Friday, December 08, 2006

Blueprint For XP Reinstall

Blueprint For XP Reinstall

This is my blueprint for reinstalling Windows XP Professional on my ThinkPad.

By way of background, I bought this computer about 18 months ago and havew already restored it to factory conditions five times.

By trial and error, I have found that this lousy operating system, the worst of the worse, works better if it is NOT run as Windows would have you run it.

So, in opting to reinstall yet again, I will be choosing NOT to permit indexing, NOT to permit system restore and NOT to permit automatic updates.

A basic principle of computing is that when you hit trouble you should simplify the system. Taking the three steps above makes for a system that, critically, runs without getting waterlogged (usually XP runs slower and slower the longer it has been since it was installed).

As I will be reinstalling from the secret partition that IBM supplies with the ThinkPad, which will involve formating the space in which XP will be installed, I will lose all my data. To get round this problem I have already backed up my key stuff on CD and DVD. Just before reinstalling, I will put my entire MY DOCUMENTS folder on my detatchable USB hard drive, which has a capacity of eighty gigabytes (versus the thrity gigs on my hard drive).

I bought this computer in New Zealand last year, and initially went to IBM's main office in Auckland and asked if I could buy a computer. I got an exceedingly snooty reply from a person at the reception desk. My question was, evidently, totally inappropriate. It was as if I'd made the blunder of asking if she was available for a soap bubble bath and a rub down afterwards.

No, IBM emphatically does NOT do anything as tasteless as actually selling computers. Rather, they "partner" with people who do the dirty work for them, which meant, in practice, that I had to get on a bus and go out to the suburbs, where an Irish salesman sold me a low-end ThinkPad.

Although I was buying at the low end of the market, I went for an extra half a gigabyte of RAM.

"What do you need that for?" he said.

"I don't need it," I said. "I want it."

This was a good decision because it means that tasks such as defragmenting the hard disk really fly. Also, the computer can multitask like crazy, no matter what load I'm putting on it.

(I think I've written somewhere that I bought a whole extra gigabyyte of RAM, but, when I look at what MY COMPUTER shows, I have 1.24 GB of RAM on board, which I think means I only bought half a gig.)

There were some initial problems with the computer.

First, the courier company reported that my parents' address at 27A did not exist. They were the first people to ever fail to find it. I remonstrated with the salesman and he promised that a fresh courier mission would be attempted.

The fresh mission was attempted while I was in hospital for chemotherapy, and, in my absence, my parents signed for the computer, marveling at how small it was.

It was so small because it was not my computer. Rather, it was a DVD player addressed to someone else in a completely different part of Auckland.

Finally, the salesman brought the computer round himself, delivering it personally with a bottle of cleap bubbly (which was nice) together with a totally inappropriate additional present (I forget what, exactly, but it was something in the order of a packet of m and ms, or something like that).

Setting up the computer was no problem, but the CD worked erratically, often failing to burn data using the software supplied with the system.

I had an international 12-month warranty, so I phoned the necessary number and got put through to Australian call center, where I gave the details.

(In addition to an international warranty, the computer came with one of IBM's international transformers, which will eat any kind of electricity from 100 to 240 volts, and will accept current at either 50 or 60 cycles per second. When I got to Japan I needed to buy an adaptor plug from the electronics shop Bic Camera to match my New Zealand plug to a Japanese socket, but then I was in business. Here in Tokyo, the current is 100 volts at 50 cycles a second but down in Osaka it's at 60 cycles a second.)

A courier promptly uplifted the computer and then nothing happened for the longest time. I finally phoned the service center and it became clear that the guy in Australia had failed to pass on the details that I had given, the key detail being that the CD drive was defective.

Having been pointed at the problem, the technicians replaced the faulty drive and the computer has worked fine since then. True, one of the keys has fallen off the keypad, but it is only the key for the backslash and question mark, which I don't use a lot.

Other than that, the computer has done well, and has survived my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter's hammering. She has been doing creative writing with Microsoft Word with the font bumped up to 600 point. A sample of her free association is as follows:

"0 ssssssssssssssssss //////////////////"

In the course of her hammering, she somehow awakened to life the dreaded Microsoft paperclip, which I had slain, but which she had reincarnated.

When I reinstall, I will not bother with Microsoft Word but will associate Word documents with OpenOffice 2.0, which can manipulate and produce a range of Word documents. Because I will not need to register my copy of Word, I will not need to go online during the setup phase.

I don't know if XP usually requires Internet validation, but certainly the version that I will be installing from my IBM partition does not.

Because formatting the hard disk will wipe out all traces of everything that was installed before, I will be free to use, once again, programs which you are only permitted to use for a limited period before paying for them. This is not a big point because most of the software that I am using is freeware.

Things that I paid for include my UltraEdit text editor, Encarta and Microsoft Photo Premium 10.

The last was in with a set of disks that I bought because I wanted Microsoft Word, and I didn't think I would ever use it. But it has proved very useful, and it is the program that I have used to make all the covers for all the books that I have published with

The great point about Microsoft Photo Premium 10 is that you can make collages freely by mixing and matching any image formats that you happen to have to hand. If you want to make a collage from a bitmap image and a jpeg image, that's no problem.

