Back from the dead

My computer has returned from the dead. I wiped the system disk on Monday and installed Windows XP. My next step was going to be to connect to the internet and run Windows Update to get SP2 and then the 90+ patches since SP2, and hope that my router was enough to protect my unpatched machine from hackers while I did this. But I heard on a Security Now! about a handy tool (Note: web site is in German) that lets you download all of the available Windows patches on a machine already connected to the ‘net, burn a CD, and then use that CD to install all the patches on the new system in one shot. Great idea, right? If only. I downloaded everything on my work machine, burned a CD, and brought it upstairs to the new machine. I tried it a number of times, and it just kept telling me that there was something wrong with my system. The message was in somewhat broken English, so I couldn’t tell exactly what was wrong. I thought maybe it required SP2 to be installed, though I was under the impression that SP2 was part of what this tool would install. I downloaded XP SP2 on my laptop and burned a CD with that, installed that, and then tried to run the update CD again, but still nothing. So much for that idea.

I installed the old Linksys network card and it connected to the wireless network immediately. I then had to revert back to my original strategy of connecting to the net and downloading the patches through Windows Update. It downloaded zillions of patches over the next few hours, but eventually it was up-to-date.

My next challenge was iTunes. As I mentioned before, I was fully ready to have to wipe my iPod, spend hours copying directories from the old iTunes directory into the new one, and then resync everything. But a comment from cahwyguy (thanks!) pointed me at a tool called CopyTrans that would repopulate iTunes from an iPod. I first renamed my old iTunes directory as a backup, then installed iTunes and ran CopyTrans. I plugged in my iPod and it sucked down everything, though it took over 12 hours to do this. After copying the data, it then spent over an hour adding each song individually to iTunes. iTunes didn’t seem to like copying the files that I had purchased from the iTunes store so I had to restore them from the backup CD I had made before. It was a long process, but when I plugged the iPod into iTunes, it synced my purchased songs again, the latest podcasts, and that was it. Snaps for CopyTrans!

Note that the version you download is the free trial version, and to get the full version you have to register. I wondered what the difference was between the two (i.e. do I need to register, or will the free version do what I want?), but there was no answer to this question on the website. Correction: there was no useful answer — this exact question appeared in their FAQ:

Q: What is the difference between the trial and the full version?
A: The trial and the full versions are the same file. The difference is that the full version has been unlocked thanks to an activation code…

OK, thanks, but that didn’t answer the real question: what can the registered version do that the trial version cannot? Luckily, the nagware dialog in the program itself answered that question. In case you’re interested, the free version will only copy up to 100 files. Since I had over 6000 files to copy, I had to register it, but this only cost about $10 so that was no big deal.

The machine is pretty much back now. I still have some more software to install, but the big things are there. The problems I was trying to solve in the first place (the wireless network issues) are mostly gone, but I’m still seeing network drops. For a while the other day, the network would drop, then it would reconnect again right away, only to drop again 10 seconds later. I was doing non-network stuff at the time so it didn’t matter, but it must have gone on for half an hour, dropping and reconnecting repeatedly. Other times over the last couple of days I haven’t seen it drop at all. I don’t think it’s a signal strength issue, because when it does connect, the signal strength is “very strong”. I tried unplugging the cordless phone in the office to see if that was interfering, but it seemed to make no difference.

I think my next strategy for dealing with this problem is “live with it”. If it gets worse I may have to alter that strategy, but I think it’ll work for now.


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