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Using LEGO Mindstorms RIS (RCX) KIT with Windows7

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Installing LEGO Mindstorms Robotics Invention System (RIS) on to a Windows7 PC is frustrating to say the least, as I’ve just discovered this while setting up my son’s computer to allow him to program my old RCX’s.

RIS2.0-Box.jpg

After dusting off the RIS 2.0 Disc, everything installed properly, but when I ran the program, the computer kept freezing on me. I could remember having a similar issues with Windows XP some years back. Upon a long drawn out search, I finally found my scribbling I had jotted down relating to the issue. I decided to share the solution for everyone, and to have it at hand the next time I need it.

LEGO Mindstorms Robotics Invention System Discs

RIS2.0-Discs.jpg
Need to Update to RIS 2.0 Software: Visit BrickLink

First of all, you can only install the RIS 2.0 on and use it with x86, 32Bit Widows environments as a result of the availability of drivers for the LEGO USB Infra-red Transmitter Tower to suite the RCX.

 

There are NO ’64BIT LEGO RCX Infra-red Tower Drivers’ Available!

 

The issue with running the Lego Mindstorms Robotics Invention System (RIS) 2.0 in Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows7 is due to Microsoft’s/Intel’s Hyperthreading Technology.

Hyperthreading is a form of simultaneous multi-threading that takes advantage of super scalar architecture (multiple instructions operating on separate data in parallel). They appear to the OS as two processors, thus the OS can schedule two processes at once. In addition two or more processes can use the same resources. If one process fails then the resources can be readily re-allocated.

I can’t verify if the following solution will work with ‘RIS 1.0′ or ‘RIS 1.5′ versions of the software. Although untested by me, you should also be able to use a LEGO Serial Infra-red Transmitter Tower with a serial-to-USB adapter.

Installation Solution:

  1. Start by installing the RIS software from the Mindstorms CD. When it asks you for Maximum or Minimum installation, choose Maximum as it avoids the need of the CD when they run the software.
  2. When installation completes, select ‘Don’t Reboot‘.
  3. Exit from the RIS installation and remove CD.
  4. Download and unzip RIS20XPPatch.zip
  5. Double click on ‘RIS20XPPatch.exe‘ to install it.
  6. Download (into a different folder) and unzip, LEGOTower.zip the USB Tower Drivers.
  7. Double click on ‘Setup.exe‘ to install the USB Tower Drivers.
  8. Plug in the Lego Mindstorms USB transmission Tower into a spare USB Port. Let Windows auto-install the Drivers (your drivers will be found in the files extracted from the LEGOTower.zip file.
  9. Restart‘ the computer
  10. Run the LEGO “Robotics Invention System” software. When you get to the part where it asks you to install batteries in the RCX, select “Cancel‘. Then select yes to indicate that you need to downloaded the ‘FIRMWARE‘. (download the latest version firm0328.zip)
  11. Quit from the program.
  12. The next time you run the LEGO “Robotics Invention System” software all should work for you.

 

 

Happy ‘RCX‘ Robot Building!

 

I suggest you also change the ‘Short Cut’ for the RIS Icon. Right-click Icon, select Properties, and the change the ‘Target’ from “C:\Program Files\LEGO MINDSTORMS\RIS 2.0\LaunchRIS2.exe” to “C:\Program Files\LEGO MINDSTORMS\RIS 2.0\RIS2.exe”. By doing this you by pass the RIS Launch Window and go strait to the program, which keeps young fingers away from the ‘Uninstall Button’.

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After you install the RIS 2.0 software on your Windows computer, the RIS software will start up every time a user is logged in. To bypass this you have two choices:

  • The first is to go to the Start/Run and start the program “msconfig”. Go to the right most tab, “Startup”, and deselect the LaunchRIS2 entry. Reboot and you will likely get a message saying; “things have been changed and do you want to continue and do you want to see this message again“. Just click, “Don’t show message again”.
  • The second way is a ‘Windows Registry Hack”. First download, no-ris-startup.zip, and unzip the file. Next double-click the “no-ris-startup.reg” file you extracted. You will receive a ‘Registry Editor Warning‘, ignore and just click ‘YES‘.

Too improve the compatibility with you current Windows Version, I suggest you access the ‘Compatibility Options‘ for the RIS Software by a Right-click the RIS Icon, then select Properties, and click the ‘Compatibility Tab’. Under ‘Compatibility Mode‘ select “Windows 98 / Windows ME“. Next in the ‘Display Settings‘ tick the “Run in 256 color“.

Properties-03.jpg

If all has went too plan, you should no have the “LEGO Mindstorms Robotics Invention System (RIS) ” installed and working on your PC. Now it’s time to dust off your old LEGO Mindstorms RCX Kit, associated books, and breath new life into you old Mindstorms kit! The RIS Kit is still a great way to introduce children to the world of Robotics and Programming. So go introduce the Next Generation this wonderful world of learning…….

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PLEASE NOTE THE FOLLOWING:

  • Do not run other applications while performing the download of firmware (basically, the LEGO operating system) to the RCX brick.
  • It is not unusual to require several attempts to download the firmware to the RCX brick. Three or four attempts before succeeding is not unusual.
  • The download of the firmware will take approximately four minutes. During that time you should see a faint flashing green light coming from the IR tower and a counter on the face of the RCX brick going from 0000 to 2500. If the download fails you will be given the opportunity to retry.
  • After completing the download of the firmware, the LEGO program will download five proprietary sample applications to the RCX brick. This will take approximately one minute. The counter on the face of the RCX brick will go from 1 to 5 as the sample applications are downloaded. If the download fails, you will be given the opportunity to retry.
  • If the batteries drain too low or if for some reason you must remove the batteries from the RCX brick, it will be necessary to re-download the firmware.

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If you have Windows7 amd64 (64Bit) version installed on your computer, don’t disrepair! I run Win7 amd64 on my desktop and get around the associated issues by using VirtualBox and a WindowsXP Virtual Machine. The Virtual Machine has all my LEGO Mindstorms Robotics Invention System (RIS) related software installed in it, including NQC and RobotC for the RCX.

Installation is straight forward, just download VirtualBox and build a 32Bit Windows Virtual Machine following the VirtualBox Guide. Start your Windows Virtual Machine and simply follow the instructions above to install RIS 2.0.

If you PC/ Laptop is less than 5 years old with ‘Multiple CPU Cores“, you have no difficulties using VirtualBox. This method also works if you have a MAC or Linux based computer.

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Using LEGO Mindstorms RIS (RCX) KIT with Windows7, 9.9 out of 10 based on 20 ratings

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“… you just can't differentiate between a robot and the very best of humans.” ― Isaac Asimov, I, Robot