As you may have gathered, I repair computers for a living, among other things.
In this pursuit, with Windows computers, I frequently end up re-installing Windows fresh, meaning I back up the user’s data, erase the hard disk, install Windows, drivers and applications. Then I restore the user’s data. It’s a pretty standard thing and I’ve gotten quite adept at it.
For the most part, manufacturers are quite helpful by having all the drivers for a particular model easily locatable and downloadable. My Google search history is littered with searches like “lenovo thinkpad driver download” “dell inspiron 1540 driver download” and so on.
Naturally, yesterday after re-installing Windows XP on this Toshiba, I googled “toshiba satellite m50-187 driver download” and that’s when my troubles began. I’ve tried so many things at this point, that it’s hard to recall the exact steps, but i’ll try.
I did get to the product page for the correct laptop, but only several hours later did I see the link to “Driver Downloads” over to the right in a neutral color. Meanwhile, I did see the horizontal menu option that said “Support & Downloads,” so I hovered over that and saw “Driver Downloads” and I got the following page.
Since this is a laptop, when I saw “Notebook” I selected it and then chose Product Family (“Satellite”), then Product Series (“M Series”), but then the only option was “Satellite M840” and I have the M50. Argh! (I found out much later that instead of picking “Notebook” I should have chosen “Archive” presumably because I’m supposed to know the life cycle of Toshiba’s products and realize that it’s no longer a notebook, but it’s now an archived product. <sigh>)
I clicked on the Support & Downloads option above and with three levels of filtering (“Satellite”, “Satellite M50”, “Satellite M50-187”) had the page I needed with the list of drivers. Yay!
I downloaded them all and installed them one after the other, as I do all the time. Except…. There is no wireless card driver. There is a Wireless LAN Client Manager, but it’s hard to manage a device that’s not installed and working. I did try downloading this and installing it, but actually it made things worse: Windows User Fast Switching was disabled, it couldn’t be uninstalled, etc.
So, I dug into my bag of tricks and visited pcidatabase.com. I plugged in the Vendor and Device ID found in Device Manager, and found it was the Intel Pro/Wireless 2200bg device. I went to the Intel Driver Update Utility Wireless page, asked to have my device auto-identified and guess what? It couldn’t. No information whatsoever.
So, I tried to download it manually. I tried downloading from the Intel site, from other Toshiba sites, from cnet.download.com. Eventually, I did manage to download the driver I needed. Or I thought I needed. And when I installed it, things looked good. The yellow question mark in the Device Manager disappeared, but I still couldn’t use it. Disabled. Failed. Grrrrr.
Finally, I confirmed that I had uninstalled all the drivers that I had previously tried and uninstalled this last driver as well. I rebooted, installed, saw the good indications that things were going right and rebooted. Wonderfully, it worked.
No thanks to Toshiba. No thanks to Intel.
But, come on, I do this for a living and had such a headache, can you imagine someone trying to do it themselves?!?
Last month, Apple announced that the next version of its operating system, Mac OS X 10.8 (or “Mountain Lion”) would be released in July. Last night, a version was released to developers which, barring last minute tweaks, will be the final version. Also, some sources remember that last year’s update was released the day after their quarterly financials conference call and that there will be another such phone call next week on Wednesday.
Regardless of whether the new version is released in the next two weeks or not, is not terribly important. The fact is that it will be released and will be the current version for the next year or so. So, are you ready to upgrade?
According to Apple’s Up-to-Date Program, “The OS X Mountain Lion Up-to-Date upgrade will be available at no additional charge from the Mac App Store to all customers who purchase a qualifying new Mac system from Apple or an Apple Authorized Reseller on or after June 11, 2012.” However, you will need to make your request for the free upgrade within 30 days of the date Mac OS X Mountain Lion is available on the Mac App Store (which you can find in your menu in the top right corner). If you purchase an Apple computer after Mac OS X Mountain Lion is released and for some reason it still has Mac OS X Lion, you’ll have 30 days from the date of purchase to qualify for the 30 day free upgrade.
But, hey, if you miss the window, it only costs $20 anyway, so it’s no big deal, right? It used to cost between $100-130 for each new version of Mac OS X, but last year it was $30, this year $20, where I think it will stay until there is another major change in the OS.
Basically, you need an Intel-based Mac. For more specific information, go to Apple’s Mac OS X Technical Specs page, but the short version is, if you’re Mac was bought in 2008 or later, you should be fine, although you will want to be sure you have enough memory (RAM) and hard disk space to accommodate it. You can check RAM and Hard Disk by clicking on > About This Mac and then “More Info….” If you don’t have enough RAM, usually it’s pretty easy and cheap to upgrade. These days, a 2 GB RAM module goes for prices between 20-40 CHF, depending on whether you have a desktop or a notebook and how old it is. I got a 4 GB chip for my Mac laptop (2009) for about 35 CHF just a week ago.
You also need to have Mac OS X 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard) installed already. If you do not, then you need to upgrade first. Check “About this Mac” as above. If you have Version 10.6, then just do a Software Update which will bring you to 10.6.8. If you have anything earlier than 10.6, you’ll need to upgrade first. Find someone with Snow Leopard disks, borrow them, install it and then you can go to Mountain Lion.
Time Machine – You are backing up daily, right?
I can’t emphasize this enough, no matter what version you currently have….Please Make Sure You Have a Current Backup. That means, completed in the last 5 minutes. If you are not using Time Machine, you really should be and this is the perfect opportunity to do so. If you have a single Mac desktop, then get yourself an external hard disk that is at least as big as your internal, plug it in, wait for Time Machine to ask you if you want to use it for backups and click “Yes.” Then wait for the backup to happen. If you have more than one Mac or you have a single laptop, consider buying the Apple Time Capsule. It’s a great investment and will back up your computer(s) wirelessly whenever you are using them! It doesn’t get much better than that, honestly.
I repeat, if you are not actively using Time Machine, do so now. Before you upgrade.
Upgrading to Mac OS X Mountain Lion
In most cases, like 999 times out of 1000, the upgrade is really simple, if lengthy. Open Mac App Store, purchase Mac OS X Mountain Lion, wait for the download (could take 30-90 minutes, depending on your internet connection), and then click the icon in the Dock (that long line of icons that shows you which programs are running) to start the installation and then wait again for it to complete, again possibly 30-45 minutes.
Most times, that’s all. But, inevitably it will go wrong for someone. Maybe a power outage at the wrong time screws something up. Maybe the internet connection is interrupted and corrupts the download. Any number of stupid things could happen and leave you with a system that no longer works.
That’s why you need/want a current Time Machine backup. Because even if something happens, you’ll be able to recover easily. Really easily.
UPDATE: On 24 July 2012, Apple confirmed that Mountain Lion will be released on 25 July 2012. Expect it around 10:00am Pacific Daylight Time, or early evening here in Europe.