Sometimes “Some Assembly Required” is Scary

My 2005 Systemax Pentium-D desktop is getting old. I had quadrupled the original RAM (to the max) and upgraded the hard drive a few times (to ½TB = 500,000 MB). But I’ve had people tell me that the hamsters running in the squirrel cages of my CPU were getting tired. I’ve watched how-to videos where the presenter apologized for having a too slow a machine, with twice the cores, three times the RAM, faster chips, and other specs way beyond mine as I was trying to run the same programs. It was seeming to be time for me to buy a new machine.

So I did some shopping. The local MicroCenter had a pretty good deal on a Core i5-2300 with 6GB and 1TB. But I was sure I’d see a slightly better deal at TigerDirect. So I did some shopping there. But I hesitated to buy that day. The very next morning, I received an email from Tiger offering a machine with comparable specs for $120 less! The gods had spoken: It was time.

Why was it cheaper? It is a gaming machine. That is, the power of an executive desktop, but with extra twiddling lights and configured to be for media consumers rather than content creators. But I knew that I’d have approximately equal battles setting up either an executive or a gamer machine. Because this is after the back-to-school sales and before the holiday spike, I got a bargain. My previous machine was over a kilobuck. Actually, every machine from the $2,500 64k no-hard-drive Apple ][ forward was over a grand. Well, my first laptop, the 1983 TRS-80 Model 100 was only down to $400 when I bought it in 1986. But it wasn’t a serious computer.

So I placed the order on Friday and this box, this Object at Hand, arrived on Monday.

There it sat. And I began to feel a touch of dread, as this is a version of “Some Assembly Required” that can intimidate me. I had said earlier that “Some Assembly Required” Doesn’t Scare Me in regard to a mere mechanical tandem bicycle. But this innocent box, packaged ready so that a first-time user could pretty much be up and running in minutes, poses a herculean task for an old-timer like me.

It is not because I am old, although I do have certain ways that I like to do things. The problem is that a fully loaded new computer means

  1. All new supplied programs are subtly different from their familiar predecessors, and
  2. It won’t be loaded with any programs that do most of what I need to do, and
  3. It will have much installed that needs to be purged. Helpful things that circumvent what I try to do. Friendly things that insist on telling me how to do things I’ve been doing for decades. Happy things trying to sell me on even more products for which I know better and cheaper alternatives.

So I unpack it, plug in wires for everything necessary, turn it on, and then a few days of “fun” begins.

Note: Each task is an installation and/or configuration task. The links should all open in a new tab/window.

taskFirst it wants me to answer some questions. No problem. I get it up and running, and am online in under a half hour, ready to do anything I want in the cloud.

taskThen it offers to “simply” copy my preferences and data from my old machine. In the many upgrades I’ve survived since the mid 1980’s, I have sometimes chosen to let it do this, and other times did it the bad, old way. I’m not sure which is less painful. But I gave it a chance, installed the copier, and let it run. It took 9 hours at 100MB/s to do the copying. Mostly video files and pictures.

taskAfter that was done, I began by installing FireFox 6.0. I do need to test my web pages in Chrome as well as IE and FireFox. The computer came with IE and Chrome installed, and I would have installed them had they not come on this computer. But IMHO 😈 FireFox is better for development because of its configurability and libraries of Add-Ons (or Apps in smartphone-speak).

tasktasktasktaskThen FireFox needed a few necessary-to-me add ons like FireFTP (for uploading files), HtmlValidator (to make sure my web pages meet standards), Make Link (to copy encoded hypertext links for posting in blog comments), and NoScript (to block unwanted ads, twiddles, and hacks).

tasktasktaskThen Flash, Acrobat, and Quicktime had to be downloaded and installed so that all web pages would work. I have a license for QuickTime Pro, and created my first few simple videos with it. So I had to install and up-register it.

taskI tried to find new drivers for my fancy 2003 ergonomic Logitech 8 button optical mouse. But Windows 7 is not supported! The main function that I want is remapping the wheel button to double-click. This saves a lot of frustration, and who ever uses the default wheel-lock function? So I spent some time searching and found XButtonMouse, a simple to use 64/32 bit mouse driver modifier. Now I have the middle-double-click that I’ve been using since Windows 3.11.

taskI cannot live without Notepad++, a free and universal text and programming editor. This is what I use to create my web pages since SideKick, Notepad, and KEdit.

taskOne very important thing was to “differently able” the capslock key. I wrote about this in my post Die, Caps Lock, Die! a couple of years ago, and so was able to easily find the script to kill capslock and let the Scroll Lock key be useful for that rarely needed and often mis-tapped function. If anyone has ever had a use for Scroll Lock, please describe it in a comment.

tasktaskConnecting and installing my laser and ink jet printers went pretty well. I was surprised that it went as easily as the instructions would have me believe. That hardly ever happens! But this is the first computer I have owned that does not have a Centronics parallel printer port. USB2 is almost as fast, and uses less space.

taskThen I had to install and upgrade Quicken to continue keeping track of where it all goes.

