Personal Computing

Oh no, Mr. Bill

Yesterday while I was writing my holiday letter, I was also sorting out, or trying to sort out a Win 10 virtual machine that went wobbly. The symptoms were that it was very slow, the start menu had gone missing, Edge had gone missing, etc.

The Moocher uses Win 10 to run ESplanner, a financial planning tool that evaluates your assets and recommends future spending to maintain purchasing power and stretch assets until estate time. This program is currently Windows only and is not friendly in Linux Wine and other simulated environments. Most MacOS users run a copy of Windows in a Parallels virtual machine.

Why Parallels and not Virtual Box

In the past, the Moocher has attempted to run Windows guests in Linux hosted Virtual Box environments. These mostly worked but JSAF development would typically eat the machine with topography database, computation, and network traffic. Virtual Box worked and the price was Navy approved.

But it was not well integrated with the OS. Parallels is. In addition to providing a virtual machine environment, Parallels provides file sharing, cut and paste between environments, and allows MacOS apps to work with Windows documents. The experience is pretty seamless and Parallels carefully designs the VM to integrate with MacOS in a way that keeps Windows in its jail. The only real difficulties I’ve incurred are in doing keyboard spells to cause Windows to start in safe mode, etc. This is not a VM launch option and hand keying of the spell is difficult.

First Passover

I went through the applications and sacked a number of Windows applications associated with audio mixers and stage lighting systems that I had installed last summer while working up a budget estimate for our church’s new building. Windows versions of these things were crude and fragile compared with those brands working in a MacOS or iOS environment. I think this was the primary source of poor performance and instability.

Second, Get Edge etc Back

Next I tried to do a recovery installation from installation media (a Win 10 stick). This sort of worked but somehow went wrong. After a restart, Win 10 would hang in startup with the balls of boredom going round and the display background toggling between gray and black. There were a number of folklore remedies for this condition in the MS windows support community site (genuine MS, not the click bait). None worked.

Third, Despair and Reinstallation

After wasting a day trying to get the launch spell right, having the VM exhaust its virtual disk, and other similar pains, I gave in to the inevitable by creating a new VM, installing Win 10 from the stick image, and putting in my Win 8.1 license key. It worked. Then on to to grab the program executable. I installed it and recreated my asset profile and ran my first reports this morning. I don’t have to eat with the mutts.

On the fruity side

Since 2002 I’ve had 2 Macs, a G4 dual Mirror Door tower and a 2009 Mac Mini. And no problems with Mac OS. It’s rock stable. I have all my Emails of interest back to 2002. I have all my music and photos and taxes. About 400 GB worth of schmutz at this point.

That’s not to say that my experience has been trouble free. The tower migrated to SATA disks with a 3rd party controller when the system disk failed. Time Machine came to the rescue. The mini migrated to a SSD when the system disk failed.

The system has 2 Drobo storage arrays, one for media and the second as a Time Machine backup archive. Both have different disks that the ones I bought for them. With Drobo, when a disk fails, you pull the bad one, slip in a new one, and volume protection is restored about a day later. Meanwhile the array remains usable during the internal recovery operation.


What’s Next

Apple has a problem. Forty years after the Mountain View garage, Apple still has a functional organization rather than a product organization. Well mostly. Jon Ivy is product design honcho. There’s a hardware group and a software group. But there is no iPhone group or display group or iMac group.

In the beginning

Back in 2000, Steve Jobs had a vision and plan that bootstrapped iPhone and iPad from MacOS and product updates were pretty regular. Today, it feels like iPhone is consuming most of Apple’s product planning energy with updates to iMac and Macbook hardware coming at a much slower rate. Steve’s plan worked beautifully. As Apple announced new products, you could see how they derived from learning done earlier adding a feature to an existing product. iPod foretold iPhone. iSight cameras foretold the iPhone photo capabilities as Apple used incremental additions to existing products to do the learning needed for the coming products in the master plan that was Steve Job’s vision.

Lost little lambs

Today, nobody has that vision. Tim Cook and the others are great at executing the details of operating Apple. But nobody is the iPhone guy, the MacBook guy, the iMac guy worrying about sustaining these businesses. Pundits gripe that Apple moves slowly but, with mature technologies, slow is good. I don’t really need more processor or the latest Intel bits. What I need is the right instructions and video architecture to run the new OS. I don’t need more I/O bandwidth, I just need the right I/O to use new displays and external storage arrays for my media and backups.

Separate computers and displays are a thing of the past?

As the Mac Mini ages, there’s no attractive replacement for it. The separate computer and display are pretty much dead in the Apple universe. Home brewing a Hackintosh might be fun but the truth is that none of them are stable enough to be primary machines. Windows is not an acceptable option. It is just not stable enough.

So it is a notebook with its too small display or an iMac with a nice big display. iMac is an attractive choice. The machine and display are well matched. Apple usually puts enough memory and disk in them and you can add memory down the road.

The only real issue is the internal disk. It will need replacement eventually but Apple designs its iMacs to require disassembly to replace the disk. I tend to get 5 years out of a disk before it is toast. Will SSD’s extend that service life? I hope so. Watching and waiting for the rumored iMac update.


By davehamby

A modern Merlin, hell bent for glory, he shot the works and nothing worked.