Posted by: Roger King
Macs, restore, robustness, Windows
I try to devote this blog to issues relating to the emerging Semantic Web and Web 2.0/3.0 technologies. But I’m digressing here to put in a pitch for … Microsoft Windows!
Windows versus Macs.
The issue involves fixing problems. I happen to be a Mac user and know my way around its Unix guts pretty well. I happen to like the fact that on a Mac, there is no Achilles heel, like the registry on Windows machines.
Applications install dramatically faster than on a Windows Machine, too.
And, Windows machines come out of the box all set for light users, people who run Office apps, process email, and browse the Web. If you want to run more heavy duty applications, ones that don’t have click-and-let-it-happen installers or of you want to develop software on a Windows machine, you often find yourself in a chain reaction process where you incrementally discover more and more things you need to install. Even installing Microsoft development software, like Visual Studio, can turn into a couple of hour adventure. (But Visual Studio’s installer generally takes care of everything, and all you need is patience – a lot of patience.) Macs, on the other hand, have a free, heavy duty development environment called XCode that you can download and just stick on your hard drive. Various languages and database products are preinstalled.
I admit, though, that building Web apps on a Mac is a problem. The development environment doesn’t provide a lot of help there.
But, I recently ran into some problems with my Windows 7 machine and was actually impressed at its robustness. I don’t use Windows machines much and I don’t understand their guts that well. So, I am a nervous user, waiting for that registry problem or other seemingly minor issue that keeps the thing from booting. I have to use a Windows machine, however, because I teach database systems, and a couple of the major products do not run on Macs at all. I also teach animation, and there are a couple of powerful animation apps that do not run on Macs, either.
So what happened?
It all started when I decided to install some software development apps, and quite frankly, since I didn’t understand the Windows OS that well, I screwed things up. (I won’t go into the details because I am embarrassed.) Suddenly, my machine wouldn’t boot – but it automatically went into its disk check mode and fixed the problem. It took an hour or so, but it healed itself. To be honest, I don’t even know what it fixed exactly.
System state restore.
Then, with a sense of great relief, I dived in again, this time, really did a nasty job. I blew out my user profile. I also did something that caused Windows Explorer to conclude it didn’t have any legit access to anything in my file system; only Firefox could download something and store it. A few database development apps could no longer find their data; my connection profiles and SQL code was gone, seemingly.
So, I ran the Windows system restore facility. It told me exactly what applications would be gone when I rebooted. It fixed itself and I reinstalled a couple of things.
System image restore.
But I didn’t stop there. I made another mess and this time, I didn’t just cause some data to get disconnected from their applications. I deleted a bunch of critical stuff myself, somehow. Some of it was in the OS – ouch!
So, I ran a complete system image restore, something I had been carefully building on a weekly basis for a year or so. I didn’t really think it would work. It did.
You can kill it and it rises up.
I discovered something else along the way. My memory with older versions of Windows (I used Windows machines until about the time XP came out) was that if you pulled the power on the thing, or if it froze and you had to reboot it forcibly, there was a good chance that it would refuse to start up, that something being written at the time of the crash was incomplete, inconsistent, and deadly.
But you know, I’ve hard rebooted my Windows 7 machine a bunch of times. It’s always come up. Wow.