This is the first in a three part series on dealing with Windows operating system compatibility with Rockwell Software products and factory automation software in general.
Damn the OS – Long Live the OS
You know how hard it is to keep up with software versions. Every time Microsoft makes a change all of the factory automation vendors have to try to adapt. Every new version results in some incompatibility issue with a Windows operating system. It’s a big head ache to try and manage. I know because you all constantly tell me.
I would hate to guess how efficiency in manufacturing is negatively impacted by all of the controls engineers and techs fighting the operating system beast, but it has to be huge. We all want to take advantage of new features in software packages from Rockwell Software and others. But if it takes a half-day or full-day or more to get software working, is it really worth it? In the manufacturers’ defense it is almost impossible to include cutting edge technology in software products and keep up with the endless stream of Microsoft patches. Add to that the efforts by the manufacturers to satisfy your and my desires for new features and our requests for the manufacturers to add more and more features to their software offerings.
In the next few posts I will make some suggestions that will make it easier for you to deal with the issues of making all of your software work with whatever version of Windows you’re trying to use.
Windows 7, XP Mode, and all of the old systems
Rockwell Software launched a number of software package updates in the last few weeks that are compatible with Windows 7. Thank goodness. Right? Immediately following the launch and after I let people know the updates were available I got several emails asking, “So now that RSLogix 5000 version 19 and FactoryTalk View Studio version 6.0 work with Windows 7 will all of the older packages also run on Windows 7?”
The short answer is no.The older versions weren’t updated. They will still only work on the Windows operating systems they were tested on. Windows 7 includes a downloadable XP Virtual Machine that allows you to run in XP mode. But Rockwell has not tested the Windows 7 XP Mode component and while a number of my customers and I have made it work, it is sporadic. There are instances where I just could not make it work. So the pro is XP mode is free. The con is you may spend a considerable amount of time attempting to get software to run with Windows 7 in XP mode and never get it to work.
So what to do? Here is my take.
First thing, check the Rockwell Automation Knowledgebase for the current Answer containing the operating system comaptability matrix. (Answer ID 42682) Then read the release notes of any version of the software package you are considering migrating to. The release notes will alert you to any operating system issues you might face and will give you a heads up on what type of hardware is required for the software to run acceptably.
And then consider the options:
- Keep an old computer with an older operating system on it. This may sound feasible but long-term it doesn’t work. How many of us still have a Windows 95 or NT box that we can keep running?
- Try and make it run with Windows 7 and XP Mode. It won’t cost you anything but time.
- Learn and use a virtualization package that allows you to use and maintain multiple operating system versions. The only realistic option in my opinion.
- Upgrade all of your software and hardware systems to the latest version offered by your preferred factory automation manufacturer. This is an unreasonably expensive option but if you are interested please let me know. My kids are pretty smart and might go to expensive schools down the road.
If you know of other options please leave a comment and let me know. In my next two posts I will discuss using the two major options for virtualization packages, VirtualBox and VMWare and what I feel are the up and down sides to each of them.