Woodchuck finally sleeps
Friday, July 18 2014
Through the years, my main computer, "Woodchuck," has actually been a variety of different computers. According to this journal, it ran on an Athlon XP 1700+ processor from 2002 until May, 2005, when I moved it to an Athlon 64 3000+ (and from Windows 2000 to XP). Four years later, I migrated off AMD hardware and over to Intel, when I got a Core-2 Duo and compatible motherboard. I soon changed the motherboard for a more reliable one and then, in May of 2012, moved from Windows XP to Windows 7. Every change of motherboard or operating system required me to rebuild my computing environment from the ground up (though I copied configuration files from the old environment to the new one wherever possible, usually tranferring my web, ftp, and email environment completely intact), and it was always something I would avoid as long as possible. If it weren't for some persistent vexing problems with Woodchuck, I'd be content to use the existing setup (Core 2 Quad/Foxconn DigitaLife ELA motherboard/Windows 7) indefinitely. My problem with Woodchuck has never been its speed or responsiveness, even if it is now about six years behind the leading edge. I don't think I've ever been able to get Woodchuck to go into a proper standby. This problem spans all the motherboards I've used since transitioning to Windows XP (and before XP, there was no standby mode). But standby is important as an easy energy-saving mode. Without it, I have to rely on hibernate, but on a computer with 8 gigabytes of RAM, hibernate takes 20 minutes to come out of. Then there's that recent problem (which has been troubling me ever since adding a 1920 X 1200 pixel monitor) which causes Windows to scramble my windows at inopportune times, causing me to waste a lot of my time hunting them down, usually in some far-offscreen place accessible only via ALT-SPACE-M. In recent weeks, I'd grown so fed up with these two problems that I began contemplating another motherboard upgrade, which would force a fresh new installation of Windows. My old Foxconn DigitaLife ELA motherboard had reached the limits of its upgradeability. It could hold no more RAM and its Core 2 Quad processor is about as fast as LGA 775 processors can go. So the other day, I'd ordered the pieces I needed to put Woodchuck on a new path of possible upgrades. The first of these pieces was an Intel i5 3570 processor, which is fast but far enough from the leading edge to be too expensive (it was $200, more than I've ever spent on a processor). For that I needed a compatible motherboard and DDR3 RAM for that motherboard. Unfortunately, in my haste I'd ordered a Socket 1150 LGA motherboard instead of the necessary Socket 1155 LGA motherboard, and the day before yesterday I'd had the experience of trying to put a 1155 processor into a 1150 socket. (There are little tabs in the socket that prevent this from happening.) That mistake cost me $11 in restocking fees and $15 in UPS shipping to RMA it, and yesterday I'd received a proper Socket 1155 LGA motherboard. But I'd hesitated. Woodchuck is an important computer, and I'd wanted a quick way to fall back to using the old motherboard if the new one proved problematic (as they often do). So yesterday I'd ordered a solid state hard drive to install the new OS onto, assuming (as always happens when I order from Newegg.com) that it would arrive the next day despite the pessimistic "4-7 day" nature of the "Eggsaver shipping" I alway select. But I'd made the mistake of ordering from one of many third parties in Newegg's marketplace instead of from Newegg itself. This means it could take weaks for the for the solid state hard drive to arrive. Not wanting to wait quite that long, I elected to use a small mechanical drive as a standin for the SSD.
It's always a slow process to build up a Windows 7 computer from scratch, particularly given all the infuriating defaults. To get things the way I needed them to be, I had to change settings so that Woodchuck would:
Once I'd installed the motherboard's drivers and could use the internet, I immediately went to Nvidia.com to download drivers for the two video cards that make my five-monitor setup possible. There were only two full-size PCIe slots in the new motherboard (an ASRock Z77 Extreme), meaning that I would have to rely on on-board (and decidedly underpowered) Intel video in order to drive one of those five monitors. But if the on-board video somehow conflicted with the Nvidia cards (as ATI cards had), then I was going to be in trouble. The inability to support five monitors was a possible dealbreaker for this motherboard that might have compelled me to fail back to the old Foxconn motherboard (and all its kniown issues). But after installing the Nvidia drivers and going through several reboots, all five monitors were working. At that point, all I had to do was dedicate myself to building out the most crucial parts of my computational environment. That environment is complicated and includes software like Audacity and the Arduino IDE, as well as Media Player Classic, XMPlay, Cygwin, and Git. But 95% of what I do involves just Chrome, Thunderbird, Homesite, XMPlay, Photoshop, Cygwin, Git, and Sublime Text, and I could get all that working in a single afternoon. With the exception of Homesite, I was able to easily copy the configurations and settings from my old Foxconn installation so that my environment in these programs would be identical to the one I was familiar with. As for Homesite, it's an increasingly creaky old text editor, but I know it really well and it's a more comfortable place for me to do basic web work than something like Sublime Text. But it stores all its settings in the registry, which means there is no easy way to copy my preferred environment (which, for Homesite, includes a slowly-built list of extensions for files that it is allowed to edit) from one Windows installation to another. The great thing about Google Chrome is that it supports multiple simulataneous profiles (a feature I mostly use for Facebook trolling, though it also allows me to test multiuser web applications), and I could copy all those profiles wholesale from my old Windows 7 installation to the one I was building today.
- Open each folder in its own window
- Show hidden files, folders, and drives
- Show extensions for known file types (the alternative is confusing and dangerous)
- Show protected operating system files (to get things the way I want, I have to see them)
- Compress the line spacing of details-view explorer windows (whitespace means I see less stuff)
- Show a menu bar on Explorer windows but show no extraneous panes or toolbars (for some reason I cannot get rid of the Organize toolbar, which takes up 10 or 15 vertical pixels but provides me zero utility)
- Not align icons to grid in any window
- Display the taskbar in as few vertical pixels as possible (for some reason Windows 7 makes the taskbar unnecessarily thick)
- Make no sounds when I use it to do normal things (while allowing music or podcasts to play undisturbed).
- Make the desktop resemble the straightforwardness of Windows 2000 as much as possible (I have no appreciation for the cartoonish qualities of Windows XP defaults or the clunky wannabe Appleness of Æro)
- Show an alphabetized list of control panel items (I can't find anything when they're organized as a few general categories)
Gretchen returned from Manhattan after midnight. Soon thereafter, we realized our refrigerator was fucking up again. This time, though, I made quick work of the problem. Gretchen removed all the contents from the freezer within about 20 seconds, and then I spent ten minutes blasting the back of the freezer with a heat gun. When the radiator fins seemed sufficiently de-iced, I put all the freezer contents back, closed the door, and hoped for the best.
Before I went to bed, I tried putting the new Woodchuck into standby (aka "sleep") mode, and for the first time ever, it did so without crashing, complaining, or failing.
For linking purposes this article's URL is:feedback
previous | next