Fun With Modern Microelectronics

Don't worry, sir.  The Klingons run Linux.  They'll never figure out the commands to fire their phasers.We’ve all had the experience. You hit a key, click the mouse, and your computer hangs. You reboot, minutes pass, and you get, not one of the Good Blue Screens of Death (“Your computer may have been shut down improperly. Notice how this message evades the question of who might be responsible for this situation.”) but one of the Evil ones (“Obscure hex code 65A78CDEx. The next few days of your life are not going to be filled with joy.”)

Several minutes of fiddling with the BIOS screen sufficed to determine that the system was well and truly dead dooby dead dead dead. A disk crash seemed the most likely cause. The years have taught me to be obsessive about backups, so I’d only lost an hour or two of work, but it was still annoying. Relieved that matters hadn’t been worse, I headed off to Fry’s, picked up a new drive, and returned home to swap it in.

The system wouldn’t recognize the new disk. Indeed, experiments with another old drive I found sitting in a closet showed that the computer couldn’t recognize any hard disks at all. This was ambiguous news. On the one hand, it suggested that something on the motherboard had died. This was Bad. On the other hand, it meant that my old disk, my old OS, and all my work might still be intact. This was Good.

Back to Fry’s I went to pick up an SATA docking station. A bit of fiddling with USB cables and my old laptop sufficed to demonstrate that the old drive was quite readable. The word, “Whew!” leaps to mind. And it did. Still, this left me with something of a logic puzzle. I had three computers: a dead PC, a dying laptop, and the new laptop without any software that I’d bought to replace it. I also had three disks: my old one, my new one, and a spare I’d found sitting in my box of software. The canoe can only carry one computer and one disk at a time. If the computers on one bank of the river outnumber the disks, they’ll eat them. How can you get all the computers and all the disks across the river without… oops… wait… sorry… that’s an entirely different logic puzzle :)

It was clearly time for a new PC. This was not too terrible a tragedy, for I’d already budgeted money to replace the antique that had just died. Off I went to Fry’s again. Home I came with a box of microelectronics. I opened the chassis, swapped in my old drive, pushed the on button… and discovered that new 64-bit system wouldn’t run my old copy of Windows XP.

Aargh! Well, heck, what could be more fun than switching to a new OS and spending days reinstalling all my old software? What besides root canal work, brussels sprouts, or waiting in line at the DMV?

By now, three weeks later, things are almost back to normal. And all of my old software seems to run under the Dark Lord of Redmond’s latest whimsy except for some obsolete utilities, a symbolic math package I rarely use… and the venerable copy of Corel Photopaint 8 I use to generate graphics for the Flying Cloud. I suppose it would be too much to expect a 13-year application to run on a modern OS, but this has left me with a bit of a poser. The options seem to be: 1) pick up a copy of Corel Photopaint 9, which is alleged to run under 64-bit Windows 7, and hope for the best, 2) move to Corel’s bloated and unusable modern substitute, or 3) get some for-real art software.

We’re open for suggestions here. All you for-real artists out there: what are you using?

8 Responses to “Fun With Modern Microelectronics”

  1. Dave Bell says:

    I had the same problem about a month back, when I finally upgraded my hardware.

    Windows XP will run on hardware that new, but you need to re-install/repair from the original CD-ROM, and download huge numbers of updates.

    It’s working OK, and I got the hardware components in a sale. But it might have been better to bit the bullet and get a new machine with Windows 7 already installed.

  2. Jim Kern says:

    Paulie-that’s why I also donated today. Heck: I FULLY APPRECIATE THE AAAAARRRRRGGGHHHH!!!!!!!!
    (Really, I do).
    Hope ya get it all back. The EVIL blue screen o’ death terrifies all of us here at Kern Central to no end…..
    (there-had to elicit one more emphatic scream)
    Feel better? No? Hmmmm….take care….hope to see another epie soon!

  3. Paul says:

    Work these days is Win7, so I decided to bite the bullet — or the spear,
    as the case may be — and move my home ops over to Win7. I do have
    a work-around for the graphics software issue… but I have to deal with
    an apartment move first. Yes, life has been ‘interesting’ recently!

  4. Neal Sofge says:

    I suggest GIMP or a derivative — it’s free and surprisingly capable if you aren’t doing print work (and thus don’t mind the lack of CMYK).

  5. AltheDago says:

    There’s a reason I switched to Mac…

  6. Nathan says:

    I would also suggest the GIMP. I’ve never used Correl, so gimp may not replicate all of it’s functionality, but gimp is effectively a freeware Photoshop.

    As for AltheDago’s comment, macs are wondeful, but probably not a practical alternative.

  7. Dave H says:

    Forgive me for coming late to the conversation. (I just found The Flying Cloud two days ago.) I have a work computer with 64-bit Windows XP, and a number of development programs that won’t work on it.

    I use Virtual PC (free from Microsoft) or VirtualBox (free from Oracle) to create a virtual machine running 32-bit Windows XP in a window. All my ancient software works except for stuff that needs access to special hardware. Virtual PC doesn’t allow access to USB. VirtualBox claims it does, but so far I haven’t been able to get it working. Common USB peripherals like keyboards and mice work, but I don’t know if it’d work with a drawing tablet.

    If you decide to try this route, you’ll need a 32-bit Windows installation disk to set up the virtual machine’s operating system.

  8. Paul says:

    I’d suggest – I found it a little less intimidating than the giant stacks of options in GIMP, but still enough options to do most drawing/photo work (

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