Friday, May 08, 2009

Windows 7: Getting In

To continue where I have left off, there were a couple of things missing -- Guild Wars and Call of Duty: World at War. Getting both up and running ought to be a simple task. So let's start with Guild Wars.

Guild Wars, having experienced numerous reinstall of Windows, knows how to integrate itself into Windows when it is started up for the first time. The Guild Wars program is coded quite well. It behaves similarly to both an installer and a game launcher. Even though it behaves this way, it's a rare kind of game or software that knows what to do when it finds no previous installation entry. Very rarely would you find a game that can behave that well these days, as some of the current games tend to install secret entries in the Windows registry, often items that should have been stored elsewhere rather than the registry.

So after starting up Guild Wars, I log in, take a quick look around, and logged off. Everything look fine and I went directly over to the Games Explorer, a feature that was introduced in Windows Vista. The Games Explorer is a dedicated section where game shortcuts can be installed to. But instead of installing multiple shortcuts of the same game (ie. solo/single-player and multiplayer), you only see one single entry. To access different functions of the game itself, you right-click on the game icon to bring up the context menu. From there you can see different functions related to the game, such as different startup functions, support, checking for game updates, and so forth. Guild Wars is a bit weird. It adds itself into the Games Explorer smartly but twice now (once in Vista and once on 7), it adds multiple entries of the same game (yet labeled as GW Factions, Nightfall, or Prophecies). While this is a minor issue that can be solved by simply hiding the game, it is a quirk that baffles me.

A cool thing about Games Explorer is that you can add your own custom startup command, or switch 'em around so the default is a different startup (ie, you play multi-player solely instead of single-player). For some reason, I cannot find a way to do that in Windows 7. But I do know such a function/feature exists in Windows Vista. I have not yet dig in to see if there is a way but the foundation for which the Games Explorer work is rather simple. After finding out where the startup entries were stored, it's a simple matter of manually editing the shortcut and adding in a new one (one shortcut to play the game normally, another to fetch new files). Yeah, Guild Wars was easy to set up and get it running.

World at War is a different beast. Getting it installed is at first simple. Just run the installation program and let it do its thing. But the installation system that it uses isn't very smart. When I have reinstalled Battlefield 2, the installation program was smart enough if there are files sitting on the destination folder. It would then skip over the files, cutting the overall install time by a very large margin. Mind you, the installation medium for BF2 was 3 CDs. So the time it takes to really install the game files would be quite lengthy. World at War's installation system wasn't that smart so it ends up copying the files over from the disc, completely. Terrific, that means I gotta sit there and wait.

So after the installation was finished, it asks if I wanted to install DirectX 9.0c. Assuming that I have the latest DirectX files anyway (it's Windows 7 after all), I declined. I went ahead to run patches to update the game to the latest/current version (1.4 at the time). After a while, it's up to date and ready to roll. Fired it up, and right off the bat it complains of a missing DirectX-related DLL file. Wonderful. That means I still gotta install it. Off to Microsoft I go to download their latest runtime files. Installed, up to date, and ready to roll, yet again. I fired it up and it starts up surprisingly fast. It used to start up a bit slow on Vista after patch 1.2 or 1.3. But I guess due to how fresh this installation of Windows 7 is, it should be fast. Or at least I hope.

The game asks for which profile I want to use and of course I picked my Sixshot profile. Everything looks okay, except for my rank and stats. That's normal, as the game and its underlying engine stores those data locally on your HD. What a retarded method that was. Still, I make it a routine to make a profile backup nearly every gaming session, so as to not lose any possible progress. Quit the game, restore certain files, and restart the game. Ding! Prestige 5 icon is there, full XP bar, and my 42 kill streak is there. All done! Just to see how the performance is, I went ahead to enable some framerate stats after setting up my video options in-game. Joined one of my favorited server, and saw that the framerate looks good. It's over 60fps which is the bare minimum on my LCD monitor. I then realize that I cannot do certain things with my mouse. Next up: Logitech SetPoint.

Logitech does not have a Windows 7 release for their SetPoint software. But they do have a 64bit version of it for Windows Vista. Since Windows 7 is similar to Windows Vista in many ways, it should have little trouble installing and running. And I was right. Despite a warning that what I was running is not recognized or unsupported, everything turned out fine. I was able to add my programs back in and set up some custom "binds" for the other mouse buttons.

