The dark side versus the litigious side part 2

When Mood Music
2013-03-17 17:19:00 curious

Having set up dad’s new Mac Mini as a PC, we then needed to settle on options for enabling his software that won’t run under Windows7. The only software in this category was Autosketch, an ancient CAD program.

Dealing with ancient software
The biggest issue was that its installer media are floppies. I couldn’t get my WindowsXP virtual machine to recognise my USB floppy drive, and the installer just fell over under Windows7 on the Mini. My breakthrough was Crossover, which provides a Windows API within the mac environment, where the floppy drive did work. Installing into a WindowsXP ‘bottle’ seemed to work fine but when launched, the initial dialogue box wasn’t clickable. Also, the installer by default puts everything into C:/WSKETCH rather than C:/Program Files/suitable folder, which is a bit weird. Anyway, I copied the WSKETCH folder to my Windows XP VM and here it worked fine.

So I made a copy of this VM, launched it, stripped out all the stuff dad didn’t need (Safari, Office, 2003, etc), pinned Autosketch to the taskbar and start menu to end up with a simple Autosketch ‘appliance‘. I then copied the VM’s hard disk image to the Mini’s MacOS environment, rebooted it in Windows7 and set up a WindowsXP VM using the copied image. All worked fine, so I thought the job was done.

MacOS v Windows
I was wrong – dad asked a few questions, mainly because I hadn’t managed to get across how VMs work:

It will have a version of Windows which is not very different from the version I now use. Or it could be without Windows but have a different system. Would the non-Windows system be as easy to use as the Windows system I now have?
If you were coming from scratch, mac is better – more intuitive, much less virus prone, easier to network, faster and much more sane updates, more standards-compliant browser, better disk file systems, built-in intuitive email client, better back-up software available… But you have many years of PC use and I thought you wanted to stay on that side, which is why I’ve put Windows7 on the machine. (There are cons to mac as well: some software isn’t available for mac, Apple is notoriously tight-lipped when issues are found, …)

It will have a different (better?) email system: Mozilla Thunderbird vs. whatever I now use.

Yes. Webmail (i.e. accessing your email via a browser) was, is and always will be CRAP. The only time to use webmail is when you’re using someone else’s machine. (For example, I have to use webmail on the university PCs. When I emailed from India, I used webmail on PCs in internet cafes.)

Does this mean that I no longer be able to use <my current email address>?

No. Your current <ISP> will still provide your email service. You can access that from whatever machine and software you choose. Both the Mac and Windows7 installs on your new computer have email clients (Apple Mail and Mozilla Thunderbird respectively) which can access your current email account. I’ve set them both up to do so.

Will my present router still work?

Ditto. The router is just a way of transforming the phone signals that come into the house into signals any computer can use. It then distributes the signals via ethernet cables and a wireless network to their proper destinations. (Remember my macs can use your router’s wired and wireless services.) Think of the router as a step-down transformer in a substation. Substations receive electricity at several thousand volts (to reduce transmission losses) then convert it to 240 volts and distribute it to nearby buildings.

Do I need to change to another system?
Yes. I reiterate my comment about webmail. To explain a bit further, with webmail (i.e. accessing your email via a browser)
  • You are limited to a slow and clunky browser interface.
  • You need to be connected to the internet all the time. (Not a huge problem cos you have broadband which is an always-on connection. But what if your broadband goes down and you need to look something up?– If you are constrained to using a browser, you are stuffed because your emails aren’t actually on your machine – they are on your email service provider’s servers. (This is why webmail is slow.)
    – If you use an email client, it downloads the emails to your machine so they can be accessed quickly, without needed access the internet.)
  • You can’t (properly) use folders and filters.
    – For example, I have a folder called ‘family’. Within that I have folders called ‘Dad’, ‘Ian’, etc. I file emails once I’ve read them and taken any necessary action, so my in-box acts like a things-to-do list.
    -I could have filters to direct income email from, for example, my lecturers, to a ‘stuff to do for uni’ folder. You could filter all those DeutscheWelle emails into a separate box so they are out of the way of your other emails and can be read at your leisure.
  • There are also spam and junk filters built into email clients.
  • You can’t search through emails if you’re using webmail. With an email client, you can search for senders and content. Imagine if you knew you’d received an email about frogs but couldn’t remember who sent it. using webmail, you’d have to look through every email. Using an email client, you can just do a search for ‘frog’ and it will list all relevant emails. Similarly, you can locate all emails sent to and received from a certain sender. (The actual search facilities vary with the client. I’ve not fully explored Thunderbird’s search capabilities.)

