-day operation before Scampo failed irrecoverably. 

The Prequel

I work almost exclusively over the Internet from home.  My Toshiba Satellite Tablet PC, Quadro, was acquired in 2006 when I anticipated heavy use for note-taking and diagramming while digging around in university research libraries.  While that might happen again, the current us of Quadro is for occasional out-of-office meetings and travel.  When not traveling, Quadro inhabits the Centrale SOHO LAN so it is available for light, connected work while the production system is engaged in some uninterruptible task.  Quadro in slate configuration is also useful as a reader: I have used Kindle for the PC as well as other document-reading software that way.

Because it is not critical to my day-to-day operations, Quadro tends to be the victim-of-choice for beta releases of software.  Originally shipped with Microsoft Windows XP Table PC Edition 2005, Quadro was saddled with Windows Vista and Windows 7 beta releases.  It was also subjected to Office 2007 and 2010 previews.  Toshiba has long since ceased to provide driver updates for later operating systems, making the machine unacceptable as well as under-powered for serious production use on operating systems beyond Windows XP. 

Once the Windows 7 beta expired, Quadro was restored to its original Windows XP configuration (fully updated to SP3 and with regular updates beyond that, of course).  Its continued duties are as a standby for important XP-based functions that support nfoCentrale development while other machines are retired Windows 7 computers are introduced.  There are some web-development operations that I have not managed to preserve using Windows 7 and Quadro provides working functions until I can resolve the Windows 7 limitations.

With the sudden deterioration of the Scampo desktop system, having Quadro as a stand-in was required sooner than expected.  Quadro was in a rather haphazard state (also reflected in the peculiar accumulation of icons on the desktop), and I needed to ensure complete stand-in capability before dismantling Scampo or it failed completely (whichever were to come first).

Fortunately, it has been easy to switch over those functions that I must preserve while Scampo is retired and the Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit workhorse, Astraendo, is installed in its place.

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Scampo Vigil Day 2

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[Update 2011-02-19T00:03Z: I reposted this post to included it in the Scampo category.  That also caught a spelling error.  And I noticed a new difference in using Windows Live Writer 2011.  Apparently, if I recall an existing post and update it, WLW now saves it as a new post.  That is not what I wanted and previous versions, unavailable now, did accomplish what I had in mind if I did nothing about the post date.  So I am trying this in the browser-based editor directly in MovableType.  I hate that.  Grr.]

At the end of the first-day vigil, I noticed what appeared to be progressive Desktop PC organ death from shutdown to startup today.  Being mindful of the key symptoms, I was careful to avoid problematic operations today.  I also continued regular backups and movement of material for retention and backup on the Windows Home Server.  I also made progress in setting up Quadro, the Tablet PC, for operation as a stand-in until the Scampo Desktop PC is fully retired and the new PC, Astraendo, can take over.

Multiple Organ Failure?

I had noticed this in previous evenings, but last night it was seriously in my face.  While watching Netflix Internet content, and watching CSI programs on the CBS web site, Internet explorer started reporting that it needed to close a tab and I would have to restore my viewing to the place where it was interrupted.

Last night, this happened repeatedly.  And on restoring to content that was barely begun, it would also send the computer into an automatic reboot.

Rather than keep going through that, I forced a shutdown at my login page, except the shutdown itself didn’t end and I eventually shut the machine down manually.

This has me think that part of my troubles may be the graphics card in the system.

This morning, I was greeted with  “We apologize for the inconvenience but Windows did not start normally.”  However, after a progression of attempts, I managed to use the system for Outlook, web browsing, and transfer of more material to the Windows Home Server for backup.

Mitigation Opportunities

I am continuing with a systematic transfer of functions to Quadro, the Tablet PC, and removing essential material to the Windows Home Server where it can be transferred to the new PC when the time comes.  The use of Quadro is important because it avoids throwing a big switch without any fall-back.  There are also some facilities that don’t seem to work on Windows 7 and I am ensuring that I have a Windows XP where they are working until I resolve that.

