Using Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 & VirtualBox

So, for a long while, Sun’s VirtualBox xVM has been my ‘virtualization’ product of choice. Mostly because I had tried the much talked about Microsoft Virtual PC product and couldn’t figure out how it ran. Then, I read about VirtualBox (which had been owned by Innotek before it was bought out by Sun) was perfect for running ISOs of Ubuntu or whatever Linux distro I had on hand. It has USB support which I had also read was something that Microsoft Virtual PC lacked (it has an alternative called Virtual Machine additions). However, I had never been able to run a virtual Microsoft operating system via VirtualBox primarily because I didn’t know that unlike Linux, ISOs of Microsoft operating systems were not free. My desktop computer came with a pre-installed Microsoft operating system (Microsoft Windows XP) so I didn’t have an installation CD. Nevertheless, I scoured the internet, but stopped short of using warez because I’m very careful not to break the law and more than anything, infect my computer. Fast forward to over 2 weeks ago when I lost my data during a botched driver installation of HP drivers for the Officejet J6480.

Prior to this particular incident, I’ve had to reformat my vista laptop a few times and I lost no sleep because I always had current file backups of my data as well as complete image backups. However, after suffering through HP’s installation of drivers for their printer, my PC refused to start point-blank. I was essentially fucked because I didn’t think to  make a file backup of my computer before embarking on the installation. To cut the long story short, I knew that even though I didn’t have a recent file backup, I had a fairly recent Windows Complete Image backup on one of my hard drives. All this while, I had assumed that I could somehow pull files off a Windows Complete Image backup, but I chose the wrong time to test this assumption. The bitter answer was: I could not pull individual files off a Windows Complete Image Backup (they should put that on the label, in the words of a commercial or insist on customers who can’t read white papers to steer clear of their products. :D).

Not being one to easily give up, I scoured the web again via my favorite search engine (Google) and came across a website where the writer said he had been able to access his Windows Complete Image backup image via Virtual PC 2007. Imagine my joy and immediate dismay because I didn’t care to use Virtual PC 2007 due to  my previous difficulty in learning how to use. Nevertheless, I deciced to try Virtual PC 2007 again so that I would give a last ditch effort at recovering some files. I also took the plunge and ordered an XP Pro SP2 disk because I knew that somehow I needed said disk although I didn’t know what to expect. Thankfully, the disk arrived in time and I set about making my XP Pro SP2 virtual machine. The first time I tried to install XP Pro SP2, I panicked because I thought it would actually install XP Pro SP2 on my machine (kinda like Wubi for Ubuntu which I’m steering clear of after powering one of my Vista bluescreens & subsequent reformatting). So, I killed it and did some more reading. Then, it hit me that, “No, Silly. It’s a virtual machine and you won’t get in trouble for me. lol.” So I crossed my fingers and started the process again.

This time, the installation completed. I exited Virtual PC 2007 and ejected my XP Pro SP2 installation disk. I restarted my computer and closed my eyes while waiting for the inevitable bluescreen. Surprise! I didn’t have any nasties waiting for me and I started up Virtual PC 2007 again. I was like a kid in the candy store when I was able to browse XP Pro in my Vista laptop. I showed it to my husband and he kept commenting on how excited I seem. Yep, I’m the kinda of girl who’d be happy if she got a gift of RAM, never mind what JC Penney says about how men get in the doghouse. LOL. As a random aside, check out the video “Beware of the Doghouse“. It’s hysterical. 🙂 Back to the topic, I also was able to install Virtual Machine additions which works by mounting the iso for Virtual Machine additions inside the virtual machine! Pretty cool and I was able to access my Vista files and use a shared cursor which was a welcome change from VirtualBox.The end to this saga (maybe? I haven’t totally given up yet) has not come as I still wasn’t able to access my Windows Complete Image backup VHD file. However, I don’t regret shelling out ~ $60 for that XP SP2 installation CD because I’m sure it’ll come in handy someday. In the meantime, my hard drive will be getting some major use.

Now, before I achieved success in installing XP SP2 virtually, I had actually installed Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 in my computer. All I can say about that was: please, do not try this at home, kids (meaning you, Jane). It was overkill for my purposes and it was quickly uninstalled with some major praying along the way (it installs IIS services and I don’t like turning Windows features on/off because in Mos Def’s words, “I had a bad experience“. My next stab at accessing the VHD file in my Windows Complete Image backup will be installing just VHD mount which is a component of Microsoft Virtual Server 2005. With that, wish me luck!