Also missing from noting out is Ventrilo, which has a 64bit build available from their site. The software ran flawlessly and I was surprised to see that I was able to control the volumes of all of my audio lines that the card/driver has to offer. I was not able to do that in Vista but that may be due to using a slightly older version of the X-Fi drivers. The version difference was so minor and I didn't see anything that would warrant upgrading the drivers at the time. But it was a minor issue.

And I think that is all for wrapping up Day 1 stuff. So let's see what I can recall for Day 2.

Xfire, another communications software, does not specify a different build but provides its own 64bit program after installing. My guess is that after installing, it will detect if it's 32bit or 64bit and create the appropriate shortcut then. Xfire runs fine, and there doesn't seem to be any issue as of yet. I did not test out all of the functions that it has to offer. But at the very least, it ran fine.

As I wanted to get my TV tuner card running, I went ahead to install the software for it. Everything went fine and the drivers appear to install correctly. I do know that there is 64bit drivers for the card as I checked the site earlier. And then comes the roadblock. In order for the software to work, it has to know what channels are available. And to do that, it has to scan for available channels. The process was slow but it eventually made its way to the end. And then it just sits there. The window would become non-responsive yet I can still switch to that window via alt-tab or through the taskbar. Even Task Manager would say that the program is running normally and not "Not responding." I went to the software's process and killed it. It shuts down and nothing out of the ordinary happened. I fired up the TV application again to try to get it to run. But it would not run afterwards. I rebooted the system and tried once again. And again, when it reached the end, it hangs. But this time, I noted out the highest channel detected and would attempt to stop it after it has detected the channel. This is assuming that as soon as the scanner reached the end, it could not stop gracefully. I hope that by using the scanner's control that I could force it to stop early, thinking that using it would have a better method of stopping the scanning in a more graceful manner. It didn't work. Stumped and unsure of what to do, I posted over at the manufacturer's forums, which has a section for Windows 7 but a quick search revealed no result. I now wait for potential suggestion as to what to do to work around this problem.

Okay, next stop is iTunes. Always trying to ensure that what I install is customized entirely to where the files get installed to, I ran the QuickTime installer first. It gets installed in its own folder and away from the usual Program Files folder. But I find that the installer defaulted to Program Files (x86), which is the folder for 32bit applications. That isn't looking good.

iTunes comes up next. I ran the installer and fired it up. It tells me that a new version (8.1.1) is available and asks me if I wanted to upgrade. I blindly hit yes. After the update was finished, I start setting up iTunes, only to find out that I forgot to set up my network drives. And if that wasn't enough, I also forgot to set up my workgroup, since I don't leave anything at the default. After a reboot for setting the workgroup, I add in my two network drives: one for storage and another for music files. Start up iTunes, go into Preferences, and specify my own Music Folder location. Done. Next up is a test for iTunes.

iTunes is funky in how it stores its library content. It's not a simple matter of exporting your Library and reimporting it back in. Nah, it's more complicated than that. I figure that the best way is to simply make a complete backup of the iTunes folder that contains your Library content and everything else that is stored there. It's a good thing album artworks are also stored there. I copied them back into the new iTunes folder in "My Music" section and started iTunes once more. Low and behold, my custom playlist and my library content is all back. HOO-AH!

Looking over to the side, I forgot that I still have Task Manager running, since I was doing all sorts of things. In the process list, I find some interesting information, yet it was rather disappointing. iTunes and various programs it uses and depend on are all 32bit programs. Yet I was so sure that what downloaded was 64bit. Huh... false advertisement?

I don't know about you but I change wallpapers often. It may not seem like often to you but sometimes I just needed something different. One of the features of Windows 7 is being able to select multiple wallpapers and have it change and rotate in a timely manner. That's right, automatic wallpaper changing without having to run a 3rd party program! There are so many wallpapers that I can use that it can change often enough to never grow dull and old. Well, my wallpapers may not be to your liking... but I like 'em enough.

And I think that's all for Day 2. Day 3 will be even shorter, as the number of things that I will do become smaller and smaller. However, anything that I want to note out will get posted here.

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