Posts Tagged ‘Windows 7’

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Driver to Distraction

November 19, 2012

Vista busy cursor  Another whinge, I’m afraid, this time about Canon and their failure to provide driver upgrades for older peripherals. I don’t want to be forced to buy replacements for ageing but perfectly serviceable peripherals, much as I can understand manufacturers wishing me to. At least there is a happy ending to this tale.

The device in question is Canon’s LiDE 50 scanner which I guess I acquired around 5 or 6 years ago. At that time I was running Windows XP. I think the driver support was there when I switched to Vista but recall having considerable difficulty getting the device to run on Windows 7. That would have been around March 2010, but I recently had the same issue again when wanting to use the scanner with a newish  Windows 7 Lenovo T430 laptop.

I remembered that on that occasion in 2010 I had been unable to install the driver from the supplied CD, tried the manufacturer’s website and discovered there was no Windows 7 driver available. I then did as anyone would (what you probably just did) and searched on the ‘net for a possible solution. What I found was that there was a Windows 7 driver for a slightly later model, the LiDE 60, which would still recognise and support my scanner.  I’m not certain where I came across that particular nugget but I still had the Canon driver on my desktop PC.  The latter originally came from here.

I thought it would just be a matter of running the SetupSG.exe file as administrator, but it simply did not run. I could see it was starting with a Winzip self-extract but the extracted driver install program would not launch and (oh so helpfully) the temporary files were deleted.  Googling for a solution brought me here. So it turns out that you have to install and use winRAR to do the extract then plug in the scanner, find it as an unsupported device in Device Manager, use the driver update utility and point it at the newly extracted driver file. The driver update hung on the first attempt, but mysteriously “took” on the second after a reboot.

I thought it would be plain sailing from there. The scanner was being recognised by the OS and was making scannerish noises on system boot up. But when I actually tried to scan an image into Photoshop it failed with the error message “The program can’t start because rmslantc.dll is missing from your computer”. Searching for a fix for that took me to Aaron Kelley’s blog. Thankfully, the remaining steps were not hard and well explained by Aaron. The scanner now works fine.

All the same, it was quite a job to get there, needing a number of steps, a lot of Googling and even more perseverance. It really should not be that hard.

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The Black Screen of Death

December 1, 2009

Vista busy cursor According to the BBC (and doubtless others) Microsoft are investigating a new phenomenon affecting Windows 7 which is being dubbed the “black screen of death”.

Oh ho, methinks! Did I not myself verily encounter a most unwelcome phenomenon with Windows about a month ago which I also chose to describe in those exact terms? Except that it was Vista that was getting stuck at a steadfastly black screen, not Windows 7. I now believe that problem arose because I had a dual-boot arrangement (Vista plus Windows 7) which had not been set up correctly, so that the two OSs did not recognise each other’s presence and therefore felt at liberty to interfere with each other’s file and disk security settings. This had robbed both OSs of permissions to load key system files with the result that Vista’s boot up sequence came to a premature halt with a black screen of death while Windows 7 succumbed to an infinite reboot loop. These problems disappeared completely after I reinstalled Windows 7 from scratch and used NeoSmart Technologies’ EasyBCD to set up the boot options menus correctly for both OSs.

I have no idea whether the black screen of death now being reported has anything at all to do with the problem I had with Vista, but I would not be at all surprised to learn it was connected with some automatic system meddling with file and disk permissions, either in relation to a dual boot setup or otherwise.

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Hasta la vista, Windows 7

October 30, 2009

Vista busy cursor For the second time in a matter of weeks I found myself unable to boot into Vista on my home desktop due to a file permissions problem. The tell-tale signs are becoming familiar. Boot-up starts as normal with the screen that has the pulsating green progress bar.

When that disappears we get a black screen and after a few seconds the mouse cursor appears in the centre. The disk continues to thrash for a few more seconds then settles, but we remain stuck looking at the mouse cursor on a black field. The black screen of death.

I believe the problem is that Windows has reached the point where it wants to write to the disk but is unable to because the file it is trying to access has been made read-only or otherwise had its permissions stripped away. You’d think that a booting OS would always have access rights but apparently not.

I wasted hours with Spinrite, thinking it must be due to a damaged sector. The only way out of this, short of a reinstall of the OS, is to boot up in a different OS, maybe on a different disk or from a CD, and then manually change the permissions on the files in the drive that won’t boot.

