Archives » February 9th, 2004

February 9, 2004

Pit stop on the upgrade road

I’m finally finished with the upgrade cycle at work. I never thought I’d reach a point where I was satisfied; it always seemed like upgrading workstations is the project that never stops. And I know I’m not done for good; sooner or later something will come up and I’ll get the urge to start the upgrade machinery once more. But this time I set myself a few goals, and thanks to a pretty sweet year-end budget, I was able to reach them all.

First thing I wanted to do was upgrade everyone to Windows XP Pro. A year ago we got our first copy of XP into the company. I immediately saw how many of the frustrations I had with 95 and 98, even 2000, just melted away under XP. Finally there was a version of Windows that felt like it was working with me instead of against me. It wasn’t until June that we bought a volume license and started rolling it out, and back then I didn’t think I’d be able to convert the whole company, even within a year. But in the last eight months 45 computers have passed across my workbench, each of them getting XP installed fresh (not upgraded), and then getting the attention needed to bring them as close as possible to the owner’s previous 98 setup. Installed programs, desktop icons, printers, mapped drives, I had to rebuild 45 personalized setups from scratch so that everyone would have the smoothest conversion possible. And I actually ended up with very few complaints from the users. Everyone seemed to take to XP just as smoothly as I had. Which I guess is a credit to Microsoft that they were able to come up with something that is so different from Windows 98 but feels so completely similar for novices.

Don’t get used to me complimenting Microsoft; it doesn’t happen (too) much.

The other part of the big upgrade project was new hardware for everyone. The ragtag band of machines that I had been nursing for the past five years consisted of many many computers that were here when I started, of which I had just upgraded the guts. New bottom-of-the-line motherboards, chips, and video cards thrown into rusty old cases, with no consistency across the organization. I was running an embarrassing number of Pentium 233s, and the AMD K62-400 was considered “mid-level”. Obviously, if I was to have even the smallest chance of rolling out Windows XP, that had to change.

I started by finding a fairly decent-looking and easy to work on case that I could buy in bulk. Then I picked out a motherboard that was reasonably-priced, but still powerful enough. I found the Gigabyte GA-7VKMLS (and later the GA-7VMKP, the DDR version) that would accept any Athlon up to 2400. And then I just started maxxing out my budget every month buying new hardware. Fast forward to now, and the company has 28 of those motherboard/case combos, with 17 of them running the Athlon XP 2400+. That’s the closest to standardization this company has ever seen. The rest of the computers are still a ragtag band, but a newer ragtag band, dominated by a clique of 9 FR33Es that I tried to standardize on a couple of years ago. That experiment died when I realized how foolish it was buying motherboards without onboard NICs, and that’s when I defected for Gigabyte.

So in the last three years, the company has basically seen a complete turnover of its computer hardware. Very few boxes from back then are still alive in the company. The only computer that’s still in use from when I started in 1999 is a 400MHz machine that the high school kids who empty the trash cans use to surf the web. Five years ago that was the brand-new, top of the line computer that everyone was envious of. Now it’s only being used because I had an unexpected hardware failure along the way and had to pull something off the scrap heap. I’m sure that compared to the IT department of some Fortune 1000 companies, my little story sounds pretty quaint and my “standard build” already outdated. But considering that last week I was finally able to retire the last AT style computer in the company, I’m feeling pretty accomplished right now. I feel like I have a well-rounded network; there have always been some machines at the bottom end that I was pretty embarrassed of. I couldn’t believe we were still running that junker. Well, I was finally able to get rid of the junkers. The computers now at the bottom were top of the line once in my tenure, and they’re still decent little workhorses. I mean, 500MHz may not be much, but it’ll run XP. And when an employee only works ten hours a week, how much do they really need? Finally I can be proud of my network – my whole network. It may be 2004, but I finally feel like RCI’s fully joined the 21st century.

My next project? Replace our Windows NT, Exchange 5.5 main server with Windows 2003 Server, Exchange 2003, and Active Directory. Should be a blast!!

BirdFoxFire… um…Fox

Get Firefox

The new version of Phoenix Firebird Firefox has been released. Version 0.8 of the Little Browser That Would Be Mozilla has come, after two months of wrangling over the new name. It definitely sounds like a name that was picked by committee. There’s even a FAQ about the new name.

But I hate the new name. It’s stupid.

Our editors are trying to figure out whether this is a question.

Ben Goodger explains the process behind coming up with a new name, but I thought the official roadmap said this project would ultimately be renamed Mozilla Browser anyway. So wouldn’t that make this whole naming flap moot? Or did they drop that idea in favor of Mozilla Firefox? Is there anything in the Mozilla organization that doesn’t change from week to week?

Hat tip: Craig Saila

Belated Ormsby

The king of procrastination is at it again. That’s why it is now February and I’m only just getting around to posting the December update to the Ormsby House Photo Gallery. I think there’s something to be said there about self-imposed deadlines.

Come back in April when I’ll be posting the January update.

December—Page 1 2 3 4.