Hack to In-Place “Downgrade” from Windows 7 Ultimate or Professional to Less Premium Editions

stumbled across this “duh” of a hack to allow up/downgrading (depending on your perspective) of a more premium version of windows 7 to a less premium version.  why would you do this?

if you were running a beta or rc version of windows 7 you can “upgrade” to a retail edition without wiping the system.

meaning those win 7 home upgrade dvds i pre-ordered for $50 when i decided to go legit with windows 7 in the summer won’t a) go to waste or b) require me to wipe both systems, install XP or Vista, then upgrade to windows 7.

Hack to In-Place “Downgrade” from Windows 7 Ultimate or Professional to Less Premium Editions » My Digital Life.

this is especially handy considering i’ve effectively failed (several times) to upgrade from a fresh windows xp install to windows 7.  (could that have something to do with the fact that the xp install was cracked or not activated before the upgrade?  it’s possible.  why did i do an xp-to-win7 install instead of a vista-to-win7 install?  i figured xp would be a faster install process.  which it would have been…if it worked.)

the “duh” part of this hack is that basically you’re finding a registry value that says “this os is Ultimate edition” and dumbing it down to say “this os is HomeBasic edition” or whatever.  given that the alternative i was beginning to consider was to find a crack to extend the lifecycle of the evaluation version indefinitely and use the retail versions if i actually did for real need to wipe the systems at some point in the future, i think that — despite this not being microsoft’s favorite idea in the world — it’s at least better than other options.

how windows 7 will sell more by being free

windows 7 ships on october 26.  when that day comes, you’ll start to see (if you haven’t already) a lot of reviews.  i’m guessing most of them will be very positive.

here’s the thing: windows 7 is a very good operating system.  it’s generations better than previous versions of windows and will definitely give OSX a run for its money.  there are new innovations in win 7 — actual, useful innovations in how to manage your windows, shortcuts, and desktop.  stunning new visual effects that put earlier versions of windows to shame that actually work without slowing your computer to a crawl, and compare with what Apple has done for years. even intelligent and functional troubleshooting support when you have problems.

and i should know: i’ve been using windows 7 for months.

what microsoft realized after vista is that image — more than the product itself — is everything.  this was proven when they did their mojave experiment, a bait-and-switch product test of vista which gave people (who had already decided not to upgrade to Windows Vista) a glimpse at a “new” operating system (actually Vista in disguise).  what these people realized is that when they actually saw Vista, they liked it. but the knowledge that microsoft had actually succeeded in making an operating system that people really liked alone wasn’t enough to salvage Vista’s bad rep.  could they still be battling the negative public opinion of the company since their antitrust case in the 90s?  microsoft needed to go one step further than they did with vista: they needed to make a great operating system that far surpassed anything they’d done before, and they needed to repair their broken image.  so they held a public beta of the new windows 7 operating system and gave it to the one group of people that mattered the most: the geeks.

let’s face it, geeks weren’t behind vista.  the heavy-handed addition of new gadgets and visual effects (at the expense of speed and reliability) and extra security measures (like User Access Control — invariably the first thing people turn off on a vista installation) made geeks rail against the operating system.  sales and public opinion were so bad that they extended support (and sales) for windows xp — many of us in the geek crowd saw this as a) admission of failure and b) an apology.   i used vista — it wasn’t all bad.  it was slow, and the network security measures made accessing my samba shared folder slow (something that carries over into win 7) was obnoxious.  but many of the complaints against vista could be overlooked or turned off.  but vista also got a lot of things right.  like, for example, that an appealing visual interface matters — something Apple has known for a long time.  and that, for 99% of their users, ease-of-use and accessibility is important — make everything easy to find and use — evidenced by some of the explorer upgrades (albeit undermined by UAC).

