Shivering on the 49th Parallel
Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Back in January I posted a few articles about Windows 7 Beta and what it did to my laptop. It’s not Microsoft’s fault, it’s a combination of Dell and nVidia’s faults. It was the perfect storm: a known design flaw in the video card that affected a boatload of Dell, HP, Sony and Macintosh notebooks. On top of that was a poor design choice by Dell to not actually have contact between the overheating GPU chip and the copper heat pipe that’s supposed to cool it. On top of that was running a Beta OS. On top of that, using a pre-beta alpha-release of a driver for said beta os on a flawed laptop with a flawed GPU. A perfect storm.

While watching a video full-screen in Windows Media Player, the GPU overheated and blew up. Not only did it crash and blue screen and completely wipe out the running OS, but somehow it managed to overwrite the GPU BIOS! That shouldn’t be POSSIBLE, but it happened. The computer would boot up, just no screen. If I watched and waited for the hard drive to stop spinning away during bootup, typed my password and hit enter, it would log me in! I could HEAR the windows startup sound, but no video. No video on the external monitor or HDMI ports, either. Ultimately, because it was under warranty, Dell sent out a technician who replaced the whole motherboard, GPU included (although they replaced it with the same broke-ass GPU chip) so the story ended happily.

One of the things I noticed in the beta was the feedback system, which I used extensively (duh, that’s what betas are for) until I couldn’t. The big huge crash dump from the video card was never sent because after the motherboard was replaced, I was too scared to put the Windows 7 hard drive back in again. I figured I would wait until another beta (or RC) came out and hopefully there’d be a newer driver from nVidia available then, too.

On another note, there’s a way to use a clean, shiny penny to sandwich between the GPU and the heat pipe which drastically improves the transfer of heat to the heat pipe and can avoid just such an occurrence. (you can google nVidia GeForce 8400M GS Copper Mod to see for yourself). On the down side, doing so invalidates your warranty. I’ve refrained from doing it because of that, but when the warranty runs out, that’s on my to-do list for the very next day. Instead of doing a recall and replacing the bum chips (and the heat pipe while they were at it) Dell instead extended everyone’s warranty by 12 months, so if your laptop blows up (like mine did) you’re covered for an extra year.. but if it happens AGAIN after that period, you’ve got a dead laptop. No one else did anything better (HP, Sony, even Apple) so I don’t want to be TOO unfair and shit all over Dell only because they and their tech support have been very good to me over the years. No, really! :)

The Windows 7 RC is out today and will work (for free) until June 10th, 2010 or about 13 months. In the fine print is that starting 2 months before that, your computer will shut down every 2 hours as a warning sign that the expiration is imminent and that it’s time to get a properly licensed copy. Hopefully there’s an upgrade path so you can punch in a new product code and activate Windows without having to re-install with the release version. I can’t see myself NOT re-installing with 100% gold code, but I’m sure there will be people out there who have tweaked and modded their user profile and software set-up JUST SO and won’t relish the thought of starting over.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009 9:04:58 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [6] | Links | Tech | Microsoft#
Wednesday, May 6, 2009 8:01:05 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
I expect Microsoft will provide an in-place upgrade to the final gold version, but there will likely be at least a few changes after the RC, so I wouldn't bet on just entering a new reg code and being done with it. That said, if you're running a beta/pre-release OPERATING SYSTEM, I think you should be fully prepared to do a wipe and fresh install, and MS would be entirely within their rights not to offer any in-place upgrade at all.

By the way, if you're running the Build 7000 beta and want to upgrade to the RC instead of reinstall, it takes a bit of doing:
Wednesday, May 6, 2009 8:12:09 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Yeah I installed from scratch. I'm sure there are people out there who would like to do an in-place upgrade, but you're absolutely right: If you're running a pre-release you should be fully prepared to wipe & install (or nuke & pave as Bob calls it).
I haven't read that article, but it probably has to do with the USMT (User State Migration Tool) which has been part of the Enterprise toolkit for a little while now.
Thursday, May 7, 2009 10:29:49 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Actualy, now that I've read the article it looks even better than USMT. USMT is IT-Pro oriented for enterprise use, where the Windows Easy Transfer looks like they polished it up and made it more of a program for a mom or pop to use.
Monday, June 1, 2009 5:06:43 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Perhaps I'm stupid, despite being an IT pro for 15 years, but I've never managed to get the XP Home Easy Transfer tool to work. I've tried it a half a dozen times over the years and it always finds an excuse to fail. I've had limited success with its third party cousins but, transferring from one computer to another has remains a manual task for me that always works out best as a new install.
Saturday, October 24, 2009 10:39:18 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Hey Mark, I am coming home in January for a couple of weeks. I arrive on the 8th of January. Want to meet up for a drink or two while I am in Vancouver? I will be heading to a couple Canuck games while I am there. Will be going with Trevor Linden if he is in town (a friend of mine is best friends with his wife)

By the way, you don't update this site anymore?
Sunday, October 25, 2009 4:45:18 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Who is this? you didn't leave a name or anything. :)
I have been lax and let cobwebs grow on this site, it's true... I've been posting stuff on Facebook and Twitter instead. I might get inspired and start updating here again, too. Probably just more of the techy stuff though...
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