The above applies to any email account from any provider. I could access my email on any machine using a browser but if I’m using my macs or phone, I use their built-in email clients, no matter where I am. The same email clients work with all of my email addresses.

[OK, I know some of the above may not be strictly true for all webmail services…]

Would removing Windows7 mean that what you had achieved by making  Autosketch work would be wasted & it would not operate on the non-Windows system?
No. Whether you use Windows7 or mac as your main OS makes no difference – Autosketch needs WindowsXP or earlier. So whether you choose to use Windows7 or mac, you’ll have running within your chosen OS a WindowsXP virtual machine.
  • If you choose to use Mac as your main OS, you’d run Autosketch just like I showed yesterday.
  • If you choose to use Windows7 as your main OS, you’d run Autosketch within a WindowsXP virtual machine running within your Windows7:
(I obtained the above image by cropping a screenshot of Autosketch running within a WindowsXP VM running within a Windows7 VM running within MacOS.)
I suppose that I don’t use Autosketch so very often that it would be a great loss.

I guess I’ve fixated on it because (i) I can’t resist a challenge (ii) I don’t want you to be deprived of software you use and the data you’ve created.

What system do you use for drawing?  Could I learn to use that instead of Autosketch or having to learn Autocad?

Adobe Illustrator. If you choose to use the mac side, I could give you my copy of Illustrator version CS3. (I use version CS5 because <my freelance employers> insist on it.) But you’d be setting yourself a bigger learning task. Also, Illustrator doesn’t open Autosketch files.

I must be the world’s biggest computer dummy!

I’ve seen worse, on my MSc course!


Surprise and almost final result
After a few more exchanges, dad decided to dump Windows and move to the litigious side! So I erased the Bootcamp Windows7 partition to maximise the Mini’s storage capacity. (Ive I could have simply reduced the size of the Windows partition, I would have done so. But BootCamp doesn’t enable this: bah!)

So dad now has a Mac Mini running as Steve Jobs would have wanted it.

  • Dad’s installer for Photoshop Elements is ambidextrous, so no worries there.
  • We have a 3-license copy of Office 2007, so dad’s using the 3rd license. (Anyway, I mostly use Office 2011 on mac – it’s nearer [but still annoyingly different] to Office 2010 as found on Napier’s PCs.
  • Photoshop CS3, Illustrator CS3 and InDesign CS installed fine. The version of Acrobat Pro that came with them is a PowerPC application, so I’ve installed the latest version of Acrobat Reader.
  • There’s still a WindowsXP VM, so dad could run Autosketch and Autoroute, but I’ve recommended he uses Google Maps or the AA’s online route-finder. I’ve hidden ‘My Documents’ on the Windows desktop: it’s replaced with a link straight to dad’s MacOS home folder.
  • The MacOS DVD player software doesn’t play nice: there’s just a checkerboard where the should be movie action. It’s not due to the external SuperDrive because it works just fine on my MacBook Air. The same fault occurs with a different external USB DVD drive, so there must be something duff about the Mini or the incarnation of Apple’s DVD player thereon. Anyway, VLC works just fine.

Still to do
And so I’m off to Worcester on Thursday, with a few remaining tasks:

  • Check dad’s Windows keyboard & mouse work with the Mini: I’ll need to reface some of the keys.
  • Check the internet connection: browser, copy across dad’s bookmarks, retest email, make sure I can remotely control the Mini from Servants’ Quarters
  • Deactivate Photoshop Elements on dad’s old PC so I can activate it on the Mini.
  • Install and configure the printer and scanner software
  • Get dad’s data onto a FireWire hard disk I left in Worcester, then copy it to the Mini.
  • Configure CarbonCopyCloner to do nightly clones to the Firewire HD.
  • Extract the HD from dad’s old PC, put it in an enclosure and configure TimeMachine to use it
  • Configure CrashPlan to back up dad’s data from the Mini
  • Lots of teaching!



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