The Big Migration

Being in the IT industry, I’m loaded with technology, including several computers. I have a laptop for work of course, which is a beast. It’s a ThinkPad X1 carbon that’s only about two years old. Got an 8th generation i7 processor, 24 gig of RAM, and a retina type display. I got to order it special back when we merged with another company. It supports the development I do especially video generation and whatnot.

That said, it’s like having Ferrari that has a governor on it capping my speed a double nickels – 55 for you younger kids in the audience. Our IT department has it so locked down, it is damn near unusable. To give an example, I have a utility called Beyond Compare that’s useful when you’re copying files back and forth. It allows you to compare folders and compare documents and whatnot and then update folders. It’s nice about it is if you use a cloud service like Dropbox, like me, I can send stuff to the Dropbox folder and make sure that I’m not copying too much, only what I need. Well not only can I not use Dropbox on my corporate laptop, and I can’t use beyond compare either because God forbid we’re able to have something useful in our lives. FWIW, the virus software declared it a virus and kilt it. But I digress.

I also have another ThinkPad for personal use, a T431s that I got on eBay for under 200 bucks. It’s a pretty capable machine, being an i5 with 12 gig of RAM and I put in an SSD drive, which makes it very very nice. It also dual boots onto Mint Linux, which is what I use with it for the most part. But it’s not capable of multiple high-res monitors.

So for the most part I do most my work on a gray box tower that my company gave me back in 2009. It’s not even an I anything. It’s an Intel Core 2 with four cores, a measly eight gig of RAM, but a really good soundcard (because I like to record analog line in) and a really good video card. But it does have a 1T SSD card, the third hard drive it’s had with Windows on it. It’s also on its third power supply and it still works reasonably well, except when I’m doing more processor intensive stuff.

But the time has come to put the old girl out the pasture. For one it’s not mine, even though has a lot of my parts in it, and it just had a catastrophic failure with the power supply that made me think it’s time to trade up. So I went shopping for refurbished tower, because I’m a cheapskate.
This meant visiting the third circle of hell known as Micro Center. Honestly I could’ve ordered it on eBay, or Amazon, but I was having trouble finding what I wanted at the price I wanted and they are one of the cheapest places in town. You can order online and go pick it up, which is the preferred method for me because the line usually wraps about 100 feet from the registers. They have about the most dysfunctional process for buying stuff of any retail outlet I’ve ever seen. Sure they got scanners, but they’re tied to an ancient mainframe.

But they had a selection, as they always do, of decent refurbed computers. And now is the time to buy it by the way, since leases renew for many corporate customers so the market’s flooded with computers coming off leases. Plenty of choices for either a Dell, or a Lenovo ThinkCentre. I’m a huge Lenovo fan, having had nearly a dozen of their laptops over the last 20 years. I even had him back when they were IBM. But I know nothing of ThinkCentres.
So at one point I was chatting with our director of support, whom I’ve known for nearly 30 years or more, Did he know anything about ThinkCentres. His exact quote was they are awesome I have two of them myself. Good enough for me. He’s the geek’s geek and his word about hardware and software is golden to me. All it took was some convincing of Herself that this was a good thing to do. We called it a birthday present.

So I ordered it and stood in line the next day watching utter mayhem at the pickup lines. As usual, they appeared only have two souls working the line, and seem to have a lot of trouble finding whatever customers were wanting to pick up. Keep in mind that they’ve ordered it online, and some of them have even paid for their stuff.

Enter the mainframe. Apparently looking up with somebody purchased is an ordeal. So as a warehouse dude was running around looking for the guy in front of me’s package, the guy that was doing the actual checking out try to get ahead of the curve and started rounding up names to go get stuff so he could just check everybody out quickly. I told him I had a computer to pick up and held up the print out from the web. “Oh you have a paper!” He said. From that point it took like five minutes to check out. Apparently I was the only one so far that thought to bring a printout, which they told you to bring, with the order number, which makes things easy to find with their system.

Up to that point an evil mood was percolating in my soul, filling me with hate for every human being within a 20 foot radius of me. But I waddled out happy, as my battered wife syndrome for dealing with Micro Center  receded away. I absolutely hate the place, but they have tons of gear and parts on hand for better price than you’ll find on the web. So if I have to get something I need right then, that’s where I wind up.

