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When the inventory and backups from Scampo, the failing Media Center PC, were complete, I needed to do some final cleanups.  I had uninstalled all Windows-programs that I could while remaining in operation.  Now I needed to scrub the disk, delete accounts, power down, and remove some parts that I had further use for.  These would be the anatomical gifts to other systems.

Retained Backups

Software installation files, data, and documents, including my inventory document, were all preserved into shared folders of my Windows Home Server.

In addition, the Windows Home Server retained a complete backup-image set as of the point just before I started removing things:

Windows Home Server retained backup images up through the point where I began decommissioning the system.

If I found that I missed anything, I could recover it from the backups.  This was my backstop against not having everything necessary preserved in the shared folders.

Final Removal

The first sense of final decline was removal of HyperSnap-DX, my screen capture utility:

Removing the screen capture utility was much light dimming the lights as part of final operations

The next was removal of the backup software for the HP MediaSmart Server (the Windows Home Server system).  Although I could still access shared folders, it seemed as if I had finally cut off all communication with the SOHO LAN and other machines.  Any subsequent images could only be obtained by photography of the display.

Sweeping Up

With cessation of all further preservation work, I began eliminating any residue on the machine that I could.  I worked through and deleted folders in Program Files, Local Application Data, and anything else that still left me in control of the system.  Since I was not sure what I would do about the hard drive, I ran a defragmentation to obscure as much of the removed information as possible:

After cleaning out as much as I could without dsiabling the machine, I used the disk defragmenter to tidy up

There are more-drastic approaches to removal of personal data and files, but I figured this would be good enough.

Saying Goodbye

Before shutting down for the final time, I switched to the admin account and deleted my main profile and its files, something I almost forgot to do:

I was definitely finished when I deleted my own user account from the machine.

Once that was completed, I shut down the machine for the last time, leaving the single administrator account which is not allowed to be deleted and which also has nothing useful or interesting (it being used for administration and nothing else):

The final shutdown left only an adminstrator account and the bare operating-system on the machine.

Anatomical Gifts

After disconnecting Scampo, I removed the hard drive and the E-MU 1820M PCI and daughter cards

I will recycle the computer, putting it in the original packaging along with the cabling and a keyboard and mouse that I never used.

In packing the computer, I discovered a pair of audio speakers that I also did not need but that I can use for a time with my failing laptop, Compagno, and with my docked Tablet PC, Quadro, after that.

I removed the 250GB hard drive.  My intention is to adapt it as a swappable backup drive in my Windows Home Server.  I think this may be useful for backing up the WHS software and other material that is not protected by duplicate storage and backup onto USB drives. 

The other salvaged component is an E-MU 1820M digital audio subsystem.  The 1820M PCI board has a tap into the power supply (the connector on the left) that powers the separate audio-dock unit (not shown).  There is also a daughter card connected by ribbon cable to the 1820M PCI board.  The 1820M figured into my care in avoiding add-ons to the next machine that might deny room for addition of the 1820M and its power demands.  It remains unclear whether the Windows 7 version of the E-MU drivers will become available and work well enough now that the 1820M is no longer in production.

Afterthoughts

I am not embarrassed to personify an inanimate object, although to portray Scampo as falling into ill-health and decline is a little awkward.  It seemed appropriate because of the fight to keep things running long enough to have preserved everything that could be important later.  And once I adopted that tone, I simply persisted until this end point.

There’s some embarrassment of a different kind.  It seems that I should have kept Scampo running longer than the five years that lapsed before I decided to upgraded to a more-powerful system.  I had managed to keep computers running longer than this (and Compagno is now over 11 years old), with no difficulty about making upgrades.  But there was no way that Scampo was adequate for Windows Vista or Windows 7 and I definitely needed a 64-bit development system that provided substantial performance and expandability.

It still doesn’t seem right, even though the machine’s useful life had definitely ended and I am overjoyed to work with the new system.

 

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While the Scampo death-watch continued, it was necessary to organize affairs and make sure that all of Scampo’s estate was inventoried and identified for disposal or preservation.  I organized a review by examining the existing sources of inventory information: desktop icons, the All Programs menu, the Add/Remove Programs Control Panel application, and the directories for Program Files, My Documents, Shared Documents, Photos, Videos, Favorites, and Application Data.

