Updating / Downgrading Windows 7

In preparation for the arrival of Windows​ 10, I did the unthinkable and re-installed a hard drive in my system and re-loaded, from DVD no less, Windows 7. It was a painful experience that I don’t recommend to anyone, but I learned some things that were lost for a while:

  1. Hard drives as your primary boot disk suck. I had forgotten this in the move to SSD drives a few years ago. Everything you do is slower on a hard disk. If you aren’t running an SSD as your main drive, go out and and buy one RIGHT NOW.
  2. Additionally, I had the second 2TB Western Digital (WDC) SATA drive die in about a week, as I did this process. That meant that not only are hard drives slow, they also fail all the time. I haven’t had this problem with a single SSD yet, and they are in some cases older than the HDDs they are replacing.
  3. Installing Windows from scratch is unnecessarily lengthy and painful. On several systems I have had to setup Ubuntu or Linux Mint from scratch and in all of them I was fully operation within an hour or so. Win7, on the other hand, took all day to load, reboot dozens of times, accept EULAs, patch and update.
  4. If you have to scratch install Windows, please use WUInstall. It is a time saver (after I found it) and made the many hours of updates run with very little human intervention.
  5. Modern PCs have lots of complicated and specialized hardware. Running an older OS required downloading driver installers for everything, and many of them required service packs and add-ons from Microsoft. Sometimes to move ahead we need to leave the old behind, and device driver installers should be left behind. Run new OS’s, people.
  6. Considering how painful this upgrade process is, I have a better understanding of why the PC industry continues to shrink. Compared with the pain of updating, patching, installing and fixing all of my hardware was, running out to buy the latest phone or tablet is blissfully simple. And when the OS updates come over-the-air for those devices, they are many times smaller and faster than any PC update process known today.

In short, don’t do what I did unless you have a lot of time and patience or enjoy searching around the internet to learn why your shiny new PC doesn’t work properly.

Tough Year for Hard Drives

In the past 8 months I’ve replaced no less than five separate hard disk drives, all SATA and all relatively modern vintages.  Not sure what’s happening, exactly, except that all but the most recent two were under warranty at the time.  Maybe the new Michigan climate isn’t compatible with long lived drive life?


3 Cars to 1 Car

It has been an interesting 24 hour period when it comes to vehicles.

Starting on 4/25, I sold the 2005 Infiniti FX45, my treasured commuting and skiing companion during the end of my California tenure.

Then on 4/26, I sold the 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z51 coupe, my first true, new from the factory car and my weekend fun vehicle. It was my occasional valley carver and fun day toy.

Now I’m down to the current company vehicle, a 2014 Chevrolet Silverado LT truck.  It possesses neither of the FX’s or C6’s charms, but is a useful hauler of people and stuff.

I enjoyed my time with both the FX45 and C6, but I hope that I have helped them find good, new homes. Both will be missed.


IMG_4683 IMG_4655


New House, New Job

Doing a bit of time travel here, but it is worth noting that in 2013 I…

  • Left my Silicon Valley job, friends, aircraft and lifestyle behind
  • Moved to Detroit, Michigan
  • Joined the largest company I’ve ever worked for in a new-to-me industry
  • Sold my old town home
  • Bought a new home
  • Endured the worst winter that Michigan has seen in nearly 130 years

So, there’s all that happening in a single yearly post.

A Slurpee Disappointment

For some reason today, Labor Day, I decided that I had to have something from my childhood as a reward for the dusty work around the house that I performed. It seemed only fitting that this treat have some kind of Coca-Cola flavoring to it, since that is one of the most vivid and constant memories I had growing up. Problem is, I really dislike the way Coke tastes now in the USA, so hopping over to the local Safeway for a beverage certainly wouldn’t do.

First I thought it would be a good time to stock up on some Mexican Coke again. I live in California, I have a Costco membership, this should be no problem… except that it’s Labor Day, Costco is closed, and none of the Costco’s nearby carry the sugary drink any longer. Strike one.

Alright, how about that kiddie treat standby, the vulnerable Coke Slurpee? I asked Google Now where the nearest 7-11 store was and I headed out the door. Upon arriving, I searched around the store to find the magic machine of frozen drink deliciousness. Only once I got close to the machine did I discover the sad truth: the machine was broken, flashing, and leaking some kind of darkened ooze. The store clerk was of no use, simply repeating what the machine had already communicated and then returning to his headphones and music. Strike two.

I set off for yet another 7-11 location. I am now discovering in my search that it is far easier to find Starbucks locations than it is to find frozen wonder drinks. After driving around for another 8 or so minutes, I find the next frozen delivery den. Inside there is a working cola flavored Slurpee machine. I grab a cup, turn the switch and delight in the process of fulfilling my admittedly short term goal of Coke nirvana. After paying the clerk and walking out the door I take my first straw-full of Slurpee and…. I am disappointed.

All of this searching, driving and anticipating had raised my expectations to levels that were unsupportable. I was left with a mildly cola flavored, ice crystal drink and a series of questions about how I recall my childhood. Was the Slurpee always this tasteless and bland? Is my memory fading now such that I couldn’t recall the previous bouts of poor cola taste? Had the secret recipe changed somehow in the intervening years while I wasn’t watching?

I believe I’ve learned an important lesson here: lower expectations are better expectations. And that it’s probably better to buy Mexican Coke, some vanilla ice cream, and make my own concoctions at home. Figures.

Filling in the gaps on control surfaces

I was told recently that I should be putting covering material across any gaps in the hinge areas of my aircraft control surfaces. That seemed very superficial to me, so I put off making these changes for several weeks. However, after flying the Extra 260 today with these modifications I am a believer… at least for this type of plane and flying.

It seems that by putting covering material over all gaps between the wing and ailerons at the hinge line, and eliminating all air gaps from this area, the control inputs and flight characteristics of the Extra are much crisper and happen more quickly than before. I performed the same modifications on the elevators and horizontal stabilizers as well, and again the control inputs seem to be much more noticeable than they were previously. Only the rudder and vertical stabilizer went untouched.

The covering job for this area certainly wasn’t of the highest quality, but the end result speaks for itself. Where the Extra 260 once was docile and slow on low control rates with a gap between the surfaces, now control inputs are fast, crisp and very predictable. I wouldn’t have said that a 1/8th or 1/16th gap between surfaces would mean that much to overall flight performance but I saw and felt today that on aerobatic aircraft, every gap does indeed matter.

Extra 260 flies again

It has been more than a year, but the 30cc Extra 260 flew again this past weekend. I was beginning to wonder if it was ever going to return, but a series of unfortunate events conspired to keep the airplane and I separated while it was repaired. Now, however, it seems to be close to full operational goodness, and I’m glad to have my hands on the controls again.