FeedDemon is getting the boot! Hello, RSS Bandit!

When FeedDemon was a paid application, I was a very happy customer. My feed subscriptions have been in the  hundreds for a while now and lately, FeedDemon’s been getting the hiccups i.e. a polite way ofsaying it crashes within 10 minutes of usage. I am not kidding. Ever since the app became free, it’s like the developers have let it go to hell in a hand basket. It would help matters tremendously if it told me that some feed was trying to poison my computer or FeedDemon or do some sort of diagnostics because I’m getting sick of it. I tried out RSS Bandit before by Dare Obasanjo and it was not bad at all. In fact, the newest release of RSS Bandit supports Google Reader and my online Newsgator subscriptions. I’m also biased to RSS Bandit because Dare Obasanjo is a fellow Nigerian (probably a citizen or permanent resident of the USA now though) whose writing (& now code) I cannot get enough of. I will be downloading & installing RSS Bandit tonight because FeedDemon is just not worth the lost man-hours. The singular most annoying thing about FeedDemon crashing when I’m reading my feeds is that it doesn’t even let me resume my reading from where I left off. To be clear, all the feeds that were read before FeedDemon crashed? They automagically become unread when you restart FeedDemon. For someone who has hundreds of rss subscriptions, it has become a nightmare for me and I’ve stopped my daily reading because of this issue. I really hope they haven’t abandoned development of FeedDemon (they haven’t, but FeedDemon 2.8 is taking a long while) because I really had faith in this tool. Now, I’m just plain tired.

Update: Wow. I just installed it and man oh man! I’m really impressed. RSS Bandit has come a long way from when I first tried it. It feels snappy as hell! I’m not afraid to scroll through my feed list, wondering when (not if) FeedDemon will freeze on me before I get a chance to save my “state”. It imported my Newsgator Online feed list & didn’t crash! Can you feel my happiness? 🙂

Firefox’s instability

Okay, here’s a rant: I’m thisclose to switching to Google Chrome from Mozilla Firefox. As a matter of fact, I would switch if not for the fact that Chrome was responsible for me having to reformat my computer several weeks ago (seriously), I would. However, I’m writing this post because I think I may have the culprit. Caveat: Umm, I know zilch about the innards about web applications, but I can, at least, run unscientific ‘tests’ to narrow down the source of such crashes. Here are the various issues:

  1. When Bitdefender Internet Security 2009  received an update, the antiphishing toolbar for Mozilla Firefox caused Firefox to crash and it even triggered Windows Data Execution Prevention (DEP). So, the solution to this after scouring message boards & Google was to disable the antiphishing toolbar as quickly as I could before DEP kicked in.
  2. Now, my latest firefox issue is sometimes when I simply open Firefox, it crashes instantly. This actually reminds me of Hunter Cressel’s rant about macs where he talks about how it’s really easy to shut down? Yes, that’s exactly my experience with Firefox 3.0.4 these days. I think I need to make a movie titled: “A day in the life of Firefox 3.0.4”. Well, the point (sort of) of this post/rant was to identify (maybe) a culprit in my Firefox crashes: Facebook.
  3. Yes, Facebook. I never put two and two together before, but my latest crash was the last straw. For a while now, I haven’t been able to use the “Take a Photo” or “Make a Video” feature of Facebook and that was a minor inconvenience. Now, sometimes, merely opening the login page for Facebook causes Firefox to instantly shut down. Am I alone in this phenomenon of having Facebook crash my Firefox installation?

Well, I’m putting the last crash report I submitted to Mozilla thanks to the Crash reporting feature built into firefox. Quick tip: You can see all the reported crashes in Firefox by typing “about:crashes” into the address toolbar!

Signature @0x6e63fe39
UUID 5f195df8-f87f-4c18-9b95-b84e02081121
Time 11/21/2008 18:10
Uptime 80
Last Crash 113884 seconds before submission
Product Firefox
Version 3.0.4
Build ID 2008102920
Branch 1.9
OS Windows NT
OS Version 6.0.6001 Service Pack 1
CPU x86
CPU Info GenuineIntel family 6 model 23 stepping 6
Crash Address 0x6e63fe39