Creating a stable FTM 2012 Installation

As most of you may know by now, I have had what might best be classifies as a “passel of troubles” with FTM 2012; not the least of which has been in establishing and maintaining a stable, updated, environment.  (For more on that please read: FTM 2012 Surprises?!? and Family Tree Maker 2012 running on a Virtual Machine & Win XP).

After about 2 weeks of work, I have found what seems to be a solution. Yay!  Perhaps that means I am tenacious… I rather prefer to think I am not stubborn, but maybe I am that, too!??  Nevertheless, here is what I have come up with for a solution to build a clean, safe, pristine environment within which FTM2012 ‘seems‘ to be able to run, with greatly reduced breakage and much improved stability.Genealogy-Ideas

This solution may not necessarily be well suited for the feint of heart, but it is worth consideration given the frustration involved in having non-functional software, which you want to work.

First and foremost, I created a single function Windows 7 Virtual PC running in isolation on a guest host (see Wikipedia for more information on this); my guest host happens to be a Debian Linux PC running Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE) 201204.  You could do this just as easily on a Windows or Apple Machine.  My FTM-exclusive Virtual PC is run within an Open Source Oracle application called VirtualBox.  It is essential to note that this creates an isolated Virtual PC, not a PC application emulator environment (like WINE or CrossOver).  All applications within the Virtual PC are run in native mode, not in emulation or compatibility or simulation modes. (For more you can read what VirtualBox offers on the topic.)

To begin with, I decided I needed to create and then backup a complete, clean, fresh install of Win7Pro (running as a Virtual Machine under Linux).  My Windows 7 Pro Virtual Machine environment included the following:

  • 1.768 MB of RAM (memory)
  • 64MB of Video RAM
  • 2D video/3D
  • 20 GB of dynamically expandable Disk space

Once I built my Virtual PC, with Win7Pro, I performed a full Windows set of updates; this took 4+ hours. It should be noted:

  • I only allowed for Win7Pro default security settings.
  • No third party firewalls, anti-virus or the like were used or set; none were required because the entire environment was run within the control and protection of my Linux host. I also wanted to avoid these as they often will conflict with unstable applications like FTM2012.
  • After the OS was built and current, I created/ built an initial install of FTM 2012 (no FTM updates were allowed, yet.)
  • As the FTM install began, FTM requested/ required the installation of Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0. This set of installs also turned out to be a leisurely event; taking several hours to accomplish.
  • After my basic FTM install completed, I performed three rounds of updates, getting all the “necessary” MS .NET environment updates.

It is worth noting that after the initial .NET install, FTM2012 died while attempting to connect to the FTM site for its own updates, but, that happened only after I had completed all the Microsoft required .NET updates.  In the end, FTM made its way to its home base for the update package(s); and those updates were completed, as well.

Once FTM was installed and current, I rebooted my FTM2012 Win7Pro Virtual PC… and “surprise!” on exiting the Win7Pro system wanted to install 13 critical updates, mostly involved with .NET.  This process added 1.25 hours to my journey (according to a Microsoft download message). This was not a quick reboot!

Much to my chagrin, the first set of Microsoft Win 7 updates was followed by yet another huge update set, mostly involving .NET. In total there were nearly 2 hours of .NET security updates.  I rebooted the Win7Pro PC after each major update set.

Because I run Win7Pro in a Virtual Machine as a guest Operating System – I was able to back up my “newly created, updated and as yet unused” Windows environment after each major update. I think this is much better then relying on a simple Microsoft Restore point, however, these backups ate a lot of disk space at about 11GB per Virtual Machine Backup…

Once I had my environment built and up-to-date, I opened a ‘live’ session of FTM2012.

  • I ran a restore from a recent backup of my previous FTM2012 data (media included).
  • The entire ‘restored’ database was about 3GB in size.
  • Following the successful creation of a clean ‘new’ database in my Win7Pro Guest PC, I linked my database to Ancestry.com.
  • The initial phase of the update was fairly fast, under 10 minutes.
  • The media upload to Ancestry.com was slow,  although much faster than in my previous environment.  Sadly in the middle of my large media synch, Ancestry.com logged me out.  I restarted the synch after logging into Ancestry.com once again, and things ran cleanly.
  • I ran this environment for two days without difficulty.

In the end I decided to rebuild the whole thing yet once again, this time using a copy of Windows 7 Home Edition (rather than WIn7Pro).  I followed the same process and thus far have received the same positive results.

My conclusion is that FTM 2012 is generally not well tested.  There appear to be some serious conflicts with either applications or dlls that are neither identified nor reported to mere mortals like me, the FTM 2012 customer/ user.  Running FTM 2012 in its own isolated PC environment seems to avoid most of the more serious ‘unidentified and unacknowledged’ conflicts and allows for more successful use of the application at little financial cost; but at considerable time expense, in terms of setup (this took a long  time to figure out and build). In the end, I am almost comfortable in recommending this approach, if you encounter problems resembling those I reported earlier and have read about elsewhere… but, your mileage may vary.

There are no guarantees, warranties expressed or implied…