this wasn’t the first time microsoft previewed their new operating system.  however, it was the largest scale public beta they’ve ever done.  windows 7 picks up where vista left off and adds performance to the mix.  i won’t go into the list of features as this is less of a product review and more of a testimonial.  if you want a full features overview, gizmodo has a roundup of their complete windows 7 coverage which is a good place to start.  i was understandably reluctant when giz first announced the win 7 beta.  great, a beta version of windows, i thought.  as if windows didn’t have enough bugs in their released versions. a beta version of windows seemed to be asking for trouble.  but the initial reviews showed only minimal problems, and a lot of benefits.  not being overly attached to using a scrounged copy of vista, i went for it.  and i’m glad i did.  i love OSX, but the windows 7 experience (combined with the dock-clone for windows, objectdock ) makes me feel like i’m not missing out on something (except, maybe, garageband ).

here’s the real seller for microsoft, though, is this: windows 7 will be the first version of windows i’ve paid for since windows 98 .  i used to do tech support, and in tech support, it was somewhat of a joke if someone admitted to paying for a copy of windows.  everyone knew a list of places where they could get a copy for free — sometimes even just pilfering a corporate license from work.  we all knew that windows was an accepted necessity (although, for a lot of us, myself included, not that much of a necessity, and we ran linux instead of, or in addition to windows), and many of us thought that we certainly were not going to pay money for something we spent all day trying to fix for other people.  windows 7 changes that, and not because they’re doing a new Genuine Advantage thing.  by giving it away to geeks, developers, and technophiles  — and making it usable through summer 2010 to all beta and RC previewers — they’ve established that, this time at least, they’ve got their money where their mouth is: a great, feature-rich operating system that performs well and doesn’t suck.  and i’m not alone in saying that i’d be willing to pay for that.  glancing at the comments over at gizmodo, that sentiment echoes among many others.  for my own part, i really would rather use a legitimate license than be forced to find a hack or a workaround — it gets tiresome.  being a part of the beta and RC preview, it was relieving to not have to worry about that.  maybe i’m getting older and this is a new, more conservative me talking.  and the limited-time pre-order prices ($60 for Home edition, regular $199) helped a lot.  but it’s just like file sharing in music — if i hear something i like, i’m more likely to pay money for it, either go to the show or buy the cd.

we’re still a little over a month away, but i’m predicting windows 7 will be a huge success.  and i challenge you to find a review of windows 7 that says it sucks and isn’t written by a semi-literate neanderthal on a bulletin board.  the question isn’t whether it’s good this time.  the question is whether it’s good enough that it’s a rightful standard, or just another necessary evil.

now in penguin-vision

i’ve been a longtime fan and occasional user of linux.  i had it running for about a  year as my primary operating system under ubuntu.  microsoft announced the release of their windows 7 RC-1 the other day, and as part of the announcement stated that all of their beta testers, whether you’re using win 7 beta or a win 7 RC, will need to do a wipe/reinstall to get the final, retail windows 7 installed.  not only that — which is somewhat expected — but to upgrade from beta to RC1, you also have to do a wipe/reinstall.  seeing as how i’m going to have to wipe/reinstall my system in the summer when the beta expires, i’m not overly inclined to wipe/reinstall my system now to get the RC1 running on it.

this got me thinking again about linux and osx as desktop operating systems and curiosity got the best of me.  it’s been a few iterations since i’ve played in ubuntu and i don’t think i’ve used wine since it hit 1.0 (and never used it for photoshop or ms office, really), so i decided it was time to poke around again.  the first thing i noticed was when i was looking for a version to download; in addition to the direct download and bit torrent downloads that they’ve had for a while, there was now a windows-based installer called Wubi (i’m guessing Windows UBuntu Installer?).  since i had my 1yr old daughter sleeping on my shoulder at the time, and moving to grab a blank cd-r may mean waking her up, i thought i’d see what Wubi was about.