What follows from this point on is my notes for the installation. The last time I reinstalled XP I remember it took forever to figure out how to do everything, so this time I have prepared a blueprint for an install.

The guide below is for my use and would, I am sure, NOT be approved by Microsoft, which suggests that you enable system restore so you can work around the fact that the OS which they have foisted upon you is inherently unreliable and is guaranteed to trash at least part of your software.

(In my case, the pieces of software which have malfunctioned while running under XP include UltraEdit, Mozilla and Microsoft's own Paint program.)

If it wasn't so easy to restore my computer to factory conditions then I wouldn't be so cavalier about switching off System Restore.

Even though it's easy, it is a hassle, and took me about three days the last time I did it.

What follows, then, is my notes, which are optimized for my prejudices. I want a system which is lean, which is clean, and which is optimized for my trashed vision.

Consequently, I will be enabling magnification when using my track point; I will be setting up Mozilla to provide me with an austere monochrome display which deletes most of the fancy garbage with which arty web designers load the Internet; and I will be replacing Microsoft's totally inadequate desktop clock with TClockEx.

Just the other day I Googled TClockEx to see if there was a new version and I saw someone dis the old version, saying that, okay, it worked fine back in prehistory, but this is now and you need a better clock.

I don't think you do.

I've installed TClockEx on my Windows XP Professional system and it's working just fine. Though where you could get it these days I don't know. I pulled this piece of freeware off a set of utility disks that I bought some years back, loaded with software that I sometimes used on Windows 98.

As should be clear from the above, what follows is my personal advice from me to me, and it would necessarily be advisable for anyone else to follow this strictly personalized advice.

Once again, I make the point that the way in which I will be setting up my computer is emphatically NOT the way in which Microsoft would want you to set up yours.

The tasks I want my computer to do are text-based editing, book cover production, playing mp3s (I have gigabytes of music plus a very large audio book collection), sending e-mail, answering dictionary questions, answering basic encyclopedia questions when I'm not online, doing Google research when I am online and displaying photographs.

The install does not feature any digital camera software because I don't need any. The Canon camera which I and my wife jointly own comes with a compact flash card. I splashed out and bought one which holds half a gig of pictures, and, with the help of the appropriate card, the compact flash card can be plugged into a slot in the side of the ThinkPad, where it configures itself as an extra disk.

This makes getting photos off the camera very easy. As for viewing the photos, for that I use Irfan View. My daughter uses it, too, hammering away at the space bar to jump from picture to picture while Madonna plays over the computer's speakers.

I also need to FTP my various sites, and for this purpose I use Filezilla. And I use Httrack to copy websites. And I will be using Google Desktop Search, too. But the old version, thank you very much, not the new version with Google gadgets.

With that preamble, for what it's worth, here are my installation notes, the blueprint for what I hope to accomplish some time reasonably soon, by January or February at the latest.

The notes pick up from the point where you have already reinstalled (on my ThinkPad, press the "Access IBM" button as your computer boots then follow the instructions), and have clicked through the preliminary pages that you get to after XP first boots, and now have a living computer on which you can go to work.

The stuff is in order, with the first thing I plan to do right at the top and the second thing next in line, and so forth through to the end.

I will be enabling East Asian Languages because I need to read the Chinese characters and the Japanese script which show up on Japanese-language web pages that I use, such as the compute-your-train-travel program at You can get Enlish-language pages that do this but, since much of the signage in Japan is Japanese, it's smarter to travel with a Japanese-language print out, always assuming that you can read Japanese, which I can, at least at the train station platform signage level.

* * *

# Switch off "System Restore." (MY COMPUTER -> PROPERTIES -< SYSTEM RESTORE and check "Turn off System Restore."

# In MY COMPUTER go to "properties" for the hard drive and uncheck "Allow Indexing Service to index this disk for fast file searching."

# Switch off live update. MY COMPUTER -> PROPERTIES -> AUTOMATIC UPDATE and choose "Turn off Automatic Updates."

# Set up desktop.

# Appearance: Windows Classic. Option: Extra Large. Color quality: medium, 16 bit. Screensaver: My Picture Slideshow (set at 10 minutes).


# SETTINGS -> CONTROL PANEL -> MOUSE -> POINTERS. Choose Windows Inverted (extra large) (system scheme)

# pointer options: show location of pointer when I press CTRL key.

# MOUSE -> TRACK POINT. And here is the "magnifying" option that some helpful person emailed me about, but which I could not find on my START menu. You choose MAGNIFYING GLASS which enables the center mouse button as a magnifying glass ... if you use the middle mouse button, then you see a small patch of magnification where the cursor is ... wherever the mouse cursor is, that is where the magnification is ... then you can click on SETTINGS and can choose the zoom ... I tried the maximum, 8x. You can also customize the area. I chose LARGE ... but that didn't work very well ... tried 2xZoom (the default) ... and tried CUSTOM WIDTH 120 x 160 ... then tried 660 x 440 ... then tried 1024 x 768, ie the size of the LCD screen ... this did NOT enlarge the whole screen but only a portion of it ... so tried 660 x 440 again ... this is a bit weird, works inconsistently depending on whether you are using it on an area of text or on some of the menu options at the top of the screen. Opened an OpenOffice ODT file to see if the magnification would work within that format, and it did. Tried it on the menu on my copy of WinAmp, and it magnified the song titles perfectly.
This is a great option for visually disabled people. But, if you're using an IBM ThinkPad, you have to know that the magnification option is hidden under MOUSE -> TRACK POINT.

