Thursday, March 29, 2007


Well the move to Vista is on. Quite honestly as an old skool UNIX advocate many people seem confused as to why it should not also be possible to like Vista. But really what's not to like? So with my best foot forward and armed with 6 Vista licenses I have been reinstalling around the house.

This Wednesday, despite the Flu I began and now some 11 hours later all is done. Why so long? Well the lounge PC is not only our Television replacement but also our main Webserver to the world, our Media Centre, and general torrent downloader for large UNIX and Linux files.

So I could not afford for this to go wrong. So in 11 hours I installed a fresh system, copied over over 1TB of data, reinstalled and tested the Webserver (IIS7 for now), fortified the installation with paranoid Firewall and Malware and Spyware programs.

All seems well except for the PHP installation which does not seem to fair well with IIS7, concequently the wiki information base is down. What were some of the nice things I noticed:

  • Vista Upgrade can be clean installed using the now infamous workaround of first installing the system without a key, then from that installed system put the DVD in again and run setup, performing an upgrade of Vista to Vista. On the second installation you do enter the key at time of installation and once all is upgraded you activate
  • I put a 4GB USB2 key into the back of (the shuttle) and configured it with Readyboost. Soon you will be able to buy small internal devices that attach directly to a motherboard USB header. How cool with that be!
  • The install DVD recognised my 750GB disks without any extra driver support. I depends on the SATA controller of course, for some other systems it was necessary to download drivers to a USB key, then at install time tell Vista to look at the key that you inserted when Vista noticed that it could not find any Hard disks. So the days of the initial "cable that floppy" for the intitial installation are thankfully gone.
  • As from the early days (thanks Cromemco) I configured this window NOT to use any paging file. Every little performance increase helps right?
  • Remember to turn off the screen saver and sleep after 1 hour settings
  • Download a free Dynamic DNS client that updates our DDNS entries to point to this computer
  • Stop Vista from automatically applying updates and rebooting, this is a webserver!
  • Dont install VNC as in earlier testing it caused problems. For now use Windows Remote Desktop. [This is really inadequate for remote control becuase when you desktop into this remote system from a laptop the screen disappears, so starting a movie to watch, well it doesn't work remotely just now]
  • IIS7 is installed (from control panel window features). However the administration option will be hidden unless you customise the StartBar to Display Adminstrative Tools
  • IIS7 is now listening on regular HTTP and private ports (i.e. 2 set of ports goto the same website). I am opening up port 80 because corporate viewers often cant browse to non port 80 webservers and I get complaints
  • Checked the card reader is functioning for photographs and that all the drive shares are remade and given worldwide access
  • TODO: get PHP working
  • TODO: Figure out what services I can really stop without the machine coming to a grinding halt
  • TODO: put UAC back on, (needs a reboot)
  • TODO: install Nero and do some DVD write compatibility and performance tests

So job done and off to sleep although it is 5.30 am already. Hmmm

Vista Postscript

So it is a few weeks later, how is Vista doing? Average to negative. Here is the honest response (Vista now on 3 systems: 1x x64 Ultimate, 2x x32 Business)

  • Vista Readyboost is peforming well, though I am dismayed that the overall filesystems performance is not sparkling
  • The boot time from cold on the master server is 64 seconds
  • Driver availability or Vista, for example for RAID SATA controller or some sound keys is shockingly bad.
  • Copy files using the "MAC"esque copying file dialog takes ages to start. What is it doing?
  • After startup Vista often engages several minutes of frantic disk activity doing what exactly? Usually it reads about 40GB of files then calms down. What is going on?
  • Still not clear what services can be safely disabled. I just ordered the Microsoft Windows Resource Toolkit which can hopefully explain why it is necessary for 55 processes need to run this system.
  • One click complete PC backup and file versioning works well
  • Indexing was hard to disable but now is
  • Vista defragmentaion has a rather too simple interface but technet tells me all is well and I can use it via the command line too

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Gathering

Well overall things are on the up. Recently I purchased at great expense (we are talking thousands of dollars) some Cromemco Computers even more fancy that the ones I spent assembling, programming, integrating and selling during my childhood.

Fedex duly put them onto an airplane and sent them fro mthe USA to Switzerland. it took less than a week.

The 2 computers are an amazing 17 years old and in fact never used. Here is a sexy photograph. Beautiful huh.

And after about an hour spent reworking a Power Supply I can still understand (aka transformer, rectifier and capacitors) to 220V I nervously powered up. ... XDOS (well DDOS) started and the STDC disk controller started humming. A prompt came up indicating that UNIX V.2 was starting and then that 17 year old hard disk drive still clicking booted.

Only 1 small problem, it goes into a logon screen that asks you to set the time and press F14, but what escape sequence would that be then?

Anyway a reboot into Cromix Plus (release 172 man :-) ) and I logged in as system no problem. So UNIX may currently be blocked but good old Cromix is spinning fine. A great result so far and time permitting my mothballed systems from England will be joining them too. Perhaps time to stop that day job, this renovation work is clearly more important.

Well finally for the best in bedtime Cromemco reading visit the outstanding manuals collection here shameless plug eh.