Painless Windows Installation

I was excited about Windows 8. And even more excited about Windows 8.1. Then I realized last night that Windows 8 has been nothing but a daily annoyance since I purchased the upgrade and installed it.

So last night, I upgraded to Windows 7. But first I backed up my computer. Always backup! Especially if you’re going to change operating systems. I think I have every important document, photo and file. But inevitably I have forgotten something.

I made a backup of my Windows 8 install. I used Clonezilla on a USB key to back up an external hard drive. Now I will have an image I can restore to if I decide to move back to Windows 8. It’s a safety net and security blanket. After I backup, I always verify the backup. The quickest and most reliable way I’ve found is to open three files from the backup.

Choose three different folders and open three files. It doesn’t matter what type of file, just choose three of them. Try a PDF, picture, Word document, text file. Whatever you have on hand, open it and make sure you can read the contents.

After I verified I had a good backup, I installed Windows 7.

First, since I didn’t have any blank DVDs, but I did have a spare 4GB USB key, I used that to install Windows 7. I downloaded YUMI and saved it to my desktop.

This wonderful little program will allow you to save more than one installer/bootable application to a single thumb drive. It doesn’t need any installation so it’s great for portable devices, but it does require administrative rights to install so it won’t work if you’re living in Windows lockdown.

Once launched, scroll to the bottom and you’ll see Windows Vista/7 Installer. Choose this option and point it to your Windows 7 ISO.

YUMI main window

YUMI main window

What if I have my license key but lost my DVD?

I can help with that. This page has links to the Digital River downloads Microsoft uses to distribute Windows 7.

To quote the site,

Are these illegal, cracked or pirated downloads?
Since this is an official download channel, you can be sure to receive setup files that are virus-free, secure, legitimate and untouched. Downloading the files from Digital River is absolutely legal and completely free of charge. Without a legally obtained product key however, any Windows 7 installation will only run for 30 days. Afterwards, it needs to be activated, or the evaluation timer be reset.

This will give you a legit, legal copy of the Windows software. But it will need to be registered to work for more than the trial period.

I have used this site to download Windows 7 Pro and Home Premium when I lost the DVD I had and they work perfectly with my existing license keys.

Now that you have your media and license key, point YUMI at your Windows 7 install and let it go to work. It will extract the files and write them to the USB key. Then you can boot from that USB key to install your files. I like to put a copy of my Windows 7 serial on the USB key so I don’t have to type it into Windows.

This process will take a few minutes and YUMI will tell you when it’s completed.

Now you’re ready to install Windows. Reboot your computer, boot from the USB key. This will bring you to the YUMI menu. If you have more applications installed, you’ll see more options. The Windows 7 installer will run normally. Choose your options and watch the progress bars.

Go get yourself a drink. This will take a while.

Now that Windows 7 is installed. You need to install your drivers and software. But you have no network connectivity. You could go hunting for restore media or combing through driver lists on your computer manufacturer’s website, but I have a better way.

Get connected

Download 3DP Net.

3DP Net detects ethernet card automatically. and provides the newest or the most suitable driver. It supports off-line installation.


What does that mean? It means when you run it, it will automatically detect your network card, wired or wireless, and install an appropriate driver for it. It may not be the best driver. But it will get you online.

I’ve used this countless times on laptops and desktops from HP, Dell, Lenovo and Toshiba and it has never failed me. It always installs a driver I can use.

Now I’m connected. Next up, I need the drivers for the rest of my hardware.

Drivers wanted

3DP has you covered there too. Download 3DP Chip

3DP Chip will enable you to enumerate devices and download the latest device drivers with few simple clicks.


This program will do just what it says, it will detect your hardware and link you directly to drivers for it. Run this to install your video, audio, bluetooth, camera or any other driver for your system. It will even find you better network drivers.

Now you have a network connection and the proper drivers for your hardware. Wasn’t this easier than searching manufacture websites or forums for your specific video card, or those unknown devices that could be anything?

Install software

Now that you have Windows installed and drivers for all the devices, it’s time to actually do something with your computer. You need software. Since Windows ships without many important tools, it’s time to install them.

I used to spend time going to Adobe’s site to install Flash and Acrobat Reader. Then I’d get java from their site. Then install Google Chrome. Then… you get the idea.

But there is a better way. I use Ninite and so should you. How is it better?

Select. Download. Install.

Select. Download. Install.