In the course of review, I also created a spreadsheet document that listed different categories of software and provided little reminders for software I needed to replace or check for Windows 7 and 64-bit upgrades.  This long-overdue document will be the basis for a new taxonomy for my software collection and maintenance of current information about software installed on the Centrale computers and nfoCentrale web sites.

I also ensured that the Windows Home Server shared directories of software materials had copies of needed install files, product keys, configuration data, and other materials that would be needed for reconstitution on a different machine, especially for software acquired over the Internet and that lacked install discs.

This was followed by setup of certain critical applications on the Tablet PC, Quadro, as a safeguard and fall-back during migration.  Then I was ready to initiate the final decommissioning of my 5-year-old main desktop PC with all communication and web-/blog-development support on Quadro in the interim.

I took five days to work through everything, adding back-up material to folders on the Windows Home Server, taking screen shots where necessary, and slowly deleting the material that was backed-up to have it out of my way for reviewing the remainder.  Because this sort of thing is tedious, I did not rush.  Whenever I felt fatigued with the work, I would stop until the next day, minimizing the prospect of a careless action leaving me with a mess.

Although I continued to shut down Scampo every night, I succeeded in keeping it operating to the very end of this effort.  I felt that I could recover regardless were Scampo to fail completely before I finished.  It was comforting that I was able to complete my systematic analysis and ensure that I could migrate onto new machines easily and with everything I needed rather than having to fill in the blanks later as they became an issue.


Details

The following sketch is not comprehensive.  It is designed as a reminder of what needs to be looked for the next time I undertake a migration like this.  It might be useful to you when you are considering the retirement of a computer that has been used for a long time and on which there is material you want to be sure to preserve and migrate at will.

This first of four screen captures for listing all of my C:\Program Files directory reveals the amount of material I needed to review to ensure that I had captured everything essential and related material as well.

In addition to the Program Files section of the computer, I also took advantage of the Control Panel Add/Remove Programs applet as another source to work through.

The Actual Progression

Cleaning up the Desktop.  My first steps involved cleaning up the desktop icons.  I deleted those that were irrelevant or tied to programs that would be removed and that I needn’t concern myself about in the future.

I also built a Shortcuts folder on WHS (my Windows Home Server) and moved copies of my shortcut icons into it.  Many of these refer to locations on the Windows Home Server or to external web sites and I wanted an easy way to review and reconstitute them later.

A variety of shortcuts remained on the desktop, for use in deeper review near the end.

To ensure all documents and related materials were backup up, the My Documents were moved wholesale to a preservation location on the Windows Home Server

Saving the My <everything>.  The next step was to preserve the material that had accumulated in the My Documents, My Photos, My Music etc., folders of my primary account.  I had recently begun to keep such materials on the Windows Home Server, but other materials remained and I made sure to capture them.  These materials also appear in the incremental images captured as part of system backups, and can be obtained from there in a pinch.  It is easier to have them in shared file folders though.

F11xx15-2011-01-23-1017-BackingUpOrcmid

I needed to do the same thing with anything in the Shared Documents, Shared Photos,Shared Music, etc., as well.   There were home-brew audio and video files that I had never moved to the server.

The Documents and Settings views also provided reminders of other places that needed to be examined for preservation. 

I preserved the Favorites folder in my account at once.  From previous migrations, I knew that these are easily merged into the Favorites folder of another machine.

In the past, I also had separate hard-drive directories with special material.  But in the time since I have had the Windows Home Server, I had moved all material of that kind to shared folders on the server.  I didn’t have to do anything further in preserving that material.

I also have some Subversion working directories in shared folders of the Windows Home Server.  This is mainly standards-development materials, including mirroring of the SVN repository of the OASIS TC for ODF Interoperability and Conformance.  Tortoise SVN is also installed on Quadro as an alternative and it is in the inventory for restoration on Astraendo, the new desktop.

Saving Crucial Application Data.  There is also material in my account’s hidden Local Data\Application Data\ folder.  I found my Outlook 2007 PST folders there under Microsoft\Outlook and backed them up along with the other material.  I already backed-up those as a matter of routine, and would always do so before moving the PSTs to a laptop for travel use.  During Scampo’s decline, I did this prior to every daily shutdown until I had moved all e-mail and Outlook usage to my Tablet PC.

