Saturday, November 10, 2012

At the moment, I wouldn't give two bits for a 64 bit operating system!

For me, the arrival of Windows 8 meant...time to get a really nice, powerful, small notebook running Windows 7 while it was still possible. The only problem is that it's become harder and harder to find them with the 32 bit version of Windows 7. Almost everything is shipping with the 64 bit version. I suppose I could have found the 32 bit version if I were hell-bent and determined, but the writing on the wall seemed clear: Time to shake off my Luddite tendencies and move to 64 bit Windows.

The idea behind 64 bits is simple. Imagine the address field in some form in which you insert one number per box. The more boxes, the more addresses you can have. For example, if there were two boxes, you could have 100 addresses--from 00 to 99. If there were 3 boxes, you could have 1000 addresses--from 000 to 999. Computers are the same way. The boxes are bits; each one contains either a 0 or a 1.

So, what's to address? Memory! If a computer has more memory--and can address it--it can work much faster. In practice, 32 bit Windows can use up to 3.12 GB of memory. Anything more than that is wasted. But, with a 64 bit system and lots of memory, memory-intensive programs like video editors will fly!

Quite honestly, I could get along fine with a 32 bit operating system and less than 4 GB. However, the world is going to 64 bits and soon many more programs will take advantage having those extra bits available. By not struggling with finding a 32 bit notebook, I was taking a step into the 2010s.

The downside is that much older programs--those written for DOS and Windows 3.1--will not run under 64 bits. For most people, this is not an issue. For the most part, it's a minor issue for me, except for one thing. It means giving laughing, please...PC-Write. PC-Write was one of the first word processors developed for PCs. I started using it in the early 1980s, when it and PCs were starting to make their mark. I haven't used it as a word process for decades, but for 30 years it has been my text processor of choice, and I can make it fly, especially when writing computer programs and instructions!

The other downside of 64 bits is that, while programs written for 32 bits usually run fine under 64 bits, the two types of programs do not always play well together. That is, there can be conflicts when a 64 bit program calls on a 32 bit program, and vice-versa.

I spent ALL of yesterday, starting at 6 a.m., setting up the new notebook, only to give up at 11 p.m.! I finished the day by restoring it to "out of the box" condition. Today, I start over.

In order to avoid this as much as possible, I decided to stick with 32 bit versions of programs wherever possible. That was a mistake. In doing so, I managed to mess things up (*My* mess. I can't blame the computer or any program.) to the point where I had to start over. In a way, I was glad that I had to, because I'd just allowed myself to accept that the right way to go about this is to start with as many 64 bit versions as I can get my hands on. If there are conflicts, I'll do my best to resolve them by *upgrading* rather than *downgrading*. One can hold on for only so long. If I can't yet upgrade my way to a solution, there's always one of my older computers to do the work on!

For the moment, it's back to the drawing board. The 200GB from my current netbook should have finished coping over to the new notebook by now. Time to start over.