First, it will allow you to choose the applications you want from a large list. Everything from Dropbox to Steam is there. Choose what you want and it will download a single installer.

Run that single installer and it will go out and download the newest version of each application. But the best part of all, it doesn’t install any of the extra junk.

You won’t end up with extra browsers or toolbars. There will be no tools or extras that the vendors like to add into their software. You’ll have only what you asked for, nothing else.


Now I can enjoy my freshly installed computer. I have a nice fresh operating system with all of my drivers. I’ve run Windows Updates or as I call them the rest of Windows.((There is a way to automate this as well but it’s outside the scope of this post since many people don’t find it necessary and if you’re only installing one computer it’s not worth the time it takes to prepare.))

Now that I have Windows setup as I like it, I setup Google Chrome to sync my settings from my account. I’ve logged into Dropbox and let it complete it’s initial sync. Take this time to set up any mail clients or add your printer, scanner or camera software.

Get your computer setup exactly as you’d like it. Then do one last backup of it. Use Clonezilla to make another full backup of your computer.

That way, in the future, instead of having to go through these steps again, you can start from here. With Windows installed and activated, up to date as of your last backup date, with your software and drivers installed.

And if anything were to go wrong, like a virus or hard drive crash, I’ve got my computer setup and can take the time to restore the image instead of installing Windows from scratch.

Contractor’s Dissociation

I tell people “I work at the National Cancer Institute.” Not “I’m a contractor working for Terrapin Systems supporting the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health.” Partially because it’s a mouthful but mostly because they’re eyes glaze over and they want suddenly want to talk about the weather.

Being a government contractor often means having very little contact with the company I actually work for and pays my salary. I work on the client site. For the client.

I am one of them.

Scarlet CONTRACTOR Letters

Scarlet CONTRACTOR Letters

It’s a strange dissociation. Some contracting companies are very hands on. I’ll interview at their offices for their people initially. I will meet HR and Finance people in addition to the recruiter. I will meet my manager-to-be if I’m hired. I will know the faces attached to the phone numbers and email addresses. It all feels very real.

Other contacting firms might as well be ghosts. I’ve never met the people. Never been to their offices. I don’t even know where the offices are. Sure, I have an address but it’s still not real. It’s just a number on a page. I know they exist because my salary gets paid. And I get emails from people I don’t know and will never meet.

It’s a strange life, that of a contractor. I often think of it as being a hired gun or a nomad. Roaming from job to job. Learning a new language. A new culture. Then doing it all over again in a few years. In the world of IT Support, every job is the same. But every company is different. Changing jobs is all about unlearning everything I know culturally about where I am but transferring my technical knowledge and soft skills to the new place.

It’s like moving to a new school. All the subjects are the same. There’s a gymnasium and a cafeteria. There’s a track and rows of lockers. But everyone is different. I am the stranger. I have to make new friends. I have to learn new social norms and expectations.

I would love to live my grandparent’s ideal. I would love to work for one company for 20 years and never think about leaving. I want a company to invest in me. But that’s not the world I work in.

I will never work for one company for 50 years, retire and receive a pension. I will never be taken care of by a company I’ve committed my life to. That world no longer exists. I’ve never worked anywhere more than 3 years. I’ve been laid off in budget cuts. I’ve been fired. I’ve left for a whole host of reasons. My mother is fond of say I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. And it’s true. I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.

We’re all in this together

I sat down on the couch tonight and just wanted to lose myself in something as I ate dinner. I found the Daily Show. It was the only thing on that looked even remotely acceptable. I’ve enjoyed it so I watched it. This is the first time I’ve seen it in months. And it struck me as they were playing a clip from FOX News.

The Daily Show is FOX News for the Left.

It’s all the same rhetoric. It’s all the same finger-pointing and laughing at the other side for being oh so wrong about everything. It’s all the same mean-spirited jokes and mocking that got us to where we are today. A nation divided against itself.

We are not good neighbors. We sit in our homes and think our thoughts and wonder how the other side could be just so wrong about things. How could they be so stupid?

We're all in this together. Photo by [Nicholas Swanson]( via

We’re all in this together. Photo by Nicholas Swanson via

It’s because we have the same problem. We each think we’re right and the other side is so clueless they aren’t even worth listening to. We shut each other out. We cling to our thoughts like grains of sand through an hour-glass. We are so sure we’re right, we never take a moment to question our own beliefs. We never take a moment to question.