wubi1wubi is a tiny download, but that’s because part of it is a downloader.  the speeds seemed too fast to be anything other than bit torrent, but even so, it’s a little unrealistic as a straight downloader/installer since even on my (really fast) connection, i still needed to wait about an hour for it to finish downloading, which is a bit much for one sitting (i’d be just as happy starting a torrent and walking away, then coming back to it later).  still, it offers 4 flavors of ubuntu, straight ubuntu, xubuntukubuntu, and mythbuntu.  i might suggest customizing it a bit so that the first step is just downloading core ubuntu files and the kernel, stuff that would be the same across the distributions, then offering a choice and a package list to pick what applications you want to install — that way you’re only waiting for the bits you actually want to install.  that kind of goes against the ubuntu philosophy of creating a package deal with everything you’d want out of the box, but i know a lot of non-n00bs use ubuntu, and for the advanced users, something like this would be a lot more useful to get out of a windows-based installer.

it’s been so long, i’d forgotten what a really fast operating system was like.

it finishes an asks me to reboot.  one interesting thing is it adds itself to the windows boot menu, as opposed to using grub as the boot loader — well, in addition to using grub, really, since grub is mostly irreplaceable in a linux install.  this means i was confronted by a windows menu asking if i wanted to boot to windows 7 or ubuntu rather than a grub menu.   then it loads a much prettier ubuntu loading screen than last i saw,  asks me to log in, and loads the desktop.  it actually loads so quickly, that i end up staring at the screen waiting for something to happen, sure that it must be loading something.  it’s been so long, i’d forgotten what a really fast operating system was like.

my primary goal here is productivity.  i am dependant on my windows apps that i use daily for design work.  namely, adobe creative suite, and, recently ms office.  i can probably do without office, using OpenOffice.org and Evolution for email, but the docx  has become so ubiquitous and, last i checked OOo still wasn’t supporting it, and being so familiar already with Outlook (and there really isn’t another email app with calendar integration that compares, unfortunately, especially with the Google Calendar Sync tool) that i made the switch.

i’m sure i could get this stuff to install under wine if i spent enough time futzing with them.

so i set out to figure out if Wine was going to cut it for office and adobe cs.

the short answer is i’m several hours into this experiment and i’ve booted back into windows after having thrown in the towel.

the somewhat longer answer is this: i’m sure i could get the adobe and office products to install if i spent enough time futzing with them.  i found and tried various tricks and hacks and ultimately for office got to the documented error of getting 2/3 through the install before it crashes. (apparently it runs fine if it was installed on a different version.  however, the different version that would be functional is not the 1.0.1 that ships with the latest ubuntu, and not the 1.1.20 which is the most recent wine — it’s somewhere in between 1.1.13 and 1.1.17 and i didn’t spend the time futzing with older versions to try to get it to work.)  there were a few workaround/hacks and i was trying them, but one of them was sketchy (download dlls from random site with popups) and one of them required me to download CrossOver Games, which required an email, which i couldn’t really get since i didn’t have office installed and i didn’t really want to set up Evolution just for one email.  and my gmail inbox is inundated with thousands of messages now since i’ve switched to using outlook via pop3.

in the process, i learned a few things: pidgin has a plugin for facebook chat.  there’s a very nice osx dock-like window manager from google called avant.  you can now write to an NTFS file system — a previously impossible feat in linux, which really opens the doors a huge amount in ways that don’t really translate well into non-geek-speak, but basically means that you can now save stuff on your windows side of things (which means, among other things, that you don’t need to reserve nearly as much space for your linux install since you can now use your windows partitions natively — see, non-geek-speak-untranslatable…). also, my desktop resolution was matched 1:1 when i booted to linux — previously, in other installs, i had to downgrade to a lower res because it wouldn’t handle the higher display.  either my graphics card is better, the nvidia graphics driver is better, or there’s some other magic going on that makes the hardware more supportable.  whatever the reason, it not only displayed at my 1440 x 900 display but recognized the type of monitor i was using (considering that not all monitors identify themselves and even windows defaults to “generic plug and play monitor” about 90% of the time, i was impressed).

