Wilcox Development Solutions Blog

Setting Up A Windows Machine

April 08, 2004

Today I had the distinct, well, first experience of installing MS Windows on a PC, then customizing it for production (development) work. After playing with this PC for a few days (first a full install of Fedora Core 1 provided experience in installing linux - and the knowledge that you should install Windows first, on a dual-boot machine. So, prepare to redo.

A few (ok, lots of) false starts in that area (including a trips to these two local computer shops), and I had my machine up, running, and ready to install Windows.

Ah yes, the Windows install process, and exciting tasks of setting up your (work) environment. Read more in the extended entry…

On the install process itself:

Can we please have a dialog box that comes up 10 minutes into the installation process, asking for user assistance in setting up? I walked away, thinking I had an hour before it would be ready (that’s what it said, and I believed it. Silly me.).

It’s kind of neat how Windows copies install files from the CD, to the hard drive, then runs the installer from the hard drive. Neat, but I ask myself: why?

On my approach

During the first hour (the install + the initial setup of the machine) I left the machine unplugged from the Internet. Previously I had burnt “essential” utilities onto a CD, and I installed these before connecting to the Internet at all.

After I installed Zone Alarm and Ad-Aware I got on the Internet, and started downloading Windows Updates. Now, my copy of XP came with Service Pack 1a already installed, but I still had to get upwards towards 15 updates. I thought OS X was bad sometimes (with sometimes needing up to 5-8 updates, depending on how recent your CD was). Needing 15 updates just blew me away.

While that was updating in the background I customized my theme (no preschool XP theme, thank you, and lets have a sane Start Menu while we’re at it), turning off services and removing applications I won’t need (Outlook, MSN Messenger, and Terminal Services, along with others).

Now, where are my tools?

Computer programmers tend to use lots of little utility programs, and I had to go find Windows versions…

For Subversion I picked tortoisesvn, a contextual menu/right click extension for Windows. Doing all my source management operations from the Explorer, yes, good.

For CVS I downloaded cvsgui, a cross-platform CVS program. I don’t like the Mac version (too cluttered), but the Windows version fits me well (Windows seems cluttered to me anyway, so Yet Another Cluttered app makes no difference in my mind). I’ll use that then.

Must have Python. Luckily ActiveState makes a really good Windows Python Installer

Unix utilities are good. Some of them I actually use. Now, how do I use these on Windows? Cygwin to the rescue! Lots (and lots of the unix utilities that I’ve come to know and use in my unix work. Having a GUI for these command-line tools (or GUI programs that provide the same functionality) is great, but sometimes you want to get under the hood… especially when you don’t know that much about what’s above the hood.

So, after spending most of the morning fighting hardware and beginning to install Windows, and the afternoon installing and configuring, I think I’m done. I haven’t spent any time actually working on it, so I know I’ll tweak more stuff soon, but I have it Ready To Go.

Now to reinstall linux… as soon as my Cygwin install finishes (and I run System Restore, to make a backup of all the work I’ve done so far).