Cutover of Daily Activity to the Tablet PC.  At this point, I stopped using Outlook on Scampo, moving operation to my Tablet PC.  I set up the Outlook 2007 there with the last-saved PST files.  I also set up Windows LiveWriter on the Tablet PC and moved all authoring operations to the Tablet PC.   I decided to simply avoid using Microsoft Money until I had completed the migration to the new computer.  I did confirm that my Money databases and other financial-application files were all being backed up on the Windows Home Server either already or as part of the backup of My Documents.

It is important to know where there are data records and documents that matter.  Securing that material in a convenient backup is important, especially because it was not known how much longer Scampo would continue functioning.  That is what I undertook as urgent immediate activity.

I systematically went through the Add or Remove Programs to remove those non-Windows components that did not have anything else depending on them.  I also ensured that related data and materials, including disc images, were backed up in shared folders of the Windows Home Server.

Program Removal.  The next stage was to begin removing programs.  My first pass through was to find all of the programs for which there were no dependencies from other programs.  On each occasion, I made sure that I had the discs or files needed to reinstall the software.  I also made sure that data related to the program was also backed up in shared files.  In this case, my Visual C++ Projects were transferred, as well as related materials and scripts.

When there were potential dependencies or I was unsure about how vital something was, I either left it installed or installed after I had removed anything that would depend on a particular removable unit:

A removal that surprised me because the description was different that what I thought I was removing.  It all worked out.

At the end, I removed all drivers that were inessential and part of Add/Remove Programs, not installed as Windows Components.

Scrubbing Program Files and Local Data.  Before I could remove the computer from the network, I needed to look through the Windows Explorer tree for Program Files and see if there was anything that I might need to retain for possible use with the software version that I might be able to install on the new Windows 7 system.  I also examined all folders of Local Data for any additional material that was either my data used with an application or that would be needed in reinstallation on a new machine.

Removing the final utilities.  The final removals were ones that made the system no longer tied to the network and my work could no longer be recorded from Scampo.  I removed the HyperSnap screen-capture utility and the Windows Home Server Connectors.  (Looking back, I realize that I could still have made remote console connections to other machines on the Centrale SOHO LAN, and access Windows Live SkyDrive if it became important, but it did not occur to me at the time.)

At this point, Scampo was no longer useful and I could proceed to the final decommissioning of the machine.

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The late decline of Scampo, my deteriorating desktop PC, was marked by a succession of near-death experiences.  These events all occurred at either start-up or shut-down.  Somehow, I was able to extend the operation of the machine well beyond good judgment allowed, operating it as a balky, exhaust-spewing clunker up to the last.  This is not my sense of how digital computers operate and I marvel that I got away with it.

Although I had managed to ensure that essential material was backed up, I was still endeavoring to systematically review everything on the system and have everything I needed for re-establishment on the new system at my pleasure.

The Black Screen of Death

[F110404] The most-frequent incident was this failure at start-up.  I also witnessed the shutdown ounterpart

After the first few times, I became comfortable with this dramatic announcement that a start-up had failed.  Near the end, this message might occur more than once.  Sometimes the system would simply restart without even getting to this point.  This is the black screen of death.  The system didn’t get far enough to blue-screen!

Other times, Windows start-up would freeze somewhere beyond this point and I would have to force the computer shut-down and manually restart.  This or other messages might recur, but typically, each subsequent restart attempt would go farther until I was completely operating in my logon account.

Or, How About a Blue Screen of Death?

[F110501] The only blue-screen that was seen while Scampo was in Intensive Care

This blue-screen shutdown came up once and was not seen again.  This may have been at the point my E-MU audio-dock was disconnected from the PC, although the adapter was still installed in the PC itself.  I would have removed the board and the associated drivers if this recurred, but it didn’t. 

And if That’s Not Serious Enough …

[F11xx11] The typical stumble immediately after successful login

Although retries would eventually achieve login, sometimes there would be an immediate relapse.  Usually, the result of sending an error report lead to no feedback or a generic feedback which listed the usual suspects.  Once there was advice about checking memory and my hard drive.  None considered that the symptoms might have been related to power management and the power supply, although I suspected those too.

