Computing Update VI

January 6, 2013

This is the time of year, imbedded in Whistler, to do major maintenance of my computing environment.  And with my holiday gift to Tobae…four hours of computing support free of raised voice and any other bad behavior on my part…her computing environment as well.  As so here I sit with my MacBook Pro next to her slightly newer MacBook Pro.

Mine was bought in March, but it didn’t become my “production” computer until September.  Burned once by Migration Assistant, I pretty much build from scratch and it takes awhile.  Then a few weeks of carrying both with me.  Finally convinced that I didn’t have to go back and forth anymore, found a good home for the old computer after extracting its hard drive and putting a new one in for its next user.

And so it has gone for Tobae.  She has a very old MBP.  In November I visited brother Ken who works at the Apple Store in Bellevue Square and acquired a new one for her.  And it has been mostly sitting ever since, waiting for time to get all the things working that need to be working.

The day started poorly.  I’m not quite sure what happened when trying to apply one of those multiple operating system updates from the App Store, but was quite evident the computer was not planning to boot again unless I re-installed.  A ‘Command-R’ boot and two hours later (most of this was time downloading) and  was back to the out-of-the box state.  (This “Internet Recovery” feature is quite sweet!)  Smoothly sailing thereafter:  additional browsers (Firefox and Chrome), 1Password, iStat Menus, Quicksilver, Dropbox, configuring Mail.  A few tasks left…Microsoft Office, Google Earth, MacGPS Pro.  Not to forget to moving all existing data, but that is best left for last…one of the trickiest parts of a slow transition. Pretty linear.

And then there is VMware Fusion.  Easy to install the program itself…the harder work setting up virtual machines, and for Tobae this is Windows.  Windows is critical for Tobae in two ways.  She runs her practice on QuickBooks and (just like for Quicken) the Windows version is so very much better than the OS X one.  And the Providence Hospital electronic medical records system is Windows-based.  However there is nothing more challenging than Windows licensing as one changes hardware, for the ability to run the operating system requires an activation step intimately linking the product key (effectively the license) to the hardware.  Windows 7 seems the right place to be for at least another year or two.  I’ve been running it for about a year now.  With XP support going away in 2014, time to get Tobae off of XP.

One can spend considerable time trying to make sense of Windows licensing, especially in a virtual environment.  Bullet proof is buying the ~$270 retail version.  $270?  An alternative, and Microsoft doesn’t give very clear guidance, is the OEM version meant for new computers spanning computer manufacturers to DIYers.  Or what isn’t clear, building virtual ones.  At ~$140 pretty compelling.  But there is one (near) truth.  The OEM version anchors to one and only one motherboard forever.   So workable, but with risk.   I was concerned that we had only OEM licenses in our personal world at this point but finally established that the license Tobae holds is a retail version, so the upgrade version of Windows 7 (~$130) will work.   It is ordered.

Pretty easy to contrast this Microsoft licensing nonsense with the lack of nonsense from Apple for OS X.  Yes Apple hardware is more expensive.  Going from 10.X to 10.X+1 costs a little, nothing like ~$130.  Most impressive though is the model of trust.  Certainly there is a license from Apple to which one agrees.  But there are no certificates of authenticity, holograms, license keys, activation, branding chaos (e.g., Home, Pro, Ultimate).   Thank you Apple for knowing that “I am not a crook.”