We never re-evaluate our beliefs. We’re just right. We know it. And that’s all that’s important.

But that’s not important. It’s terrible to cling to ideas and never change them. Throughout our lives we learn and change our ideas about things as we gain new information. If we took the same stance we do now as children, we’d never learn to read or write. We’d never learn to drive or tie our shoes. Or eat anything other than candy three meals a day.

We learn. We take new information in and we change our attitudes. We change our beliefs and ideas. We take in more information and that changes us. We become more understanding and compassionate. We learn empathy. We learn to respect their opinions and ideas. We don’t have to agree with everything, but there might be something they say that makes sense. There might be some truth from this person who is just wrong.

The only way to find out is to open our hearts and our minds. Learn something new. Really listen to each other. Do they have a valid point? Do they believe in things you also believe in? Do you believe the same thing but wouldn’t allow yourself to see it?

We are more similar than we’ve been led to believe. We are all on this planet doing our best. I am trying to be the best Me I can be.

It’s tiring listening to the fighting and name-calling. It’s time for some tolerance and empathy. Sure, I will never agree with everyone about everything. But I am a complex person with varied beliefs, ideas and motivations.

I am not a single thing. And neither are you.

Our personalities are all made up of many factors. We’re an amalgamation of what’s around us and what we’re exposed to. We’re sponges sucking up parts of the world.

So before I sit down and listen to one extreme viewpoint, I need to recognize it as just that, an extreme viewpoint. The Daily Show is comedy. It’s faux news. It’s meant to inform as much as delight. It’s meant to rile you up and get you hating *the other side.** But that’s exactly what FOX News is doing too.

I believe that FOX News does its viewers a disservice claiming it is Fair & Balanced when in truth it’s as balanced as one kid on a seesaw. But what’s to say that viewers of that network don’t feel the same way about MSNBC or CNN. Everyone has their own biases.

They’re all for-profit networks. It’s their job to make money and they make their money with viewers. The more viewers they have, the more money advertisers will pay. And how do you get more viewers?

Create a narrative. US Vs. Them! It’s a fight now. Everyone chooses a side. We’re right. They’re wrong. Now they’ve got you. You’re part of their side. You need to tune in and see what the other side did that was so terrible.

We are all in this together. And we are all trying to do the best we can with what we have where we are. We are all trying to get through life without instructions.

Have some empathy and compassion for those on the other side from you. We are all more alike than we are different.

Jobs follow up

My post Did your job exist 10 years ago? got some good feedback. There was a good thread going over at which I urge you to read.

The motivation for the post came from listening to the Technical Difficulties podcast with Merlin Mann. During the show, Merlin said something like Jobs fall less into tidy buckets.

That’s what got me thinking. The tidy bucket of doctor or astronaut no longer apply. I guess they never really did. But the explosion and specialization of the job market has opened a huge number of positions that either didn’t exist, or as a farm boy in rural Virginia, I had no way to know existed.

On Facebook, Bradley Gawthrop said,

I agree with the spirit of this post, but the particulars are a bit fuzzy. There were absolutely software developers, graphics designers, and systems administrators in 2000. In fact, I’d done every one of those jobs for actual money by that year. Probably they didn’t represent as big a slice of the economy as they do now, but there was a ready market for all three.

This is true. I was taking my experience and making it universal. Those jobs certainly did exist and there were people doing them. I didn’t’t know what a systems administrator was, nor even what system would need to be administrated.

I knew graphic arts existed and that software needed to be created, but I had never thought about how software was made.

I grew up on a farm. I’ve herded cows and helped collect and pitch bales of hay. The first vehicle I ever drove was a tractor. The school bus was delayed on occasion by a bovine blockage((cows on the road)) on the gravel road where I lived.

The Internet to me was a 26400 bps dial-up connection.

oluseyi wrote:

A decade ago is 2003; some of the claims about computers and software developers seem… poetically embellished! I was expecting to read that you were in high school in the 50s, the way they were set up 😛

I graduated high school 13 years ago. It’s nearly been a decade since I left college. I chose poor examples and an even poorer title. Replace computers with mobile phones and I’m a few decades closer to a valid example, but my point remains. The explosion of jobs and opportunities which simply didn’t exist when I was in school looking at colleges and career choices. I still feel old. 😛

duerig said:

Actually, this reminds me about an interesting book I read a while back called ‘The Shock of the Old‘. It is a bit meandering, but it keeps the focus on the diffusion and actual use of technology rather than the ‘invention’ moment.