Let Me Advise You

[F11xx13] Error Report for Suspected Memory Problem

I had seen this particular recommendation on one occasion when Scampo was new, so I have a version of the Windows Memory Diagnostic already.  I did not run it in this case, suspecting that this was yet-another morning-sickness near-death experience.  This particular problem did not recur.

The Never-Ending Pattern

Although the particular failure might be different, the pattern was always the same:

  1. First, power-up would not start, even if I leaned on the power button with my thumb.  The hard-drive indicator light near the power button would also be weak.  After a few tries, the power-up process would catch and the drive light would flicker brightly.
      
  2. Then there might be an immediate restart and I would see the start-up screen sequence repeating. 
      
  3. But before Windows startup could get me to the logon display, I might see a shutdown with the black screen of death (first image, above).
     
  4. Only once did (3) repeat in the same startup.  If anything happened logon, it was either a freeze or logon would proceed and then there could be a freeze or the one-time blue screen of death (also above).
      
  5. Ultimately, I would have a good logon into my Windows XP SP3 account and I could operate with the computer all day.  At this point, of course, my operations involved off-loading essential applications and then reviewing the system and securing the rest.  At any point after I had moved essential data to the Windows Home Server and essential operation to my Tablet PC, I could survive a catastrophic failure. 
      
  6. A few days over the course of this vigil, I worked for several hours cleaning up the computer and establishing alternative operations only to have shutdown not operate.  I had to resort to forcing shutdown with the power button a few times, and I was left wondering what the morning would bring.  The PC always came up again.
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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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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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I did it.  I have placed an order for a SOHO desktop and developer system to be named Astraendo.  It is a Dell XPS 9100 and delivery is expected before New Year’s Eve.

Because it is not an Alienware Aurora, I thought of changing the name from Astraendo to Eo (or E0 for you old mainframe hackers).  But, I figure, a good category is silly to waste.  In addition, I realize that the desire to return my attention to abstractions and foundations of computing inspires me.  I’ll keep the name.

I must resist premature retirement of Scampo.  I can’t switch to a Windows 7 machine until I have figured out how to support my web site development using IIS, FrontPage Extensions, and Visual SourceSafe.  The problem is having Expression Web and Windows 7 be able to do check-outs and check-ins properly.  Until I have that resolved, I need a copy of Windows XP running Microsoft Office FrontPage 2003.  Beside rearranging the SOHO Layout and cabling, that is the critical-path prerequisite for the development-system upgrade.

There should be FrontPage Server extensions on WHS, my Windows Homer Server operating on a Windows Server 2003 base.  Assuming that there is a standard configuration of IIS 6.0 (which is already used for web functions of WHS on the HP MediaSmart Server), it is straightforward to install and enable FrontPage 2002 Server Extensions (and WebDAV for that matter), and I have done that.

If I need to revert to an IIS 7.0 Server on Windows 7 or Server 2008 at some point, I’ve just gone by the use-by date for IIS 7.0 FrontPage Server Extensions.  However, there is an independent source.

Once I have the extensions, I need to create a site in addition to the ones already there.  I then need to see if I can have the site, with FrontPage Server Extensions, integrate with Visual Source Safe.  After confirming that I can get check-in and check-out working properly from FrontPage 2003 on Windows XP, I need to see how to get it working from Expression Web from Windows 7.  At that point, serious migration of functions can proceed.

I remind myself of that here because I must stifle myself and not go overboard installing and cutting over to Astraendo until this is accomplished.

 

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I must declare bankruptcy for the timeline and work items of “Got SMRs?” and my 2011 nfoProjects Launch Sprint.  I have completely fallen off the cliff into the rapids and that timeline and its work items are DOA.  I will update the current spreadsheet timeline documents to reflect that sorry state.

All of the activities are relevant, but I have been completely distracted from them.  Furthermore, it is clear that I don’t have the capacity to forward them in parallel.  This may have to do with having too much work in progress as well as lacking a sustainable pace (a major discrepancy between my vision and my perfornance).

I shall tear down my planned structure and create a fresh one with an honest and workable critical path.  That means finding what there is that is essential and indeed critical.   One problem is that there is only one resource (me), so moving something off the critical path means putting it beyond the essential immediate.  The dependencies must work for that.  I suspect that means creating technical debt and I will have to risk-manage that too.