  1. If necessary, I can remove the GeForce 7300 graphics card from Scampo and revert to the OEM graphics. All I need to do is find the VGA cable to use in place of the DVI cable that I am using now.  I would rather not do that, but it remains an option.
  2. If necessary, I could also take the 250GB hard drive from Scampo and add it to Astraendo.  This would allow me to recover other material at my leisure.  The one concern is that it might be the hard drive that is at least one of the problems here.
  3. A smarter move would be to add the 250GB hard drive to Windows Home Server, but without adding it to the Drive Extender Pool.  It could just be available to Astraendo and Quadro as a shared drive.  Another advantage, so long as Windows Home Server considers the drive to be healthy, is to also use that drive, once scrubbed, as a backup drive for the Windows Home Server system and other material that backs up the nicest to a local drive.   This is the most appealing option at the moment.

Nodding Off to Quiet Slumber

Tonight, Scampo has been idling and I have made manual backups of its Outlook PSTs for availability tomorrow to either Scampo or Quadro, depending on the situation.  The final action is a manually-initiated full backup to the Windows Home Server.  Then Scampo will be shut down until the morning.

Remaining Effort

The full screen capture was useful in having me notice that there were some files that existed exclusively on the desktop itself.

I am slowly whittling down the desktop icons and shortcuts as I ensure that the material is either unnecessary or is recoverable from backup materials.

I am yet to look at the full set of installed programs, the scale of which is revealed in the All Programs menu on Scampo:

I'm sure I don't need all of this, but I will review them carefully

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Scampo Vigil Day #1

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The power button is being heavily used for resuscitation of Scampo these days.  (The coffee splashes are not recent.) It took three tries at resuscitation of Scampo this morning.  If I can get it through startup, it seems good for the day.  Today there was a mid-day lapse when it froze, apparently on a disk-access (since the drive light went out and stayed out).  Scampo remains on deathwatch.

Typically, when I power up, the drive starts up but the power light will flicker but not come on.  Occasionally, I also have to force shutdown and start over, although it invariably starts up all right on the re-attempts and gets farther each time.  The shutdowns are because there is a hang-up in Windows initiation or even a complaint from Windows.  Or it just freezes without fully starting-up my account.

As I said, morning sickness.

Triaging Documents, Data, and Software: The Safety Net

Although I am concerned for the safety of my documents, data, and software, I have considerable protection as the result of full manual backups to Windows Home Server.  These ensure that everything is backed up and relatively current.  The down side of this safety net is that it is difficult to recover individual files from those backups. 

A better approach is to make sure that everything important is used from shared folders, not backups, on the Windows Home Server.  The shared folder material is duplicated on different drives of the Windows Home Server and I backup those folders onto USB drives, though not as regularly as I need to in case the WHS fails badly.  (The server itself is a single point of failure.)

Scampo after detailing my work space two years ago.  Quadro is the closed Tablet PC at the right.There is also some data that cannot be used from a shared folder.  My Outlook PST files are an important case.  I back those up manually before every shutdown.  I can bring those up on Quadro very quickly.  At some point I will just go ahead and do that.

Today I did more to prepare Compagno Quadro with all of the essential that I require of it as a stand-in while I remove everything from Scampo and also make sure that I have everything I need for installation on Astraendo when I bring it into operation.

The Painful Inventory

The first step I took in creating an inventory of what there is on Scampo was to make some serious screen captures.  Here is everything that is on my desktop at the moment:

Scampo Desktop as of 2011-01-20

If you think that is challenging, you should see what All Programs and the content of c:\My Programs are like.

Meanwhile, this inventory has helped me to identify other data that exists only on Scampo and needs to be backed up separately.

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While I was setting up for my Scampo Deathwatch, I brought up the Movable Type dashboard on this site.  Oh my, there is a security update of Movable Type that has been available for a month while I was paying attention to other things. 

[At this point, the voice in my head is Landmark Forum Leader Randy McNamara leading an inquiry into complacency and its predictable consequences.]

