Running Windows on a Mac still to be considered harmful

Reader Kitchenbutterfly asks:

Why have you burst my bubble? I’ve been living in paradise, claiming the MAC and all things APPLE to be the next best thing to sliced bread, or at least windows! And I know about buying computers in a hurry.

Well here’s the thing: I loved my first iBook. I never had any serious problems with it. But it was getting old, it was a G4 and there were certain things it couldn’t do that would come in handy for my long-distance work. Like run Windows in some form or another. So for Christmas, Aggie, who is sweet and loving and obviously completely crazy, gave me a new MacBook. I immediately started messing around with both Boot Camp and Parallels Desktop to figure out which setup would work best for me (there is a third option, VMWare Fusion, which I haven’t tried and right now don’t have the heart to). It is now turning out to be the answer that neither work well enough for real work, and both are harmful to the safety of my Mac hardware and my data.

The Boot Camp arrangement did not survive the first five weeks of long-distance work over the summer. The final week was spent doing whatever I could to get work done on one of Aggie’s computers. Since one of them did not want to work with the Logoport online translation client, and the other did not want to let me install SDLX*), this took a lot of moving back and forth between computers. Then I took my bricked Macbook home to Groningen to see what I could do about it.

Meanwhile, some changes in our company’s VPN software allowed that to work with a Parallels virtual machine, which it hadn’t done before. Wonderful! I could run Windows in the VM, keep all my data safe on my Mac folders, and access my Mac software while working in Windows.

Well, I could, right until I upgraded to OS 10.6 Snow Leopard. Parallels 4 is supposed to work with it and the company even has a nifty new upgrade to make it work even better. It was while checking my Parallels VM while preparing to upgrade to that nifty new upgrade the day before leaving for the US that my MacBook became seriously bricked again.

I took the bricked MacBook with me to Tennessee to see what I could do. Three thirty-mile drives to Murfreesboro later, we had a diagnose of OS corruption, which the repair guy said actually happened quite often. They offered to wipe and reinstall for a mere $130, I said no, we’ll do it ourselves, thanks, and we took the bricked box home, wiped it, reinstalled it, and restored it to its state of October 13, 2009 using the magic of Time Machine. Time Machine is excellent, but I’m finding myself using it a little too often.

I went to work using the Virtual machine and all was right with the world. I spent the Sunday before I was due to get back to work installing my software on the VM, and it was good. On Monday, I went to work, and all was good. What I didn’t realise was that the reason all was good was that Parallels was unable to download its nifty new update over our slow internet connection (see previous post). But at the end of the first working day, it had somehow snagged all 110 or so MB of it and prompted me to install it. Foolishly, I did. The installation ended with an error (something about a required file missing – even though this was an automated download that should have got everything) and my VM no longer worked well. Using Time Machine, I tried to restore the software to its last version, which worked, but restoring the actual VM file (an 8 GB monstrosity) turned out to be harder. This is probably because the VM had been running whenever the Time Machine back-ups were made, so what ended up in the back-up was not a workable file to boot the VM from. After repeated attempts, running Parallels caused the Mac to hang again.
So now I’m restoring it again to the state it was in on October 13, 2009. After that, I will turn off all update functionality in Parallels, reinstall the software I need and hope for the best until the new PC arrives here (working on Aggie’s machines has become problematic for other reasons that I don’t want to go into as this post is already quite long and nerdy).

And that is the tale of my MacBook woes. Some of my woes are clearly the result of human error (upgrading anything that works is risky and with the Parallels upgrade, there was already a known risk factor), but I’m beginning to think that the main human error here is wanting to run Windows on a Mac in the first place. I get a lot of joy from using that machine (and I do mean actual pleasure in using it as opposed to merely finding that work goes smoothly and the computer isn’t an active obstacle) whenever I use Mac software on it, whether commercial and actively developed for the Mac, or open source and ported to the Mac. I get nothing but grief and a great deal of learned helplessness from working with Windows on the same Mac. So the lesson here is that Macs should be used to run Mac software; score one for the Cult of Mac, I guess.

I’m stuck with Parallels for a few more days. When the new PC arrives, it will be gone, and good riddance.

*) Incidentally, if you love well designed software, translation software will open your life to forms of horror beyond the imagining of mortal men. If translation software can be said to be designed at all, it is designed based on the interests of anyone but translators. SDLX Suite, at least until its most recent version released this year, was not designed at all – it was a Frankensteinian patchwork of previously unrelated programs that the SDL company had bought over the years, that had no single interface vision and which only worked together through filters and a gigantic super-interface for project management and bundling. I have heard that the new release is better integrated, but its backward compatibility is nonexistent. This is relevant here because the installer alone is half a gigabyte and requires several steps of pre-installation taking several minutes before it even begins to try to install any of the component programs.

8 replies on “Running Windows on a Mac still to be considered harmful”

  1. I’ve decided to give the whole concept of running Windows on a Mac up as a bad job. Also my fiancee will kill me to prevent further harm to the walls and furniture if I do.

  2. XP is running quite happily on the Macbook hereabouts, using Fusion 3.0. But I confess the only reason I keep it on there is I still haven’t thrown it off. The last vestige of Windows software that I still used to rely on — MP3Tag — has been replaced, a couple of weeks ago, by the multi-platform Jaikoz.

    So the only real usage of Windows in this household is Vista Media Center (but it’s running on a Mac Mini, with bootcamp.


    *shakes off the Seattlian bare metal shackles, in favour of Cupertino’s soft, felt-lined bracelets*

  3. After the reaming Steve Jobs’s creation has given me over the past 24 hours, I am ready to run back into the warm embrace of Steve B, who is comparatively tender and knows the meaning of the word “No”.

    Luckily my boss owes me a laptop, and as soon as I find one that I can bear to look at, I can buy it and retire this MacBook for good, preferably with a shotgun.

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