Monday, 25 July 2011

Windows7 Frustrations


Over the weekend I needed to install a new machine for the community radio station that I help out with. Their current playout system is a WindowsXP Dell machine, thats probably getting on for 7 or 8 years old I'd guess, and has practically been running 24x7 since installed. Originally at one location, and I then relocated it to their new broadcast building about 3 years ago when they got their full-time FM license. Well its about time the machine got replaced as it has everything the station needs to keep running, so I'm a little nervous that it'll fail at some point.

So a new Dell Vostro was ordered. Dual-Core Intel, 2Gb RAM, nice little machine.

So I got to installing it on Sunday, stripped down the pre-installed Windows7 system, removed all the rubbish backup applications, Dell assistance software, all the trialware and junk. Removed desktop wallpapers, screensavers, power management, etc. Basically because this is a radio station playout system you want it minimal as it just has to do one job, but without question! So all that was stripped out.

Then I got to installing the second sound card. I had an old Creative Labs Sound Blaster Live! 5.1 digital surround card, from my old desktop from about 4 years ago. So slapped that in (You need multiple inputs and outputs for playout systems so that the various faders, etc, all have separate sound channels). Booted up, and Windows7 couldn't recognise the hardware. So then starting to trawl the web, CLabs website showed the hardware was discontinued, but you could try their beta Windows7 driver. So downloaded all 40Mb of that (!), installed, and half way through got a windows driver signing error, and windows then decided to remove each of the .sys files the installer had created. No surprise, on reboot the card was partially detected, but "Had a problem", windows couldn't fix.

OK, so I gave up with that, removed the card and will just pick up another cheap PCI card, that had newer drivers, etc. No big problem (Although I'd spent quite a bit of time to now).

Next steps, was the re-create the fiddly filesystem that the playout software "SoundBox" needed. It uses windows shares for all its locations, so I created the relevant audio folders, then the 10 or so storage folders, set each one to have shared permissions with read and write access for network users (Yes I know the security is abysmal but unfortunately SoundBox works like that, so you're stuck with a wide-open system). Did that, so then started to trawl through my archives for the SoundBox installation CD. That took about 30 mins, I didn't realise I had data spread out over so many NAS and storage systems. REally do need to sort that out one day! Found the ISO and related patches and stuff, copied them over to the new machine all ready.

Ran the setup.exe, and immediately Windows7 threw a "This version is not compatible with Windows 7". Arrrgh! So next, try running it through the compatibility troubleshooter (annoying! I knew if I set compatibility to WindowsXP it should work, but it doesn't let you do that anymore, you have to use the stupid wizard!). So ran the troubleshooter, which surprise surprise set it to windowsxp for compatibility, then let me try again. This time it failed saying that the installer couldn't run on a 64-bit machine. Tried a few times with and without admin permissions (just in case!) and no go.

So basically, I'm stuck. The software supplier won't have updated the software, as its pretty much out of existance, no updates and to replace the software now would require hundreds of man-hours in training, not to mention the multi-thousands it costs to buy most radio playout software.

I'm thinking of removing Windows7 and installing WindowsXP now, even though its old, unsupported and the hardware probably won't get on with it very well, this seems my only option for the system. How annoying..... and yes, I seriously am considering re-writing the software to run under Ubuntu now!


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