running windows is still a necessary evil for graphic design if you don’t want to drop $2500 for a mac pro

as i’m typing, i’m wondering if it may be possible to export my entire registry (or at least just the keys that apply to office and creative suite) and import them into the Wine registry and run my already installed versions that way.  and maybe i’ll try that.  eventually.  for now, running windows is a necessary evil, still, for graphic design.  now all you mac addicts will throw your arms in the air and gape about what kind of freak would use windows for design rather than a mac.  well, i’m not arguing with you — but the kind of freak that would do that is the kind of freak who would rather spend $600 and build his own, custom, kickass system rather than dropping $2500 for a mac pro.  period.  i would really like to try photoshop under linux, to see how well it handled memory allocation and if it’s more/less likely to crash when dealing with large files.  and really, dreamweaver isn’t all that irreplaceable, there’s plenty of other options under linux that would do just as well.  but that will, alas, have to wait.

how windows 7 (inadvertently) helped me find a virus

so the other day, i got a notification in my systray that msdt.exe was corrupt, and possibly i should do a chkdsk to repair the problem. after seeing this crop up several times, i decided to take the message’s advice.  i stopped paying attention at some point, when i realized the chkdsk was gonna take a while, but glanced up and saw that it started “recovering orphaned files”.  if you’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing this phenomenon, it’s when the windows chkdsk says “hey, what’s that?  hmm, i’m not sure so i’m going to make it a totally unusable .chk file and name it something like, uh, found000087.chk.”  in theory, you could go through all your orphaned files and do something with them if you had any idea what they were after they’d been “recovered.”  i rolled my eyes and was just thankful that most of the original filenames (at least what was displayed on the screen) ended in .tmp.

so after it was done and booted up, i still got the message, but now i was graced with some errors from yahoo messenger and z-engine that my .net framework version 2.0 was jacked.  trying (vainly) to fix this by repairing and/or reinstalling .net 2.0 only revealed that “that is already part of your operating system.”  uh, yeah, but i want to reinstall it.  “if you want to install this program, run install.exe.”  okay, i thought that’s what i did…”i’m sorry, there is no file or folder named ‘install.exe'” etc., etc., etc.  i eventually gave up when i realized that both yahoo and z-engine were working anyway, which led me to deal with this other problem, the one with the corruption in “msdt.exe.” so i googled it, and lo and behold, it’s a trap virus.  which is weird because AVG never picked it up.  

so, currently i’m trying to deal with removing a virus that my virus scanner won’t detect which is, you know, fun.

windows 7 beta review

so, i’ve been running win 7 beta on my main machine for a little while now and thought i should share my thoughts, since, you know, that’s kind of the whole point of this beta thing…

boot time

bootup time is significantly faster than vista and xp.  i’m actually pretty surprised at how quickly it’s able to load all my crazy startup apps since it was always a good 5-10 minutes before vista was usable after loading the desktop.  i could do without the light-of-god startup wallpaper, though.  i was hoping it was just an installer wallpaper, but, no, it’s there every time i boot.  however…

uptime stability

it seems pretty stable when it’s up.  i’ve only had to reboot it a couple of times in the last week or two i’ve been running windows 7, and i leave it on all the time.  one of those reboots was after the install.  one of them was a hard reboot after the install when i must’ve tried to open too many windows before it was ready and it locked up hard.  since then, i’ve been a bit more generous and let it finish its thing before trying to start up anything.