So this week has been the great migration away from the ancient computer to the new fancy one. I do have some hardware to move but have to start first with installing apps. This is made tough by the fact my NAS server ist kaput. I think a fan is out. It heats up and goes stupid. Unfortunately for me, that’s were I’ve stored the lions share of my software. Also unfortunately for me , it’s the same vintage is my old tower and has just as many dents in blemishes. Luckily the stuff I use a lot, the newer stuff, is on Dropbox or can be downloaded easily enough.

Once things are running though it’s a pretty simple process. I don’t do a bunch of copying, since most of what I use every day is sitting on Dropbox, I simply have to install Dropbox and have it sync with the new computer. Then I have access to all my stuff can start sorting things out, and installing software. The last thing I do is take the hard drives out of the old machine. If they are any good, and one is a fairly new SSD, they become additional drives in the new box. So my old computer’s “C” drive is the new one’s “D” drive. Then I can wade through my crap and see what needs to moved or discarded. If the drive isn’t it worth installing, say it’s an older drive, usually put it in a USB drive enclosure. So I can access data, but it doesn’t have to be there taking up space. For me, this required the additional step of hunting down drive carriers for the new box. Computers these days aren’t like the old ones were the sheet-metal was stamped so that you just screwed in the hard drives.

I found out I had a lot more to this work-project I’m working on that I thought, and need to spend some time downloading content. So instead of the Final Cutover, my new machine has been downloading content as I’ve been doing other things. So here are the steps:

  1. Inventory the old machine’s software by going to the control panel, and noting the apps. I use a checklist in Evernote for this.
  2. Find the software you’ll need to re-install. Some can be downloaded new. For me, most of my important stuff is on dropbox. Hopefully you saved those license keys somewhere. Mine are in my password minder, splashID.
  3. Fire up the new machine, and do its initial set up and updates.
  4. Install all the new software you’re going to install. I did all of this except iTunes, which I’ll get to in a minute. Keep in mind, this can be a ballet between deauthorizing the old computer in order to authorize the new one when you install the software. I had half a dozen packages where this was the case, including iTunes.
  5. When that’s all running and working, shut down the old computer and move the stuff you’re going to move. For me that’s a soundcard and the hard drives. I don’t know what I’m to do with the video card, it doesn’t appear that I need it on the new one. The new one has two HDMI ports so I’m pretty much set.
  6. Install the hard drives, and set them up with the appropriate letters. You don’t have to do much at this point, you first want access to your files that need to be moved right away. In my case, that would be iTunes. It’s a good idea to copy your library to the new machine before installing iTunes. Once you do this, all you have to do is authorize the computer.
  7. Then do the final set up. For me that will be installing the soundcard software. Even though Windows has drivers for it, it doesn’t have the level of control that their software does.

I’m basically at step six as I write this. I didn’t want to write a happy note about how well it went because it hasn’t gone anywhere yet. But I don’t see any reason why there’d be a problem since I’ve done this 5-6 times throughout the years. And that only includes personal computers, not ones I’ve had to work on for customers. Same process for them.

Update, Sunday Night: All the dust has settled. No tears.
I couldn’t install the sound card. The faceplate is for a full size tower, and won’t fit. Creative Labs said they’d check and email me when they are sending one. We’ll see. It may be in my computer junk pile. iTunes installed flawlessly, and I’m listening to tunes as I finish this up. I may not need the sound card.

There was only one package I had to leave out – Pingendo. It’s a Bootstrap web development tool. I use Bootstrap Studio mostly. The issue is I can’t find my license, which I think is perpetual, since I bought in early. I’ll email them to see. Otherwise, I’ll shrug my shoulders. Not a show-stopper that.

I had to cough up some dough, and install Office 365. I do have a version of Office 2016, but technically it’s an MSDN copy from a company long merged and bought. Only reason is I have a ton of files all in Publisher and OneNote and don’t want to screw with freeware only to have to install Office eventually. Who knows. Time will tell if I made the right choice. I’m not thrilled whatsoever to have their grubby fingers in my stuff on OneDrive.

Turns out what I thought were HDMI (I didn’t look real hard, and they are very similar) are actually DisplayPort jacks. I had to order adapters to HDMI to get my fancy monitor working. These came in yesterday, and now I have two screens again.

The SSD I moved from my tower kept it’s permissions, so I couldn’t delete any of the windows folders. I pondered how long it would take to crack the permissions and decided to copy whatever I needed, format the drive, and copy stuff back. The C: drive is only 512G, so I freed most of it up by moving the bulk of my stuff to the repurposed 1T drive.

So far, this thing is sweet. Not a moments misery and not a lot of time investment.