I have downloaded the particulars to my Windows Home Server, but I won’t be fussing with upgrade of the Movable Type installation until I have a chance to review my web deployment model and see how well I can manage that from my deteriorating computer complex.

I wanted to work my way through this in a more systematic, documented way that I could rely on for future work and further migrations.  I may need to ratchet that from leisurely to urgent.

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Scampo has been my main desktop system since it solved an emergency for me in September 2005.  I don’t think of it as an old machine, since I have also kept machines (all from Dell, now that I think of it) operating successfully for over ten years.  That left me with some guilt over planning its replacement with the now-arrived, waiting-to-be-installed Astraendo desktop, a Dell XPS 9100.

I’m not ready to cut over to Astraendo just yet.  It is a Windows 7 system and there are a number of migration issues for me to resolve, especially for my web development procedures and practices.

Morning Sickness?

But Scampo is dying on me.   I don’t know if it is a cyberspace counterpart of sibling jealousy, but Scampo has been sickly since the carton with Astraendo arrived.  The problem occurs mostly in the form of morning sickness:  The system has difficulty responding to power on, it often fails to boot up completely and has to be force-restarted, and so on. 

One of these mornings, I may not be able to wake Scampo up for our daily work together.

So I shall not shut it off tonight until I have established the following safeguards:

Backup Preparations

I will have a current backup on the Windows Home Server before I shut down.

I will also migrate as much data as I can off of Scampo onto shared space on the Windows Home Server.  This will be available to all of my other systems, and to Astraendo once it is brought up.  The data will continue to be used from the shared directories, so that it is current whenever I start using it from another of my SOHO computers.

An important case for sharing consists of my Windows Live Writer Drafts and Recently Posted collections.  I will place those in a shared location so that I can switch to authoring on Quadro the moment Scampo becomes unavailable.  Some other shared materials will probably not be used on Quadro much, even though available there, but they will be immediately available when I have moved operations to Astraendo.

I will also perform an inventory to ensure that I have everything I need to move operations to another computer.

Bring On the Stand-In

My Tablet PC, Quadro, is still running Windows XP SP3.  Although the machine does not have the capacity or the performance of Scampo, it can easily take over my essential functions:

  • FrontPage 2002 for continuing web development without requiring Scampo.
  • VSS 6.0d client, also for web development.
  • Tortoise SVN for other coordinated versioning, particularly for SourceForge and OASIS projects.
  • Outlook 2007.  I have Office 2007 Ultimate on Quadro.  I need to move my Outlook PST files to Quadro and perform all e-mail functions there until I finally move to Astraendo.  I can continue to share contacts and calendars via Windows Live and Outlook Connector, but I need my collection of e-mail archives to be at my fingertips and available to desktop searching.
  • My latest password set brought from Scampo to the password vault on Quadro.
  • Zune PC so I can synchronize my Windows Phone from Quadro.
  • Microsoft Money, since I continue to use it in its off-line unregistered desktop form.
  • Other tools on Scampo that may be important to have on Quadro for interim operation, although I much prefer holding off until I can do more on Astraendo.

I won’t bring over anything that requires the higher performance of either Scampo or Astraendo.  No photographic and no audio software will be brought over.  I probably won’t be watching Netflix on Quadro either.  Nothing that really requires a larger screen than the Tablet PC 1024 by 758.

Preparing for Migration

To abandon Scampo successfully, I will also need to find upgraded software for operation on Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit.  That is particularly important for my E-MU devices and audio dock.  It will also matter for my printer and scanner.  The Scampo inventory will help me to plan the necessary staging of software and device connections.

Returning to Normal

I will continue retiring Compagno and moving Web Development to the Windows Home Server.  At some point down the road, this will include switching to Expression Web once I have determined how to operate with the IIS FrontPage extensions properly for web-page check-out/-in and how to work around the lack of direct support for design-time FrontPage functions that I rely on quite stubbornly.

 

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2010 is the previous archive.

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