8/16/05

Dude, You're Getting a Mac!

I am going to write a series of blogs discussing how it is I now use an Apple PowerBook G4 (12") and have essentially pitched my Windows PCs. Herein, I want to tell you what led up to it. In later blogs I'll discuss the initial thoughts and recommendations from others, my requirements, the software I needed, and what I like about my new platform, as well as anything I find I do not.

But, first, some funniness. As I sat down to write this, I wondered, "In what category should I put this?" My blog has four categories. "Security?" Well, maybe, but that is too easy a poke in the eye of Microsoft. "Theology?" Yes, it does comes down to a "religious argument" for many, MS vs. Apple, but "theology" is not about religion. Really, it is not. Not "E-mail," and "Misc" seemed like a cop-out. So, I created a new topic area, "pc2mac."

By the way, colleague Winn Schwartau went through a similar move chronicled in "Mad as Hell" - Switching to Mac Chronology.

Background.
For years I have used a Windows desktop, a synchronized Windows notebook, and a Linux server for ... well, Linux stuff and to keep my sanity. Also, I stage my website on my in-house Linux system before deploying. I used Windows for the same reason that many used VMS back in my DEC-days: that's where the applications were. And because of that, most all of my clients require Office compatibility from my computing environment. I've known people who bucked that system— and arguably it is not a Windows-thing, but an Office-thing—with the resulting back-and-forth of trying to exchange documents that display on one machine the same way as they did when created. Life is too short for that.

The Straw that Broke the Camel's Back.
One day a few weeks ago I was happily working away when my Norton Antivirus—which I regularly keep updated—crashed. It raised its hand and said, "Sorry about this... I need to crash. Be so kind as to uninstall and reinstall me please." No, not really, but if I had known I'd be fixing it for over 8 hours, I would have written down the error message. I never saw the message again.

I tried restarting. No joy. I uninstalled and reinstalled. Over and over again. It would not let me get very far. It seemed like the MS installer was broken. At first it complained that some components were still installed. I went into a Windows Explorer window to search for a file, and.... Search Assistant did not work. The left hand side of the Explorer window that should have had search options (and a cute little helper doggie, or a wizard, if you're that kind of person) had nothing, just a bluish background.

Craziness. I decided to go to a restore-point. I clicked on "Help and Support" and nothing happened. I ran the restore-point executable resulting in a big empty window and nothing else. I went to the Symantec web page time and again. I tried their web-based system check. I was lost somewhere in ActiveX or JavaScript hell. Firefox problem? I tried IE to no avail. Nothing that might help will run. I try to install SystemWorks 2005. It claims one of the Norton Utilities is already running. It was not. I got the same result with almost nothing running. I started turning off everything I was sure I didn't need in the "startup" list, including an Epson program and a Lexmark program... left over from printers I've not had for years.

At this point I was thinking "really insidious virus or really corrupted registry." But, I am really, really careful about opening attachments, about keeping AV software current, about firewalling. But, who knows? Though it could be the registry. So, I started poking around the registry. It was filled with the the crude of 5 years of installations and removals of hardware and software. I got more and more disgusted, especially since nothing worked and everything takes a reboot.

I scanned for viruses from a remote computer. Clean. I installed a 30-day trial of some other AV software. It claimed that no viruses were found. But, if good friends tell you that you have a mental illness and your brain tells you that you are sane, you better listen to your friends. In other words, how did I know if I have "supervirus?"

I turned off the computer and started looking for advice. The best people could offer was, "Better just reinstall everything on a clean system. Shoot, your should do that yearly anyway, because the registry gets so messed up."

Basically, that did it. I didn't know—I don't know—if it was an unheard of virus or a corrupted-beyond-repair registry. It didn't matter to me. I must have put in 20 hours or more of trying to figure this out. I know UNIX systems didn't have these problems. (And when I write "UNIX," I don't just mean Solaris. I've used UNIX since 1979; By "UNIX," I'm including "Linux.") UNIX systems just keep on running for days, months, years. You don't need to reboot them when you install new applications. But, I also heard good things about Macs. So, I had decided to leave the Windows world if I could. And you know what? I felt happier than I had in days.

Next time I will write about my initial thoughts and questions I asked.

On Monday, Luís Rei sent the following note:
A while back I experienced similar problems with windows search (and other windows applications that rely on javascript). It was not caused by uninstalling Norton but by uninstalling Kapersky.I managed to fix it after googleing for the problem and finding the following:

Fix:
Start->run
regsvr32 urlmon.dll
regsvr32 jscript.dll
regsvr32 wshom.ocx


(I made a blog entry on the subject: http://neacm.fe.up.pt/~rei/archives/javascript-troubles/)


Thanks, Luís! This repaired the desktop computer that my wife is still getting.

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