June 23, 2007
It had been a while since I updated my CDR FAQ and a lot of things have
changed. DVDR has eclipsed CDR in popularity and economy per gigabyte of storage, for example. Also,
LightscribeTM has beome a
and a new format called Blu-rayTM
shows potential for becoming the defacto standard and
ultimately replacing both CDR and DVDR. So I wrote a new series of pages highlighting recent developments.
For a while I had thought about installing Windows XP and recent developments convinced me it was time to look into actually doing
it. I did not upgrade to windows XP when it first came out because I didn't like the idea of having to call Microsoft every time I
upgraded my motherboard and I didn't think it was any of their business either! I knew, however, that someday some hardware or
software I wanted to use would force me to take the plunge.
Originally I was going to upgrade my second computer to XP because a video card I wanted to use in it required 2000/XP and I thought
I would "try it" on my main computer. I had heard when XP first came out that it could be used on two different computers. That, as
it turns out, was only the "academic" version. The home version can be officially installed on only one computer.
The second computer was purchased for $75 from my former employer and in its former life it was running 2000 (before they wiped the
hard drives). Also, the video card had drivers for 2000/NT4 and made no mention of drivers for XP. This card has quad buffering and
a direct stereo output (for stereocopic shutter glasses) which is why I purchased it in the first place. The system requirements
say only that it requires a "Pentium" processor and makes no mention of speed so the 550Mhz Pentium III certinaly seemed to fit the
bill. It's 256 megs of RAM should certainly be fine for 2000 but might be a bit low for XP. Also, since it said it required Nt4/2000
it should work with XP but there was no guarantee. It seemed wise then to install 2000 on the second computer.
I purchased two 120GB Western Digital hard drives as part of this process. Originally I was going to do a clean install of the new
OS on one of them and run it on the second computer, but the 2000 disk was an upgrade and the second computer had over 25GB free
space on the C: drive so this wasn't really necessary. (I didn't do much other than watching webcams and sterescopic material with
it, so I didn't need a lot of space). This would allow me to use both 120GB WDs on the main comptuer.
The vesion of XP I purchased was a full install rather than an upgrade and I've always been told that you should always do a clean
install of XP anyway. Since I had a lot of stuff installed on this computer and it would take some time to port it all over to XP,
and I wasn't sure I would like XP, it would be necessary to go back and forth between XP and 98SE. But how would I do that?
I thought of 3 possible ways: #1 OS dual boot, possibly on the same hard drive #2 install XP on a seperate drive and use the CMOS
configuration to choose the boot drive as needed #3 Switch between the two hard drives using a rack. All of these approaches have
their pros and cons.
OS dual boot might sound like a simple solution and many people have done it over the years. Since I could easily clean up the C:
drive to get over 70GB of free space, there was plenty of space. But I have never tried this before and I've heard some chilling
horror stories from people who have. Also, it seems that XP and 98SE would wind up sharing files , complicating the process of
evenutally removing one of them, and a crash could wind up destroying both! I never seriously considered this option.
I had confirmed in the past that my CMOS could indeed boot from any hard drive in the system, including those connected to the
RAID controller, I could use the CMOS setup screen to switch back and forth. As I recall, the alternative boot drive would
switch places with the C: drive so that E: for example, would become C: and C: would become E:. I had actually made up my mind at
one point that I would do this but I saw some issues with this approach as well. First, it would require installing both drives in
the system at the same time, which would mean finding a place to mount the extra drive and would also cause additional strain on my
aging power supply which is of unknown wattage. (though this case was described as a "server" case so the PS installed in it is
probably 350W+) I also didn't like the idea of going into the CMOS every time I switched OS and it might be a problem
remebering which OS was currently active. Besides, it was still possible for a crash to wipe out both drives, leaving me without a
20+ years ago I noticed how few of the wires are actually used on an IDE connection and I came up with an idea of simplified
connector that would allow fast swapping of hard drives without opening up the computer. Several years later I found out that such
a product already existed. Ever since then I have been an advocate of the idea of hard drive racks even though I didn't own one. When
I considered how to switch back and forth bewteen 98SE and XP, it didn't take very long to conclude that using a rack was the best
way to do it. The one thing I wasn't sure about was how well the SMART would work on these drives so I feared it might be necessary
to copy the C: drive onto one of the 120GB WDs so that I'd have two identical hard drives to work with.
Having made my decision, I shelled out $22 for the rack and $15 for the extra tray (this model was chosen because it has two
cooling fans, one in the tray, despite the fact that cheaper models are available), and installed my hardware. After rearranging
a few things, I managed to get the DVD writer, the DVD ROM and the hard drive rack installed in my three 5.25" open bays.
I then installed my C: drive in the tray that came with the rack, pushed the tray in, turned on the computer and realized that the
tray wasn't pushed in properly. I turned the computer off, practiced taking the tray in and out and decided to proper procedure was
to push the tray in with the handle up, push the handle down and then, with the handle still pushed down , put the key in
the lock and lock the tray. This left the tray firmly locked in place and prevented the handle from being pulled back up.
I turned the computer back on and Voila! 98SE booted just fine. I left it running for a few minutes before shutting down and
putting the side panel back on the computer. I then proceded to install one of the 120GB WDs in the extra tray. I switched trays and
turned the computer back on, booting from the MAXBLAST4 CD. The drive was instantly recognized so I proceded to initialize it with
MAXBLAST4 and rebooted the computer. I then began installing XP.
XP found drivers for pretty much everything, lincluding, it appeared, the video card. When I got it installed I realized that my
250 GB HD and DVD writer weren't showing up under "My computer" and in the control panel there was a question mark by the RAID
controller. I put the CD for the card in the DVD drive and XP quickly found the driver and installed it. The question mark was gone
and the 250 GB HD (both partitions, more on that later) and the DVD Writer were now visible under MY computer, no reboot required!
When I went to change the video mode to my preferred mode of 1280x1024 with 32bit color I found that it wasn't listed under
The highest it would let me pick was 75Hz. Thinking the problem might be with the monitor, I tried changing the driver. No dice!
Then, looking "up" the list, I found that I could set it for 1280x1024 at 85hz if I changed the color mode to 16 bit. Since the
monitor obviously doesn't care what the color setting is set to, I tried different video drivers. No luck. To this day I am stuck
using 16 bit color. This doesn't look as bad as you might think, but it bothers me that XP won't let me use my chosen video mode
which works fine using the same hardware in 98!
Switching back and forth using the rack method worked out pretty well. SMART did the trick so I was able to do this with two
differnt hard drives (1 maxtor, 1 Western Digital) without changing anything in the CMOS. I marked the trays so I could tell which
was XP and which was 98 and so I can easily tell which one is currently in the rack when the computer is turned off.
As I port more programs over to XP I find myself working in XP more and more and not switching to 98SE very often. I fear, however,
that the next time I upgrade my motherboard I'll have to spend 2 hours on the phone with microsoft, cursing the kunucklehead on
the other end about the idiotic programmers who tried to solve an imaginary problem and created several real ones.