Getting an iMac

Over the past year I’ve been thinking about getting a new PC for the family.  The current Dell Dimension 8200 (almost 10 years old) was having a hard time running Windows XP and all the patches and security to keep it mostly virus and malware free.  I installed Ubuntu 11.10 server on that Dell PC and turned it into a media server and backup storage device.

So what to get for the family?  I could go with another Windows 7 PC and have the option to have more virus and malware installed every time the kids go to one of their kid friendly sites.  My wife might need Windows 7 for remote access to work, plus it’s a familiar interface for everyone.

I could go with Linux OS such as Ubuntu 11.10, Linux Mint 12 (when it is available), or some other disto.  But the problem with Linux for the family, a whole bunch of kid websites just don’t work with Linux.  For example, Cartoon Network has some pretty cool games, but most of the games will not work in Linux.  Those games require different engines such as Unity (not to be confused with Unity for Ubuntu).  Also, many games that I like to play are not available in a Linux environment.  I tried running Windows XP in a VM, but the performance is terrible and the games require high-end video cards which you never see in a VM.

My buddy at work suggested getting an iMac.  The first thing that went in my mind, “How am I going to afford that?”  Turns out the entry level iMac is within my budget.  So I stopped at the local Apple Store and took a look.  Usually I’m in there for a few minutes with the kids to kill time while my wife is shopping.  Now I had time to shop.  As usual I was assaulted but several employees right away.  But I needed time to look over what they had and get some ideas before I would talk with someone.

Steve, the sales person, saw I was ready to have my questions answered.  After a few minutes of talking about my concerns and what I wanted to accomplish, Steve unlocked the iMac and let me install some of the games from Cartoon Network.  Out of all my years in IT, from selling to support, I’ve never heard someone say let’s unlock the computer and install the web apps you mentioned.  So I played some of the Cartoon Network games. I was hooked.  Just need to upgrade the memory from 4GB to 8GB.  The Apple memory is expensive.  Looks like I’ll be checking on-line for a better price.

Now, what am I going to do about some of the Windows only applications I need?  I will keep my notebook PC as a dual boot between Windows 7 and Linux (not sure about keeping Ubuntu).  Maybe I’ll install VMWare Fusion, VirtualBox, Parallels or Bootcamp for my Windows needs.  I doubt I’ll ever break away completely from Windows.  Too many applications I need for Windows for my job.

So this Christmas Santa will deliver a new computer for the family.  It will meet the needs of my family, address my concerns, and also give me a little education in the Mac world.

Now, what book should I get…

Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2

Recent PCs meeting the minimum hardware requir...
Image via Wikipedia

So Microsoft finally released Sp1 for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.  I am going to wait on installing SP1 on my home notebook, and my three Windows 7 x32 and x64 PCs for at least a week or two.  Why??  I need to ensure SP1 will be stable before I install it on my PCs.  If someone asked me to install it on their PCs, I would recommend they wait.  And no matter what, ALWAYS make a full system backup.

Here are a few links which you may have already been to regarding SP1.

I am still amazed about the size of SP1 for x64.

Ubuntu 10.10 on Work Notebook

Last year when a new IT Service company took over the contract from another IT Service company I was working for, they issued a new Dell Latitude E6400 notebook to each of us.  This PC is not the beefiest notebook from Dell, but this is not a review of the PC.   The notebook specs are:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo P8700 @ 2.53GHz
  • 2GB RAM (upgraded to 4GB by employer)
  • Intel Video
  • 14″ Screen
  • SD Card Reader
  • Intel network

The PC came with Windows 7 x32, Symantec EndPoint 11, MS Office 2007, and a few other applications.  Being a good IT technician, I used Symantec Ghost to create a backup image the day it was delivered.  At first I left the PC as is and installed a bunch of software to support the client.  After a year of hard use, computer was having problems booting or just being stable.  In no way is this a bash of Windows 7.  I like Windows 7 but the system needed a rebuild and it was time to try something that’s been on my mind.

After sending an e-mail to my manager asking for access to the ftp server to download MS Office 2007 and Symantec EndPoint 11, I wiped out the HDD and installed Ubuntu 10.10 x64.  With a 64 bit OS, I can use the full 4GB of RAM.  Just like before, installation took about 20 minutes, and everything worked without having to install additional drivers.  Since the client I’m working for has started to roll out Windows 7 x64, I wanted the same for my VM.  Running Windows 7 x32 would be all that I need for the VM, but as I found out over the last 5 months, some applications that work in the 32bit environment will not work in a 64bit environment.  Sometimes you need the native 64bit software to install or work correctly.

