I slipped into the rabbit hole the middle of last week. One of my goals for this trip is to get a working Winder$ install on my MacBook Pro to eliminate the need for a dedicated Winder$ box. I need access to Microsoft Windows because certain of my professional tools are only available under that platform.
Emulation doesn’t cut it for me. It would work fine for a couple of the simple tools, but for some of the heavier work it would be much too slow. (Think processing spatial datasets using a geographical information system.)
A few months ago I tracked down several websites that contained instructions for installing Winder$ on an external drive (with or without Apple Bootcamp). So, last week I bought an external drive enclosure, and nice SSD drive, and retrieved my Winder$ install disk from my gear.
And then I promptly fell into a rather large rabbit hole. Nothing I tried worked. I could get partway to the goal, only to be dead-ended by one problem or another.
Those who know me will say that I don’t give up easily. Whether it is a positive character attribute or just plain old stubbornness I can’t say… or I won’t say. But after investing a ton of time and energy into the project (and I really didn’t want to), I woke Thursday morning to a dead MacBook Pro. I had noticed earlier in the week that it had rebooted at least once during the night and was acting a little off. But Thursday morning, it was dead.
When attempting to start the machine, it entered an endless boot cycle. It would power up, self test, and begin to boot process. About halfway through the initializing sequence it would reboot. A hard powerdown was required to stop the cycle.
So I made an appointment with a Genius at the Reno Apple Store. Those technicians have access to diagnostic equipment and software that can get the process moving fairly rapidly. I have not had an issue with an Apple technician or a factory repair.
I was there a bit early for my appointment. Kevin connected my machine to the magic cables that emanate from behind the Genius Bar. Within a few minutes he confirmed that the internals appeared to be functioning correctly. I identified those components I had replaced as part of my last upgrade (battery, drive, swapped out optical drive for hard drive).
But, when he attempted to boot the machine, no joy. None of the disk images from the server would boot either. He made a lot of notes, put my machine into a protective sleeve, and told me they’d run some bench diagnostics and call me.
When I didn’t receive a call Friday morning I expected the worst. I must have a working notebook computer to run my businesses. I do everything with my MBP. To be without a machine, or worse to have a machine that is unreliable, is unacceptable. I had walked the Apple Store line and knew they had no high-end machines in stock. (My suspicion is that they do not sell a lot of their top-tier systems in the store. They special order and ship them.)
So, after leaving the Apple Store I drove to the local Best Buy to check their inventory. There I met Ryan, an Apple employee who has oversight over a district of Best Buy stores that includes the Reno store. We chatted for a few minutes about what was available. He told me that Best Buy was just taking shipment of the 2.9GHz i7-based MBPs with a 1TB SSD. The higher speed doesn’t interest me as much as the terabyte of storage. I have a lot of stuff on my drive and 512GB won’t work anymore.
He thought they had on in stock. But, no joy. So, he texted a couple of his reports in other stores and located one in Fresno. However, when the Best Buy inventory person checked with the Fresno store, he learned that they were under corporate orders to not transfer any of their inventory.
So, I went back to Ryan to visit a bit. Perplexed, he said “Let me see what I can do.” After about five minutes, he located a unit in Roseville and the Reno GM said they’d pay to ship it. However, Roseville is only about 100 miles from Reno. I said “I’ll just go get it.” I knew that I’d have my migration completed by the time they could ship the machine.
So, I met Younger Son to help with retrieve his vehicle and then headed over the hill to Roseville. There was a little rain on the way, but no snow. The machine was waiting for me. The Girl and I picked it up, mounted up, grabbed a bit, and headed home.
Then came the fun of migrating everything to the new computer. I had backups of everything (I got the Backup Religion several years ago). The configuration of the old computer caused a couple of hiccups, but nothing that wasn’t easily surmounted.
While on the way to celebrate Younger Son’s birthday, the Apple Genius called to tell me it appears that the logicboard has a bad drive connection. Somehow, it is still under warranty and so they ordered a replacement and will install it to check. I should know something in a few days. That means I could return the new machine, but I think I’m unlikely to do that now.
By the end of Saturday I had an operating system with most of my configurations set (or close enough) and I could work again.
Saturday night I started on the Winder$ problem again. After a number of false starts, I finally got the install to boot from a thumbdrive. With a bit of partition magic, I was able to get Winder$ to install on an external Thunderbolt drive. That process was completed Sunday. (Yes, it took much longer to do it than the previous few sentences might indicate. The cost was not only in hours, but in stress and energy.)
This morning I finished all the upgrades for Winder$ 8.1. My numerical models will be simple to install. I still need to install the GIS software, but think I’ll wait until I have a project where I need it.
I can run Winder$ natively from an external Thunderbolt drive. When I can get a Thunderbolt case, I can install an SSD in it and that will improve the reliability of the system and the speed. So now I no longer need a Winder$ desktop (or notebook). I can everything from my MacBook Pro. It is possible to have my cake and to eat it too.
Now, if I can work out how to run an emulator that boots from the native install on the external drive so I can run a quick HMS or RAS model without having to reboot to Winder$ I will feel like I have cheated the Devil himself.
I emerged from the rabbit hole this morning. It feels good to have this done. I’ll figure out what to do with the other MBP, if and when it is repaired.
Now I wonder if I can get an emulator running the Winder$ install on the external drive, too? Maybe, maybe…