taskAnd I need The Gimp (an open source PhotoShop). This time I am planning to let ThumbsPlus fall by the wayside

taskAnd then we get to OpenOffice, because if I tried to edit a document of pretty much any type, this system wanted me to buy Microsoft Office. I detest The Ribbon, and don’t plan to use Office. Thanks to SourceForge for this ever more capable and permanently free and perpetually updated suite.

taskI did download and install Microsoft Live Mail, as the heir apparent to Outlook Express that I’d used since the late 1990’s. And spent considerable time trying to get it to do some things, and researching it. But in my household this won’t work, mainly because it does not allow multiple mail log-ins under the same Windows User. There is another paragraph later about the multiple task of importing two separate sets of email across three programs and two computers.

taskFinally, it was time to download my Video Editor, the purchase of which actually convinced me to buy this new machine. I’d spent some time fighting with a few free editors, and I already had a library of videos composed on MoviePlus 5.0 and then X3. So now I upgraded to MoviePlus X5. Another several hour download. This will probably get installed last.

tasktasktaskMeanwhile, I managed to get some old games copied over. It had to be done in stages, but now the classics Doom2/ZDoom (with hundreds of levels downloaded over the years), Pinball, and the original Snood are on our new Win7 machine. Doom2 and Snood I’d bought long ago, and Pinball came with WinXP and Win98 and Win95), for which I retain a slightly dingy license by keeping original disks.

Getting late on the second night since the machine arrived.

taskSo the third day was mostly spent on getting email moved over. Why such a big deal? Two work-from-home professionals with multiple businesses and interests who need separate email log-ins, but like to share a desktop. Altogether, thousands of old emails that might still be relevant.  I had done Windows Live Mail before, and found it wanting. So I installed and researched Mozilla Thunderbird. But it took a bit more research to figure out how to cleanly set Thunderbird up in a manner functionally like how we’d been using Outlook Express since the 1990’s. My foray into the Microsoft offering turned out to not be of any use, except to educate me on how competing products extract information from the legacy apps.

tasktaskSo I moved the monitor cord back to the old machine, and reconfigured Outlook Express to default to the email folders and accounts of my spouse, to collect her data. Then I installed Mozilla Thunderbird on the old machine and imported the many folders of email and addresses and so forth. The I had to spent some time rearranging stuff and testing. One problem was that many emails were redundantly downloading. Aarghhh! Not a surprise, but certainly a nuisance. But, wait! ThunderBird is open source! When there is a problem, someone fixes it. I looked, and there was an add-on to remove duplicate messages from a folder, with all sorts of checks and safeguards. Yay!

tasktaskNow to get the old data for the new program from the old to the new machine. Again, the free software community to the rescue. MozBackup is not by Mozilla, but another freeware provider. But it allows each person’s email log in identity (called a Profile in Thunderbird) to be separately exported and/or imported. So I installed it and used it on the old machine. Moved the cables, and then installed Thunderbird and MozBackup on the new machine, and only had a half hour of tweaking to get the new machine to do what the old one did, as far as spouse data goes. Then I imported my own 7 email accounts and 15 folders into my own login. It would be so much simpler, if only I didn’t know from experience that access to orders, or ideas, or causes, etc from several years ago is very useful.

taskThen I realized that I had to install more stuff to do web site development on this machine. I put in Active Perl so that I can develop and test cgi pages. I will also have to rewrite certain VB utilities I’ve been using in Perl. I could use Java, but I don’t have the time right now to teach it to myself. Perl will require a certain amount of configuration before I install a web server to use it.

taskAnd I had to find and install MoveIt Freely, because the Windows FTP command line utility does not handle secure nor the passive mode, required by Google for MrTitanium to upload his items. Plus there was the minor chore of rewriting my script files to use this command for the aid of myself and my clients.

taskAfter a little searching, I found that Win7 Home Premium comes with a web server. But IIS7 comes neither installed nor exactly easy to find. But a little Google led me to the right corner of the advanced settings, and I should be able to test my websites locally. Should. It turns out that the sites I inherited from earlier developers use what is now considered a denigrated scripting system, Classic ASP. It took some tweaking to get the new server to run the older style pages. Then a series of unfortunate events, each requiring some tweaking before I could get my normal working environment working.

Now it is the third sunset since I got the box.

taskSo on day 4, after some more adjustments to email filters and such, I finally install MoviePlus X5. It installed just fine, and looks as good as earlier version. But it runs so much more smoothly on this new box.

However, the reason I got on this ride is because the earlier MoviePlus version couldn’t update an earlier video I’d developed on X3 because of a new conflict with QuickTime, the format of raw video coming off of some of my cameras. The new version does run QuickTime again. However, not in old movie edit files. I would have to re-edit in every piece of QuickTime video, when I just wanted to fix one letter in one caption.

Yes, all this started with a typo!

See if you can spot it:

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2 Responses to “Sometimes “Some Assembly Required” is Scary”


  1. 1 Dan Klarmann August 25, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    This detailed post and all the links is here in part to remind me of what I need to do each time I upgrade. I hope I did not put too many of you to sleep.

  2. 2 Helen August 25, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    unless you’re moving it out of a closet, i found your typo …


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