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How I Spent My Christmas Vacation

(or Upgrading to Android and Windows 7)

The holidays are usually a time I can use to catch-up on some extra reading or research.  This year I had two major infrastructure changes that occupied my time.  I moved from my Blackberry Storm to an HTC Incredible and from my old Gateway M680 with Windows XP to a Dell Vostro 3700 running Windows 7.  It has been a bumpy couple of weeks getting my virtual life back in order.

Before getting into some of the details of the experiences, I’ll summarize by saying that both upgrades were worth the learning curve and associated frustration.  The Incredible’s hardware and the Android OS are orders-of-magnitude beyond the Storm in terms of usability, reliability, and functionality.  On my computer, Windows 7 (64-bit professional version) provides a clean and efficient environment.  The compatibility with 32-bit applications has worked flawlessly so far.

The phone journey…

I ordered the Incredible with the intention of switching over to it during the week before Christmas.  I would be off from work that week so any issues with email and calendar wouldn’t pose much risk.  However Verizon had other plans.  A day after the Incredible arrived they shut off my Storm.  This meant I had to get the Incredible going immediately.  This was during a week that I was traveling to Alabama and Vermont so I needed my cell phone working reliably.

I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I was fully operational with the basic services (phone, email and calendar).  Blue Slate uses Google as our hosted email service so its ease of integration with the Android environment isn’t a surprise.  The phone setup process through Verizon has changed since I got my Storm several years ago.  Making on-line changes to my services is now simple.  I quickly expanded my data plan so that I could use the 3G Mobile feature of the Incredible while at the client’s site.  No issues at all!

My main disappointment with the Incredible is its battery life. With my Storm I could go days without recharging.  Now I have to recharge my phone every night.  I’ve gone through the “kill the app” phase and found that process doesn’t really help.  I use WiFi as much as possible since that is supposed to save battery life over using the cell connection to access email and internet services.  I keep the screen dimmed and turn off location services when they are not needed.

On the bright side, the variety of applications, including a nice SSH tool makes the phone amazingly versatile.  I don’t have to fire up my computer to check on a batch job or fix a basic database problem on our Linux servers.  The GPS services surpass my Magellan’s capabilities so I have one less device to carry with me on trips.

All in all I’m very pleased with my move to the Incredible.  I probably would have considered the iPhone but really prefer Verizon’s coverage.  This phone should serve me well for my 2-year contract.

The computer journey…

My new Dell arrived several weeks before Christmas.  I put off doing anything with it, knowing that the process of moving my virtual life, installed and configured over the course of 4 years on my trusty Gateway laptop, would be onerous.  I’m glad I waited.  Although the Dell is a great machine, the process of getting products installed (or obtaining newer versions) and getting files and configurations in place took several days.

The first thing I did was repartition the hard drive so that I could have a dedicated Linux installation along with the Windows OS.  That repartitioning process, as well as the Fedora installation and grub configuration went without a hitch.  I then turned my attention to moving all of my applications and data from my old Windows XP machine to the Windows 7 environment.

I did not find a simple way to bring over a lot of my applications and configurations.  Setups for things like CVS, Git and PuTTY seem to require a reinstall and then reconfiguration.  My public/private keys all worked fine once I got them copied over and PuTTY’s pageant running.

Some programs will not work on Windows 7, like the version of the Transparent Screen Pro that I use.  My trusty Canon G2 camera isn’t recognized and Canon does not make a driver for Windows 7 so I’m completely out of luck, other than using my Linux partition to access its pictures.

I upgraded my backup software to Acronis 11.  I’ve used Acronis 9 for many years and am a fan of its reliability, interface and options.  However, I thought it was a good time to bring myself up to date with the current version.  I used Acronis to bring over all my documents and files.  The biggest issue I had after restoring the files on Windows 7 was permissions.  I wasn’t allowed to work with the files.  The owner was some system id (probably created by Acronis).  Trying to build applications or edit documents led to complains about not being able to write files.

I eventually tracked down the issue and made myself the owner of all of my restored directories and files.  For the most part I think that problem has been resolved.  This certainly forced me to get a little more comfortable with the Windows 7 security features.

To move my MySQL databases I ended up using mysqldump.  I tried copying over the ibdata file using Acronis, but MySQL didn’t seem to like that approach.  Using mysqldump and then sourcing the resulting file on the Windows 7 machine (moving from MySQL 5.1 to 5.5. in the process) worked flawlessly.  I had a brief moment of concern that I had trashed all the MySQL user accounts in the process but then did a “flush privileges” and all was fine.

On the UI front I had a usability disappointment. It turns out that there is no way to create a desktop toolbar on Windows 7.  When the Office Toolbar was released years ago I quickly adopted it as a way to place my most useful applications within one mouse click.  Microsoft discontinued the Office Toolbar but supported using a folder as a desktop toolbar in both XP and Vista.  However, that support is gone in Windows 7.  I’ve begun adjusting to having the toolbar as part of the Windows taskbar and at this point that is working for me – though I can’t fit as many icons in the toolbar as I could on the dedicated folder under XP.

One major shift I’m attempting to make is a move to OpenOffice. I purposely did not purchase Microsoft Office.  I hope that the compatibility support of OpenOffice allows me to function in our Microsoft Office-centric environment.

After a couple of weeks of use I have found the OS’s responsiveness to be excellent. Of course 4 years of processor improvements and an OS that can address my 6 gigs of RAM helps as well.  My acid test is this first week back on the job.  So far I’ve been able to meet every need with the new machine.

My next step is doing some video editing and rendering.  It will be interesting to see if I notice much of an improvement in performance with that process.

As I stated earlier, the upgrade efforts were worthwhile but I really wish that moving from system to system was easier.  Although bringing documents across is simple, the need to reinstall and reconfigure 40 or 50 software packages is time consuming.  It would be really cool if you could just run an extract on the old machine and then have a script go through installing all the software, with matching configurations, on the new one. This would be similar to the Linux installation scripting process.  Oh well, maybe this will be solved by the time I retire my Vostro?

What are your thoughts on Android and Windows 7?  Is all the concern that companies have regarding upgrading warranted?  Have you found ways to simplify the upgrade process?  I’m always interested in hearing about other people’s experiences.

Upgrading to Windows 7 and Android

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