installation

horrible, horrible, awful, worst thing ever.  like cutting my fingertips with a lemon-soaked razor blade and force feeding them to myself with some vinegar while being tarred and feathered.  right now, you can only upgrade from vista.  fine.  so i start up the installer.  the installer says there might be a problem with some RAID controller i don’t care about because i’m not using a RAID array.  it asks, do you want to upgrade to the most recent version of the software?  sure, i say.  it is a beta version, after all.  so it does the update and says the installer can’t continue without a reboot.  so i reboot, and assume that i can boot off the cd and continue the install.  negatory, good buddy.  i wait the requisite (?!) 20 minutes or so for it to finally get to a screen where i can actually do anything at all when the installer tells me, “i’m sorry, you need to be running Windows to be able to update it.”  now, having used microsoft for, oh, i don’t know, ever, being required to have windows running… in order to install windows… aaaah…. does. not. compute–

so, i reboot again, and start the install over.  this time, i skip the update — natch — and plow ahead to the install.  it says i may have a problem with some RAID controller i don’t care about only now skype might not work.  crap.  i actually use skype for communicating with customers, so if that were a miss, i’d be s.o.l.  i quickly google “win 7 skype” and find two relevant links, one of which is a pc computing site reviewing the beta who also got the message, but said skype worked fine, and one was a somewhat aggressively dumb-sounding blogger who lamented over the fact that skype wasn’t working, so he had to resort to using the “butt-ugly” skype 4 beta — so my worst case scenario is i have to use an “ugly” beta skype.  whatever.  after that the install went without a hitch and skype did work, but i had to tell windows that i understand there may be problems with the performance and yeah, i do this at my own risk, yadda yadda yadda.

user experience

huh?
huh?

so far, in using win 7, i’m a big fan.  i agree that the new taskbar is awesome, especially the preview windows and being able to cycle through them, although i’m a little lost when it comes to the reason for hiding all the windows and showing the desktop but with the outlines of your open windows — i.e., when would i need this?  i don’t agree that the new taskbar beats the osx dock — it still seems too clunky to me, but it works in addition to the dock and thank god stardock’s objectdock still works in win 7.

overall performance seems a lot faster than vista.  i haven’t done any real benchmarking but it feels faster, and since that’s one of the main improvements microsoft was working on, i’m trusting that it actually is faster, especially since win 7 beats vista on netbooks. (yes, this is a gizmodo farm, but it’s been my primary source of news and information regarding windows 7, and was the inspiration for me to make the upgrade, so i figure it’s justified.)

most of the rest of the user experience just repeats what vista started, and i actually liked the gui in vista, so i’m not complaining.

 i’m not a fan of when a security warning window pops up (like when you need to unblock an app that is trying to access the internet), it blacks out your whole screen until you respond to the security pop-up.  windows 7 also did some crazy shiznat with my gamma after installing, and i had to run through the display wizard to make it not suck.  additionally, ie8 is a pile of poo, and displayed arcanepalette.com in completely new and excitingly bad ways as compared not only to  other browsers, but additionally to ie7 and its’ own “compatibility mode.”  as a web designer, this is insanely frustrating — how am i expected to design for browser compatibility when even the browser isn’t compatible with other versions of itself?  (arcane palette looks fine in ie7 now)

hibernation is broken

as has previously also been mentioned on giz, hibernation is broken.  i just got a taste of it tonight as i came to my computer and found it mysteriously off.  this often happened in vista, too, when there was a power hitch, and the pc switched over to the backup battery — vista would run for the hills and go into hibernation even when i modified the power options to not do that unless it’s running on the battery for 5 minutes.  unsuprising, then, that win 7 seems to have done the same thing, only this time trying to resume left me staring at a black screen for several minutes until i cold booted.  unlike some other reports, though, that, and saying screw the resume, just boot me up when prompted was all that was needed to get me going again.

overall

my overall reaction is, wow, come july, when this thing actually ships, and subsequently august when it’s going to brick my computer, i may actually spend the cash to buy this os outright.  seriously.  i mean, this is an operating system i’d pay money for, much like osx (although, i maintain that if you’re upgrading the current os, it should be free, or a discounted upgrade, rather than dropping 150 bucks every time you move the decimal up a notch…i’m looking at you, apple).  i honestly haven’t been this excited about windows since ’98, and subsequent releases when i often said “yeah, windows 98 may have a couple bugs here and there, but i know my way around them, and at least it’s not windows ME…