Don't Shun Vista Because of Old Plotters (CAD Manager's Toolbox)

27 Jan, 2009 By: Robert Green

Dedicate a not-quite-retired machine just for handling jobs with older peripherals.

My recommendations for taking the Vista 64-bit plunge in the last edition of CAD Manager's Newsletter elicited a few anxious e-mails. Most of the questions centered on Vista and/or 64-bit incompatibilities for older printing peripherals, so I thought I'd outline the strategy I use for dealing with such problems.

The Spare XP Bridge Machine
I've had no real problems with printing devices using my 32- and 64-bit machine environments so far, but that may just be because I'm not using a bunch of older plotters. I have, however, had a show stopper of a problem with some Visual Studio 2005 legacy projects I've had to support for XP-based customers.

Right now my solution is to maintain a low-horsepower "spare" XP workstation (1.8 GHz single-core with 2 GB RAM) in my network simply for executing my compile tasks and supporting older peripherals. I use a shared drive in my local network and remote-access software (LogMeIn Professional) to gain access to the machine while I'm on the road with a laptop. I simply copy any source code files I need to the XP machine and run my compiles remotely, then send any revised files to clients. Any older peripherals I need to support are attached to the spare XP machine and shared to the network, thus allowing CAD tools to spool to network devices and bypassing the need to have updated drivers.

This strategy has worked very well for me so far with very little cost since the machine I'm using for the XP work is an older CAD machine that will serve a little longer before it is donated to charity. I'm now able to support legacy systems at low cost without holding back all my other hardware and networking plans, which gives me the best of all worlds for very little extra effort.

Admittedly, operating system problems are a pain I'd rather not endure, but the speed and extra bandwidth of getting my CAD tools on 64-bit platforms has been worth the minor hassle so far. And when the legacy support issues pass, I'll simply unplug the XP machine and be done with it.

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About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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