The dark side versus the litigious side

When Mood Music
2013-03-10 02:10:00 ready to firebomb Redmond

His brain has gone
At long last my dad has decided to get a new PC. His current PC dates from 2000, as far as I recall, and is a Compaq tower limited to 2GB RAM. It comes with system restore to the original flavour of Windows XP, so reinstalling is a 24-hour slog:

  • back up the data twice (it’s backed up continuously to CrashPlan, but it’s soul-saving to have a local copy)
  • do lots of updates to get to Service Pack 1
  • do more updates to get to SP2
  • do even more updates to get to SP3
  • do more even more ***** updates
  • strip out the cruft
  • install wanted software and update it, then configure it
  • restore data.

The machine is showing its age in terms of both win-rot and lack of upgradability. Even if I could put 2GB sticks in the RAM slots, the machine would still be hampered by a slow set of buses and a processor which wasn’t leading-edge even when it was new. Photoshop is slow, there are software issues that boggle – like how can another computer be using the printer/scanner when there isn’t another in the house apart from my sister’s switched-off Windows Vista laptop  and (I think) I’ve locked down the network.

What to buy
To my surprise, the cheapest PC from a brand I trust with 4GB RAM, a fast-enough i5 processor and good-enough video capabilities turned out to be a base-model mac mini. (This was swung by me having a spare copy of 64-bit Windows and the existence of BootCamp.) Because my dad’s a student at the University of the 3rd Age, he got a £5 discount so the total cost for the mini, an external superdrive and MiniDisplayPort-to-VGA monitor adaptor was £533.

The kit was duly ordered from Apple: both they and I told the courier (UPS) to deliver on Friday 8th, when I’d have time to play. Despite the boxes being marked as, the delivery-bot banged on the door just as I was preparing to go to my job interview on the 7th. Perhaps UPS’s Edinburgh deliver-bots use a different calendar to the rest of us bipeds.

Unboxing and first boot

desk ready for action desk ready for action
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the packages monitor adaptor
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monitor adaptor attached to monitor cable unboxing superdrive 1
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unboxing superdrive 2 naked superdrive – cute!
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unveiling the mini 1 unveiling the mini 2
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the mini, unveiled slipping out
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mini and gubbins 1 mini and gubbins 2
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all plugged in and rarin’ to go first boot: superdrive works
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Setting up an admin account for me and a user account for dad on the mac side were of course dead easy and quick. The pain lay in playing on the dark side and my ignorance of the snares and deadfalls that await unwary fanbois and fangurlls. As I recall, it went something like this:

  1. Invoke BootCamp Assistant, partition mac HD into 40GB (mac) and 460GB (PC)
  2. Install Win7, then wonder Windows is complaining that certain components don’t have drivers. I’d forgotten to install Windows support bits from Apple.
  3. Realise that three accounts is one too many, especially when despite one of them being called Admin, in the Users folder there are two Jack Ryan directories and one Bruce Ryan directory. It’s not obvious to me which Jack Ryan directory pertains to Admin.
  4. Install RealVNC so I can monitor the mini from here when it’s in Worcester.
  5. Install 2000 edition of MS Office and am amazed it works under Win7. That is all except MS Outlook: I configure that to see dad’s email but it fails to restart thereafter. (This was not the only time it behaved this way.)
  6. Install Photoshop Elements 10.
  7. Install Opera and Firefox
  8. Install Acrobat reader and Flash
  9. Install VirtualBox and try to make a Windows XP virtual machine so I can run dad’s ancient version of Autosketch (a CAD program). This fails because my WinXP installer disk is corrupt.
  10. Restart in MacOS, copy my WinXP VM’s disk image to the mini, restart in Windows, make a new VM based on my disk image. Something stuffs up: Windows will no longer speak to the VGA monitor and now is all confused about its IP addresses, so RealVNC falls over. I can cure the first by using my DVI monitor (the mini came with an HDMI-to-DVI adaptor) but the latter seems incurable. For some reason, using the DVI monitor rescusitates the VGA monitor.
  11. The VM now falls over: it doesn’t like my attempts to attach a USB floppy drive. (The Autosketch installers are on floppies. Copying them to Windows via my MacBookAir and a USB stick works, but the installer won’t work unless it can see the actual disk 2.)
  12. Enough is enough: restart in MacOS and use BootCamp Assistant to remove the Windows installation, then recreate it.
  13. Go through several hours of Windows upgrades again. Why is each one slower than the last?
  14. Install RealVNC. It works, so I reclaim my DVI monitor for my macs. The VGA monitor stays attached to the mini. As far as I recall, it stayed happy from this point.
  15. Reinstall MS Office 2000. It all works apart from Outlook as before.
  16. Reinstall Acrobat and Flash
  17. Reinstall Photoshop Elements
  18. Configure Internet Explorer in a way that makes sense to me (minimal ‘accelerators’, Google as the only search provider, minimal toolbars to maximise web-browsing area.)
  19. Remove the cruft from TaskBar and StartMenu. Pin the programs dad uses to these.
  20. Find that MS Outlook is now stupid-money-ware. £100 for an email client! (OK, I know it does more than just email but that’s all it would be used for on this computer.)
  21. Download and install Mozilla Thunderbird.
  22. Find the server details for a BT email account and configure Thunderbird. It seems to be a Thunder-turd in that while it will pick up dad’s email, and even leave it on the server (despite the account being POP3), it won’t send.
  23. Wait until Thunderbird has received the 3000 emails in dad’s in-box. Email still won’t send.
  24. Look up BT’s step-by-step guide to configuring Thunderbird. Sure enough, I’ve put the server details, port numbers and other gubbins in the right bits.
  25. Aside – did you know that BT email insists on unencrypted password validation and uses some very non-default port numbers?
  26. Download BT’s automatic configurator and run that on Thunderbird. Now it can’t even receive email.
  27. Uninstall BT’s now-proven-useless configurator and stop to think…
  28. …if BT website quotes non-standard port numbers, and I suspect that BT are, er, less than perfectly competent, perhaps they’ve misquoted the numbers?
  29. Set the port numbers to standard ones (as recommended by Thor’s avian email client) and LO! it ceases being a Thunderbox. In fact, Thunderbirds are go!
  30. Amuse myself by testing whether dad’s email account can now send to and receive from my accounts and Elly’s domestic account. It can, so I’ve done all I wanted apart from get Autosketch working.
  31. On my WinXP VM, strip out some cruft, do the latest bloody updates and try many ways to get Autosketch onto it. No joy. My last thought is that I could reinstate CrossOver on my mac, install Autosketch under it, then copy the relevant gubbins to the WinXP VM. I’ve not yet tried this.
  32. Reboot the mini in MacOS
  33. Recopy my WinXP VM disk image to the mini’s mac partition, along with the Autosketch installer disks’ contents
  34. Reboot the mini in Windows. Copy the VM disk image and Autosketch stuff to dad’s Windows desktop.
  35. Find I can’t delete the copy of the VM disk image from the mac partition from windows.
  36. It takes 2 reboots to be able to delete the disk image from the mac side
  37. Final reboot into Windows. Set monitor resolution to 600 * 800, just in case dad’s monitor doesn’t play ball when I get to Worcester.
  38. Shut down mini and box it up, along with superdrive, dad’s installer, some of my installer media, a firewire400-to-firewire800 converter (I have a 350 GB firewire400 HD in Worcester to transfer dad’s data from the old PC, but the mini has only firewire800) and installer stuff for MountainLion and other odds and sods.
  39. Clear physical cruft from my desk.
  40. Th-th-that’s all for now.

Still to do in Worcester

  1. install printer – no point in doing this until next to actual printer
  2. install crashplan, get data from old PC to mini, then configure crashplan to back up data to same place (thus avoid a month of uploading data crashplan already has.
  3. check remote control works across internet.
  4. Remove the HD from your old PC, put it in an enclosure and use it as an in-house back-up device.
  5. Throw away the carcass of the old PC
  6. If I can, get AutoSketch working



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