# MOUSE -> TRACK POINT -> ACCESSABILITY -> CROSS HAIR CURSOR. This is pretty cool. If you sit and do nothing, cross hairs leap into action on the screen showing where the mouse cursor is. A hugely obvious set of crosshairs, at last a solution to the "find-the-mouse-cursor" problem. This could get annoying and I might want to switch it off. But, still, a great option to have ... you can adjust the idle time, so I adjusted it all the way up to twenty seconds.

# SETTINGS -> FOLDER OPTIONS -> GENERAL. Use Windows classic folders. Open each folder in the same window. Just a single click to open, thank you very much. Underline icon titles only when I point at them.

# Install TClockEx, accepting the defaults. This adds the date to the wretchedly useless XP clock. The dratted clock will display the date for a few seconds if you mouse over it. But then, if you mouse over it a second time, it refuses to show it again. You saw it, didn't you? No, I didn't. I was reaching for my magnifying glass. By contrast, the TClockEx, a freeware item I used to use when running Windows 98, is easy to see with my computer spectacles, no magnifying glass required.

# Install FreeTime, a stopwatch which, again, I used to use with Windows 98. When you minimize this, it is still visible in one of the boxes which display the titles of programs you are currently using. This is a nice simple time tracker.

# Install NoteTab. VIEW -> OPTIONS gives you colors, shortcut menu (for right click), and DOCUMEnt (VIEW -> OPTIONS -> DOCUMENT) gives you a button to click for FONT and a box to click for WORD WRAP.
Note (and I haven't noticed this before) on the VIEW -> OPTIONS -> DOCUMENT panel there is a pull-down menu for the format for SAVE, the default being ORIGINAL, but option including DOS/Windows and Unix. I've been using Courier New, bold, 36 point. Have been fooling around with some color schemes and find I like pink (top right box in the color-choosing panel) with black font.
Note that DOCUMENTS has a "Use as Paste Board" option which accumulates everything you copy and paste.
My copy of NoteTab is the light version which does not include all the bells and whistles but which has the advantage of being free.

# Install UltraEdit. The defaults I have been using are no backups (don't want to backup my password file, don't want spare copies of that on my computer), font bold Courier New 36 point, colors as default colors, keys modified with ADVANCED -> CONFIGURATION -> KEY MAPPING so F5 is SAVE AS and F9 is REPLACE.
When I set up ADVANCED -> CONFIGURATION -> TOOLBAR after a factory reinstall, I think I should start by deleting all the icons on the toolbar then add the few that I use all the time, particularly SAVE ALL and FAVORITES.
ADVANCED -> CONFIGURATION -> EDIT options chosen: WORD WRAP ON, tabs set at 8 spaces.

# ASSOCIATIONS NOTE: I should associate txt files with UltraEdit because it is stable under XP when running text files. I should associate HTML files with NoteTab because NoteTab is stable when editing HTML files with XP. I should not associate HTML files with a browser because I spend a lot more time editing HTML files with a text editor than I do opening them with a browser.

# Install Mozilla and Firefox, both. Keep Firefox at its default settings. Modify Mozila with EDIT -> PREFERENCES where you select the home page ... note that there is a menu on the left ...
Click on the + of APPEARANCE to open the menu of options. FONTS. I've been using Serif as Times New Roman at 16 point and monospace as Courier New at 13.
For COLORS I've been using black text on a white background with USE MY CHOSEN COLORS, IGNORING THE BACKGROUND IMAGES SPECIFIED.
This deletes a bunch of the arty web designer junk that Internet pages are typically littered with, dumping the garbage into the garbage bin and creating a visual world which is lean, spartan, rational and ergonomically easier.

# Install WinAmp, Deep Ripper, Irfan View, Filezilla, dictionary (on CD).

# Install OpenOffice and associate Word files with OpenOffice as I do not plan to install Word.

# Install httrack, Encarta, Microsoft Photo Premium 10.

# Install Nero. Note: use the top install option, the first on the list, which will install the manuals along with everything else.

# Install AdAware Personal, Adobe 7.

# Install Analog. Note: on my software CD I have an unpacked version of this all ready to go, so simply copy it to disk and it is ready for use.

# Install PrintKey. Note that for XP I have to find the excutable, copy it to the desktop then click on it to launch PrintKey.

# Install ZoneAlarm.

# Install anti-virus software.

# Put mp3s onto hard disk.

# Put working files onto hard disk.


# Install Google Desktop Search and let the one-time indexing run. DO NOT permit this program to access the Internet. I want the old Google Desktop Search I had before, thank you very much, not the new-fangled one with Google gadgets attached.


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