Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I Have Your Virtual PC Right Here.

So all of this confusion over XP mode in Windows 7 has really made my head spin. Do I purchase a business class notebook for thousands of dollars or do I purchase a less than personal use laptop that will run Windows 7 but not in XP mode for hundreds of dollars and possible still breaking a grand on the setup if I go for my dream machine????

I have my big desktop PCs that can run Windows 7 w/XP Mode and they work just fine. I also want a very small PC to be my laptop and break away from my need to keep a desktop replacement notebook of choice and leverage it for blogging, uploading photos on the run and surfing the web while I am not at home. So how do I accomplish that without breaking my back and the bank at the same time? Well that would be a netbook.

The quest actually began with the desire to get a 13" MacBook or a Lenovo Thinkpad X200, but those two PCs are quite expensive and the Lenovo does not even include a DVD/CD drive. So the home market PC became the avenue of choice, but HP and Dell just did not have the combination of size and power that I wanted. The HP DV2 was as close as they came, but I was very uncertain of the AMD Neo Duo chip that does support virtualized PCs, but does not have the power to run multiple applications at once. Dell had a couple of options, but they had Intel processors that were unknown to me and for the money, I wanted a piece of hardware that had a bit of a track record.

Now, truth to be told, I really thought that the 12" screen was a bit big for what I wanted in my new mobile workstation. For that matter, I thought that the 11" netbooks that are all the rage would also be a bit big for what I wanted. So I started looking at the different stores and was trying to see what was available for the money that would fit the bill and suit my needs. The Intel Atom processor at 1.6 GHz was going to be enough to do what I needed considering its power level to PCs that I have owned in the past. The Intel 945 chipset for graphics was also going to be more than adequate because this computer is going to be frozen at the XP level for backward compatibility down the road. And the 10" screens was more than large enough to handle the work that I want to do on this PC. If I need a big screen for a big spreadsheet, I have a pair of 24" monitors that can handle that work on my desktop. For my portable work, I need as small as I can get. And battery life is not a "must", but it would be nice to get more than two hours out of the life of the battery.

The answer came when I found the Acer Aspire One netbook with an 8.9" screen. I was lucky enough to get hold of a model that had a 160GB hard drive, a Gig of ram that is upgradeable, and a few other features (like multi touch track pad) that were rather desirable for a PC that was under $250.00. In fact, even with the carrying case, it was still under that price. Not too shabby considering that this is enough power to run Office 2003, MapPoint with a GPS dongle, and connect to any Bluetooth device that I have with my USB dongle. To say the least, I am quite pleased.

Now, I don't have to worry about having virtualization as a process that is activated on my CPU because I have a tiny little virtual PC in my hands. I have to admit that the tiny keys are a bit tough to hit. Also, I had to remove a bunch of shovel ware include MS Office 2007 to get the little booger to not be too sluggish. I don't mind the extra weight of the 6 cell battery, but it added nearly a half inch to the thickness of the PC. And speaking of batteries, this netbook easily runs for 3.5 hours with most of the power saving features (like dim backlight and low power WiFi) disabled. Not a bad little computer. Most of all, coupling it with my 3G internet service makes it one of the best, most portable computing solutions that I have used.

Kudos to Acer for making the Aspire One a brilliant little computer. The screen is bright and crisp and the PC is rather fast for a micro machine. I am going to enjoy using this netbook for many years to come.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

XP Mode: I Love You, I Love You, Not

One of the biggest advantages of Windows 7 is that the Professional, Ultimate, and Enterprise versions come with the ability to run Microsoft's XP Mode virtualization software. So, we get the best of all worlds. The Windows 7 desktop, Vista Kernal, and the ability to run legacy enterprise software like TCF programs that require IE 6.0.

My first attempt at installing the software was a blazing success. I was able to create a 512 MB Windows XP machine that could use all of the internet connections within my primary test PC and run legacy enterprise software without any of the bugs that were present with Vista and hiccups using IE7 or IE8. Brilliant!

So, lets continue on this success and see where things go with a little less powerful PC and less robust version of Windows 7 (32 bit). Then the pain of of the upgrade began to hit home.


My first test was built around Monster PC which has an Intel Core2Quad Q6600 processor. Because this CPU was a "high end" processor in 2007 when I made the purchase, it supports virtualization. When I moved on to install on my backup box it would not work because I was running an E7200 Core2Quad CPU I purchased last summer for less than a hundred bucks which is considered an Intel entry level CPU which does not have the VT coding built into the CPU. So this means that my upgrade of SpareParts from a leftover E6400 processor (purchased in 2006 and supports VT) to the budget beater E7200 CPU (which is a Core2Quad CPU built with only 2 of the four cores present) I downgraded my CPU by upgrading in performance because of its placement in Intels CPU lineup at the time. I cannot say that I am mad, ticked, or any other means of angered, but I can imagine that IT pros are going to have a hard time trying to implement this technology in the enterprise where more times than we like to admit that budget constraints control the type of hardware that is purchased.

So where is this list of CPUs? Ed Bott did lots of research to put together a list of Intel CPUs and compatibility that can be found here. Page 2 has the desktop CPUs and Page 3 has Mobile processors.

Good luck with XP mode if you choose to make the adventure and may your CPU be compatible.