We tend to think that the ‘invention’ is the crucial moment, but there is often a huge gap between the invention and when it actually impacts more and more people, especially when looked at globally. It is similar with career fields.

This is an excellent point. There can be a huge gap between invention and adoption. Just because something was invented, doesn’t mean it’s accessible to everyone.

I knew graphic artists existed ((Bad example)) because my father’s business is in printing and copying. I knew what it took to make a book, newsletter, magazine. And in high school I worked on the staffs of the schools’ literary magazine and newspaper. The field existed but not in the same way it does today.

oluseyi went on to say:

The world is full of unknown unknowns. Guidance counselors should be voraciously seeking out new and interesting career opportunities, sensitizing kids to possibility, but it always seems to be a case of fitting them into existing slots.

I don’t necessarily fault the guidance counselors of the world. Their job is incredibly difficult partly due to…

It’s a shame, really. I don’t think most people know enough to decide on a career until well after college graduation! I knew, by the time I was 21, that my college degree was incidental to my career prospects—and both of my parents are professors!

I went to college to learn what I didn’t want to do. I studied Creative Advertising ((Different from Business Advertising which was all numbers and planning. It was as close to a graphic artist education I could receive without suffering through a year of trying to learn how to draw.)) I left school without a job or even the slightest idea of how to get a job in Advertising. So I went into tech support.

misterpoppet added an excellent point:

In some case, very much so. High schools in Northeast Indiana tend to funnel the student body to local factory jobs.

Having to choose a career path upon high school graduation was a terrifying prospect. What is I chose wrong? What if I went to school and didn’t learn enough to get a job? What if I didn’t go at all?

For most of my classmates, college wasn’t a realistic option for them. They were lucky to have graduated high school. The moment they did, they were back on the farm with their parents. Their life was that of a farmer. They weren’t going to college because they had no need for it, at least in their parent’s eyes. Their parents didn’t need a college degree to plant crops and tend to livestock, why do they?

I look back at where I’ve worked and what I’ve done. And I think about my time in high school. None of what I do now was even on my radar then. What jobs will be commonplace in the next decade? What jobs will continue to disappear until they’ve nearly extinct?

Did your job exist 10 years ago?

When I was in high school, approaching graduation, there were only a few careers put before me. I had to choose what to study in college. I had to find something that would prepare me for the real world. And pay my bills.

I wanted to be a zookeeper when I was young. I loved the outdoors and animals. Then that morphed into working for National Geographic when my interests collided with my budding geekiness. I wanted to travel the world and document what I saw from the lens of a camera.

When I was in high school the Internet was going through a bubble and a bust. But even then, the jobs I knew existed were the age-old professions like doctor, lawyer, fireman, police officer, or military service. I had no idea what I wanted to do. Nor did I have any idea the world would change so much between then and when I entered the job market four years later.

But now, there are jobs that simply weren’t around a decade ago. There were no software developers or graphic designers. No mobile developers or systems administrators. Computers filled rooms or tables. They didn’t fit into your pocket. People who understood these systems were only found in labs or universities. They weren’t inside every company and government agency.

There are thousands of jobs today my guidance counselor wouldn’t have even dreamed about in the year 2000. I graduated high school and entered the college world 13 years ago. ((I feel old.)) I went to college for four years to learn that I didn’t want to work in Advertising. I hold a B.S. In Mass Communications. But after four years I didn’t know what to do with that. I had no real world skills. I couldn’t get a job with it.

So as I was floundering and desperately hunting for something to pay the bills that wasn’t McDonalds when I graduated, I stumbled across a want ad for people to set up new computers. This was a job I could do. I called the number on the page and spoke to the woman on the line. She gave me an office number and a time to be there. And I was.

I don’t remember if there was much of an interview process. I think it was, “Hey, you’re got two strong arms and can read English. You’re hired!” Maybe there was more to it. But I got that job. And that led me down a completely different career path than I thought I was preparing myself for.

Since then I’ve worked in technical support and taught myself what I needed to know. I’ve learned enough to fix problems and have fun doing it.

My college degree hasn’t ever opened doors for me. But it made sure those doors were not closed prematurely. And being in the right place at the right time launched my current career path. And that’s something I never could have predicted.

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