Ironically, it is the use of different OS’s on different disks on the PC that seems to be implicated in giving rise to the problem in the first place. Particularly if one of the OS’s is Windows 7, or at least the Release Candidate.

I have had two disks on my desktop for years. The larger one (250GB) is the Vista drive that came with the PC. I later added a 40GB drive salvaged from an older computer and for a long time had XP on it. I found I could switch between the two without problem. The BIOS allows you to choose which disk to boot from.

More recently, I used the 40GB disk to try out Windows 7 64-bit – first the Beta then the RC. All went well until my first “black screen of death” crisis. That sorry tale is recounted here. I blamed myself because I had meddled with the permissions on the Vista disk, but that was only to add permissions which seemed to have been “taken away” somehow without my intervention, making files inaccessible over the local network. I am starting to wonder whether Windows 7 was responsible in some way for messing with permissions on the Vista drive.

To my mind, an OS should not be making automatic file permission changes on other drives on the system. I’m not sure why but I suspect Windows 7 does this. The first black screen crisis was resolved when I booted in Windows 7 and could see that the Vista disk had been stripped of permissions. I added them back manually from within Windows 7 and was then able to boot back into Vista.

A second black screen crisis happened a couple of days ago. I had (as on the previous occasion) booted in Windows 7 to play around with a few 64-bit apps. I tried to uninstall an older 64-bit app but Windows 7 refused, claiming it could not locate the original MSI file. I then tried to return to Vista only to find I was back to my black screen of death. Worse, I could not get back into Windows 7 either. That would start to boot then spontaneously restart, causing a never ending loop.

I was forced to do a clean install of XP on the 40GB drive. I had no important data on that drive so it wasn’t an issue.  I could then see all the files on the Vista drive, so as a precaution copied around 200GB of data to my 1TB external drive. I did notice all the files came across with the read-only flag set, which seemed odd. As Vista continued to prove unbootable, even in safe mode, despite hours of Spinrite and other attempted solutions, I decided I would use XP as my main working system for the time being so I started installing apps and device drivers. I also wanted my data available on the network so turned on file sharing. I noticed that when I shared the Vista drive it took a very long time and gave me a message about writing permissions. That got me wondering. I tried booting in Vista and of course it came right up as if nothing had happened.

As I was coming to realise, it was a variant on the permissions problem which had stopped Vista from booting, and the act of sharing the drive had restored the required permissions.  It is though very worrying to think that Windows can so easily get itself locked into an unbootable state like this, with no easy way for the user to diagnose and no solution that does not involve fixing the unbootable disk via a second OS on another drive.

I am hugely relieved to be up and running again, but extremely suspicious of Windows 7 and whether it has tendencies to make unwelcome interventions in other drives on the system, potentially jamming up other OS’s which may be installed on them. Well, for now at least Windows 7 has gone. Hasta la vista.

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Hasta la vista, Vista!

October 22, 2009

Vista busy cursor Never has the name of this blog been more apposite than on the day that Vista’s replacement, Windows 7, officially ships.

Vista has had a very troubled time, as faithfully documented here from early in its lifetime. It earned itself a bad reputation with its plethora of teething problems, having been let out of Redmond half cooked, and couldn’t shake off that negative perception even long after Microsoft had sorted out the glitches. This gave the likes of Apple an opportunity to expand their market share and cement their “we are the choice of the cool dude” image.

But Microsoft realised all they had to do was complete the Vista cooking process, give it a facelift and a few natty new features, rebadge it and push it out to the market to bury the bad Vista Karma as quickly as they could.

And Windows 7 already seems destined to be a hit, repairing the damage to Microsoft’s fortunes inflicted by Vista. Maybe not quite the euphoria of Windows 95 back in the day, but the nearest thing to it Microsoft has enjoyed since. And there will be a palpable sense of relief.

We already know W7 is a stable, quality platform. Many people have been using it in RC form for months. There is no risk whatever of a repeat of the Vista debacle.

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When sharing is not enough

October 1, 2009

Vista busy cursor I came perilously close to trashing my entire Vista install, including loss of some files.  Most of my key data is backed up but the consequences would still have been painful, particularly thinking of the time needed to get all my software reinstalled and everything configured.

And it would have been for nothing.  All because I was messing around with folder permissions and not being careful enough.