So I chose VMware Player to run Windows 7 x64.  The VM is configured for 2.5 GB of RAM, 2 processors, with the NIC configured at bridged for DNS registration.  After activating Windows 7 x64, the system was ready for MS Office 2007 and Symantec EndPoint 11.  While waiting for may manager, I installed Banshee, Filezilla, Terminal Server Client, Google Chrome, Adobe Air, Tweetdeck, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Gimp, Skype, VLC, Ubuntu Tweak, Shutter, modified my Pictures Screensaver, plus a bunch of minor configurations I use for Ubuntu.  After several days of using Outlook Web Access (OWA), I finally received my email with the server information and software keys.

So now I am supporting my client with Ubuntu 10.10 x64 at work.  I can honestly say Ubuntu is ready for the IT professional in a real world environment.  I have three different Microsoft Windows vms for supporting two non-trusting domains, covering x32 and x64 operating systems.  Due to the limited resources on my notebook, I can only run one VM at a time, but that’s OK.  There is a second Linux computer constantly running a Windows XP x32 OS which I use to manage one of the domains.

The nice thing about my setup is the dual monitors.  The default screen is the notebook display, the second screen I use for my VMs or if I need to focus on a particular task.  I usually run Banshee and Empathy IM on the small LCD, Tweetdeck minimized, and Google Chrome for all my personal stuff.  Terminal Server Client is used to connect to the three Windows 2003 or 2008 severs I support orto VNC into a Windows XP workstation.  Plus the other techs at work were impressed with what I accomplished.

So give Ubuntu or any Linux distro a shot at work for a month.  If you plan it a little, you can have your system running Linux with a VM or two to meet your clients needs.

Playing a Game from 1988 on VM in 2011

An Apple IIe with DuoDisk and Monitor //.
Image via Wikipedia

Tonight I read a post on about the Apple IIe.  The Apple IIe was our family’s second computer my dad purchased back in 1984 or 1985.  I remember the night my brothers and I drove out to the Apple dealer on the far side of Pittsburgh, PA.  If I remember correctly, it was past Green Tree Hill.  The post on started reminding me of all the great times I had with that Apple IIe.  Here are the specs:

  • CPU: 65C02 @ 1.02MHz
  • 128k RAM
  • Mouse single button
  • Duodisk 5 1/4″ floppy disk drive
  • Apple Color Dot Matrix printer (unknown model)
  • 1200 bps modem (unknown model purchased about 2 years later)
  • Green mono-color monitor with tilt action

So I went to Google and searched for Ultima V Warriors of Destiny, and found some pictures of the game.  And I thought to myself, “Oh, so that’s what it would have looked like in color.”  One of my children came over and saw the screen and asked what I was looking at.  So I explained to him about the game I used to play back in 1988 and I wished I could play it again.  We did find a video of Ultima III Exodus and while the video was playing he said it looked cool and he wanted to try it too.  So I sent him off to bed and I started reading on how I was going to play this game again.

I knew that VMware Player was going to be the tool of choice.  I just needed a few things like MSDOS 6.22 in a preferred ISO format, a way for VMware Player to see the files, oh and the game itself.  Well finding the game, manuals, maps, and scanned copies of the front and back of the box, and MSDOS 6.22 was easy.  So I created a VM with 1GB HDD, 16MB RAM and a single processor (all over kill but who cares, it is a VM.)  I set the MSDOS 6.22 ISO as the CD-ROM and booted from it.  I was able to fdisk and create a C: drive and rebooted.  I formatted the C: with the /s parameter copied over all the files from the CD-ROM, and rebooted into the VM BIOS.  I changed the boot order to so the HDD would boot first instead of the CD-ROM.  So now I have a VM of MSDOS 6.22.

But I could not figure out how to get the seperate files from the game into the VM.  Remember this is MSDOS6.22 without any network support, just a base OS.  A little more research brought me to a blog on WordPress which explained to me how to create a .IMG file. The part of that post which helped was was Creating the image:.  Now I have a .IMG file of Ultima V Warriors of Destiny.  That IMG file can be mounted as a floppy drive in VMware Player. From within the VM, just change to drive A: and run ultima.

Here are a few screen shots of the VM with the game when it first starts.

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