In particular, I am still shifting gears in 2011, and the support for that includes straightening out the blogs, web sites, and the development procedure for them.  Now to identify and work on the critical path for that, with the critical end point being whatever that much takes.

Onward …

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Got SMRs?

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Whenever I write “SMRs” I think of smores, the Graham cracker, Hershey bar, and toasted-marshmallow confection that my family learned on my sister Carol’s return from a Girl Scout Brownie outing.  I think our mother already knew of them, but my recollection is that’s when they entered my experience.

That is, perhaps, my playing with the notion of Specific Measurable Results, the outcomes in reality of defined, actionable tasks.  SMRs as tasty morsels.  I did not realize how much the term has been taken over by business-coaching lingo.  I confess to first hearing the expression in 1993, from Landmark Forum Leader Linda Zraik, and it was already a catch-phrase in that setting.

The combination came up for me today when I realized that my nfoProjects Launch Sprint is too airy and lacks SMRs for me to chew on.  Consequently, it is easy to let days go buy without measurable results.  That was happening here:

Noticing that everything slips with no SMRs to produce each step of the way.

I noticed this because there were no simple actionable work items that led to SMRs, even basic, produce-this-today ones. 

Looking more closely, the labels on the stages that the boxes represent are conceptual.  It made sense for envisioning and looking at opportunities in the available time, but that isn’t concrete enough.

Today, I have been stepping back to create SMRs for the stages themselves, and then for those individual results that I will produce on the path to the SMR of the stage.  

Although it would be wise to start at the end point of the Sprint and work backwards, I will fudge and start by looking closely at the stages that I am managing over the current fortnight.  I won’t go long without filling the gap from the objective back to what’s next right now, but I am forcing in some small immediate activities to ground my effort in the meantime.

The tracking spreadsheet is not going to include all of that detail.  I will use my Personal Kanban board to manage them in a fluid way and also ensure that I provide supplemental envisioning, planning, and reflection on a weekly basis.

I’ve been looking at all of the projects that I have and the number of burners there are for my efforts.

In the past week, I realized that I needed a consolidated plan with defensible, risk-managed timelines for getting to where I want to be on New Years Day, 2011: Launching a family of interoperability-centered tutorial, test-fixture, and reference-implementation projects around document formats and their processing.  (Hmm, short enough for an elavator speech but not something I would be able to recite at gunpoint.  Needs work.)

I have gathered my envisioning into a spreadsheet that keeps my commitment and my management of it in a structure that holds my vision in existence.  Here is the finish line and, at the bottom, where I am standing right now:

2011 nfoProjects Launch Crunch tracking-document extract

This is a high-level perspective.  I blocked out the calendar weeks and arranged more-or-less week-sized chunks in which to make headway along four tracks.  Since I am a solo developer, this is enough for me to follow and use as an instrument for keeping my eye on critical setbacks and interdependencies that I must keep my attention on.  There’s an opportunity for some Personal Kanban  and Personal Software Process.

The OpenDocument Format continuation work is related to my current involvement on the OASIS ODF and OIC Technical Committees, as well as the ISO/IEC JTC1 SC34 WG6 working-group for ODF maintenance.   As ODF 1.2 moves toward ratification as an OASIS Standard in early 2011, there is a hiatus that allows me to devote more attention to Interoperability and Conformance and the alignment of the ISO/IEC and OASIS efforts. 

The blog, web, and development system (Centrale) efforts have been identified here in a piece-meal fashion.  This three-track view provides my first projection of a coherent feasible structure on those activities.  There will be many opportunities for adjustment and course-correction as progress is made and details of further steps are reviewed.

In simply arranging these activities, I found how to avoid a situation in which I was retiring Compagno and in a sudden-death gap on being able to move everything I needed to the Windows Home Server.  This was definitely sky-diving without a parachute.  What I had not seen until I placed the activities in this form, is that Quadro, my Tablet PC, can mirror Compagno perfectly and also assist in verifying how migration from FrontPage to Expression Web can be accomplished while preserving practices that serve me too well for them to be abandoned without a fight.

I have also noticed, already, how having my eye on New Years Day gets me out of bed in the morning, excited to make further headway on these activities.

I will be reporting results and updates here on the week-by-week progress.  And, for those playing along from home, here’s the tracking document  on-line:

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