I was getting cheesed off with not being able to get to some of the folders and files on my Vista desktop’s C: drive from the various household laptops, over the domestic twifi.  I had shared the whole of the C: drive but many key folders, eg the desktop, were not accessible.  I found out that this was because sharing is not enough.  There are two hurdles to be overcome for one PC to access another’s files over a LAN or wifi: the folder must both be shared and have sufficiently relaxed file system permissions. So I set about trying to make everything on the C: drive accessible to Everyone, with Full Control.  It sounds dangerous but isn’t really. The whole network is protected by a fully stealthed NAT router.

Well, it shouldn’t have been dangerous but was nearly terminal, although I didn’t know anything was wrong for a while.  That’s because I have Windows 7 RC installed on another local disk (D:) and decided to boot into that for a while to try a few things out.  Only later did I try to boot back into Vista – and failed.  I got as far as the boot up screen with progress bar then all went black.  The mouse cursor was still visible, and moved in response to the mouse, but that was it.

Not realising the cause of the problem, I proceeded to lose a fair bit of time.  Trying many forms of OS repair from the Vista recovery disk, running Spinrite, pulling my hair out.  I was on the point of giving up and reinstalling Vista from scratch (and losing everything on the C: drive) when I had an idea.  I could boot into Windows 7 from the D: drive then try to recover my files from the C: drive (and save them on my external 1TB drive) before embarking on the Vista reinstall.

So I booted up in Windows 7 and found that the Vista boot drive (which appears as D: from within Windows 7) was greyed out.  If I attempted to explore it I would be fobbed off with an “Access Denied” message.  I found, though, that if I opened an administrator command prompt I could still navigate the disk.  I went so far as to start a massive disk copy from within the DOS prompt, intending to save all the files to the external drive.

Luckily, my brain started to work and it all began to make sense.  The admin command prompt could access the drive because the permissions on it allowed admin access, but there was no access for “regular users” so the drive was greyed out in Windows Explorer.  The penny dropped.  In trying to open up user permissions on that drive I had somehow screwed things up and removed some key access rights so that critical files were no longer accessible at boot time.  So if I could resolve that I might be able to boot up in Vista again.

From within Windows 7 I found I could still access the Properties >Security dialog on the drive and (carefully) give Full Control to Everyone, using UAC to elevate my rights to admin level for the purpose.

And of course that did the trick and I was able to get back into Vista with all data intact.  It had been a very, very near miss and entirely down to my own ineptitude.

From which I learn that if you are going to be an idiot, it helps if the fact of your idiocy can be persuaded to dawn on you in a reasonably timely fashion.

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Windows 7: Like the iPhone but too big to fit in your pocket

May 28, 2008

Vista busy cursor Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer unveiled “snippets” of Microsoft’s new mouseless technology vision which is set to revolutionise the PC.

They were being interviewed at the Wall St Journal D6 Conference and the highlights are here along with a video showing a demo of the new user interface in action. It looks like they have taken Windows and bolted on the Minority Report style touch interface from their Surface project.

It’s not that new. Again adapting someone else’s innovation but trying to “do it better” and leveraging their market muscle. It’s the same as Surface or the iPhone but averaging out the scale to get something PC screen sized.

If they can develop a truly intuitive and usable Windows interface that makes the best of touch technology that would be something to give them credit for, particularly if they can actually get it out the door in less than 5 years.

If they succeed Vista might be seen by history as nothing more than an enabling step. The touch technology is only interesting in conjunction with a proper 3D graphic display.

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Vista vexation to vice-free video

January 29, 2008

Vista busy cursor The focus of this blog has changed over the last couple of months or so. At one time posts about Vista were predominant, but the emphasis has shifted to Internet video technology, at least for the time being.

It’s not that I’ve gone soft on Vista and its unimpressive track record to date. I did start this blog quite explicitly to record my experiences as an early adopter of Vista, but clearly there was always going to be a strict sell-by date on any such project. Even if Vista had not become more tolerable it was only a matter of time before a replacement OS came out. We now know Windows 7 is scheduled for release sometime next year. It sounds like Microsoft can’t wait to put Vista behind them, and small wonder.

Even if discoveries of Vista shortcomings are now less frequent than in the past, I shan’t be mothballing this blog. The name will not change; in its own small way it has established a little “brand”. And there will still be Vista related posts, or commentary on Windows 7, as and when I have something worthwhile to contribute.

Going forward I will let this blog evolve naturally, driven by whatever seems to be interesting and topical. For a while now I have been concentrating on the challenge of how to embed good quality video in blog posts, because this has been relevant to my needs. No doubt when I’ve exhausted that, I’ll shift my attention elsewhere.

Wherever we go from here, I’ll be sure to keep it focused and constructive.

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