Desktop Revitalization: Episode 1 "Impressed"

Well, over the past month my frustration with my former desktop PC setup was building to a breaking point. I last installed Windows XP SP2 in approximately July 2006. Early on, I messed around with a bunch of drivers for reading Ext2 partitions and for getting my Netgear WG311v3 wifi PCI card working. Ultimately I found something that was “good enough,” but had a couple nasty bugs like: When you turn the PC on, it loads XP up to the point of displaying my wallpaper, and then freezes for about 30 seconds. If you pressed [Enter] on the keyboard, it immediately resumed loading and everything was happy. If you did not (for example, if you instead walked away), then Windows felt attention-deprived, and there was about a 50% chance the machine would hang completely requiring a hard reboot.

Annoying, to say the least.

So, after putting up with that for over a semester, my frustration finally built to the point that I spent the last week copying off all of my data, and last night wiped my drives clean. I also spent some time rolling a custom XP install CD using the amazing nLite utility, which allows you to slipstream hotfixes, PnP drivers, and text-mode drivers, so no more “F6 to install a third-party driver” from floppy disk (who even has those? I mean, besides nerds like me?), and no more “Windows Update found 68 critical updates for your computer.” Very nice.

So, I set up about 35 gigs for Windows XP, popped in the nLite disk, and went to bed. Oh, did I mention that it also fills in all those language/localization settings, network options, display resolutions, default passwords, etc, automatically? When I woke up, my fresh, clean Windows XP desktop was sitting there waiting for me. No more “Oh, just one quick question” in the middle of a 30+ minute installation. Also nice.

The main event, though, was Vista. I haven’t run Vista on this machine since Beta 2 testing for a Microsoft Install Fest this past summer, which I ultimately abandoned in favor of XP due to lack of drivers. So today, I gave Vista another go, using the Ultimate edition. Installation went without a hitch:

Now I’m starting to dig into Vista, and get some software, like Office 2007, up and running. One really cool feature that I didn’t understand the point of when I saw the beta, but kindof surprised me this time around: The Network Map that Vista displays in the Network and Internet Control Panel. For kicks, I set up my PCI wifi card (which Vista already had drivers for, btw), and then was digging around to try and figure out if Vista was using the wireless network or the wired to reach the internet. Here’s what I found:

Isn’t that sweet? I don’t have any idea how it identifies the presence of the switch in there, but that is exactly my setup: DHCP served by the router, cross-overed into a gigabit wired switch as the backbone for all wired communication (e.g., between Myth box and my desktop).

I guess most people probably wouldn’t see that as cool, but man, that was neat. How does it work?? I don’t think switches decrement TTL, do they? Hopefully by the end of CS640 I’ll know!

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