Eikon, Compatibility Mode, and Virtual Machines

The purpose of this post is to address the issue Andrew raised in his comment regarding having a problem running Eikon in a Windows 7 environment. When I first read his question, I thought it sounded familiar, but that on the other hand, I did not recall anyone bringing up the issue before. Then I remembered why it was familiar; it had happened to me when I went through my recent computer upgrade.

Compatibility Mode; Getting Eikon to Run in a Windows 7 Environment

Windows for several generations now has included emulators that allow you to run different programs as if the current operating system were a previous version. Its called “compatibility mode” and is one of the properties you can change for a file. I was able to use this feature to get some older software packages that initially had issues running in the Windows 7 environment to run successfully.

To do it, you first need to navigate to the program in question, highlight it, right click, and then select properties.

Fullscreen capture 3172012 112631 AM_thumb[2]

When you click on “Properties”, one of the tabs available is “Compatibility”. If you select that tab, you will see a check box that you can check to enable “Compatibility Mode”. When you “check” the box, a dropdown menu becomes available that allows you to select an older version of Windows (all the way back to “Windows 95”) for running the software. For Eikon, I selected “ Windows XP (Service Pack 3)” since I knew that the software worked on my previous computer which used that as the operating system.

Fullscreen capture 3172012 113658 AM_thumb[1]

Here is a close-up of the compatibility mode window in the previous picture so you can see a bit more detail.

Fullscreen capture 3172012 113658 AM.bmp_thumb[1]

Once you’ve made your selection, click “Apply” and you should be good to go.

Old Programs

Andrew points out correctly that the Eikon software is over 4 years old, the implication being that maybe there is a newer version out there.  I suspect that if you were to obtain a current copy of WebCTRL, it would in fact have a newer version of Eikon packaged with it.  But you need to remember that most control systems have to be able to run on a number of operating platforms, including legacy platforms.  That means that even a more current version may need to run in “compatibility mode” for backward compatibility reasons (not sure just guessing;  if someone knows, let me know).

Since WebCNTRL is the ACL operating system, that is not being offered for free.  But ALC continues to generously offer access to Eikon for Educators and for me at least, running it in compatibility mode allows me to use the tool to teach logic, communicate logic, and verify that it works by running it in the simulation mode.  All of those things make the package well worth having in my opinion, no matter how old it is.

In the broader sense, there are a lot of very useful engineering applications out there that do not have the luxury of ongoing software development support.  It would be  a true bummer if a Windows upgrade (which is bound to happen) meant that we could no longer use a tool that was useful to us.  That’s why you probably want to know about this capability as well as virtual machines, which I will discuss next.

Virtual Machines

If compatibility mode doesn’t work, you may want to consider a Virtual Machine.   I have a limited understanding of Virtual  Machines, but I use one on my computer for older, non-mainstream applications.  I did this based on the recommendations of David  Lee, the IT consultant I work with here in Portland.

One of the reasons I went through the computer upgrade was that my registry had become corrupted, probably by the installation of a non-mainstream program or the interruption of an installation as a result of other activities on my computer.  David had worked with me to troubleshoot the issue and while we made improvements, we still were not able to resolve the problems that were giving me occasional (and unnerving) “blue screens of death”, usually at very inopportune times.

But, we had reached the point where the work required was risky in and of itself and if anything went wrong, I would find myself wiping my hard drive clean and starting all over again, a process that takes days since I literally have hundreds of applications.

That is a different story, but my point in bringing it up is that because of the implications of moving forward with diagnostics and fixes, we (David, myself, and FDE) reached a business decision, that decision being:

  • That I had a critical issue with my machine that needed to be fixed since I am highly dependent upon it for my work, and
  • That if I I was at risk of having to  spend days reinstalling software, with no other choice but to do it if something went wrong, then
  • I should consider upgrading my computer so that the installation of applications could be a managed process that occurred while my current, crippled but operating machine allowed me to continue working.

Once the new machine was up and running and reliable, we could wipe the slate clean on the original machine, install the basics, and have a very solid reliable back-up to pass around to whom-ever needed one.

Our company is very computer dependent and we are out with computers in relatively dangerous environments.  Most of us worry about what we would do if a pipe ruptured and drenched our machine during a test or we dropped it on a construction site, etc.  So, the idea of a current, reliable back-up machine has some appeal and merit.

In any case, David suggested that I install a Virtual  XP machine on my new computer and load any non-mainstream software into it vs. running it directly in the new machine. Doing so would protect the registry in my new machine from becoming corrupted by some funky change made by the non-mainstream software during the installation process.

This is because a virtual machine, even though it looks just like your computer is running XP  for instance, is actually running totally in memory.

Fullscreen capture 3172012 10020 PM

As you can see, the XP virtual machine running in the large window on my desktop above looks just like any other  XP desktop.    But the difference is that the desktop you are looking at is inside a window created by the virtual machine rather than being my actual desktop.  The XP virtual machine does not touch the registry or any of the critical resources  in your actual hardware directly.  That means it does not modify the real registry, just a virtual (pretend) registry that it creates in it’s little operating world.

Based on David’s recommendation, I’m using VMWare Player with an XP virtual machine running in  it that I had David set up.   But there are other options out there that will also provide the same basic functionality.  For me, it was worth having the recommendation and support of someone who does this for a living, but if you are curios, have a limited budget, and maybe not a pressing need, I suspect you could find and install a virtual machine on your own.  You just would want  to be cautions and have a good back-up to fall back on, just like you should any time you make a significant change to your machine.

Clean Software Installations

David also suggested that when I do an installation, I do  it in a clean manner.  This means that I should not be working on the computer during the install and that I do a restart after the install before doing anything else.  It is possible that my registry problem was related to my not following this procedure rather than to some sort of glitch introduced by one of my funky but useful  non-mainstream applications.

Some Closing Thoughts on Computer Upgrades

I learned quite a bit from the troubleshooting and upgrade process  that I went through with David.  Some of the things might be of interest to others who are faced with a similar  problem or considering a computer  upgrade, especially a computer upgrade for use as an engineering tool.  I’d be happy to share what I’ve learned in a subsequent post if there is interest.  In fact, this post started out to do that in addition to discussing the Eikon issue.  But it was getting longer than I originally thought it would and I wanted to get an answer out there to Andrew and move on to a few home projects before the day got away from me.

So, let me know if there is interest in a broader discussion about my computer upgrade experience.  In the meantime, I hope this helps resolve any issues you are having with running Eikon under Windows 7.

David Sellers
Senior Engineer – Facility Dynamics Engineering

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