Monday, February 19, 2007

Surviving Boot Camp

The saga continues.

For those of you following along at home, the backstory goes something like this:

December 5th, 2006 – The Whitman family, weary and sick at heart over the 127 viruses that infect their now defunct Windows-based Dell computer, decide to strike out on a brave new adventure and buy an Apple iMac. Those 50+ Windows-based video games won’t go to waste because the new iMacs have Intel-based processors, allowing the intrepid user to run both Apple OS X and Windows XP, which we already have on the Dell.

Week of December 6 – 12 – Plug ‘n play turns into a week of software installation hell, highlighted by the vagaries of an application called Senuti, which allows one to take one’s music on the iPod and transfer it to iTunes. The music industry doesn’t like this because it’s only supposed to work the other direction, but when one loses iTunes, and the 7,312 songs thereon, on one’s old Dell computer, one works with third-party apps so that one doesn’t have to re-import 750 albums onto Itunes. It’s not easy, but eventually Senuti works as advertised. The jury is still out on whether this process would have been quicker than actually re-importing the 750 albums.

Weeks of semi-befuddlement follow. Where is the Ctrl key? And why doesn’t it work like it should? Where’s the little x in the upper right hand corner that exits programs? Where is Windows Explorer? How do I create a new directory? Why is it that when I exit a program that it still appears to be running? But eventually we settle into a state of near Mac love. And the 24” display really is nice.

Early February 2007 – Numerous answers to inquiries confirm that I want to use Boot Camp, not Parallels, to run my Windows applications on the iMac. I print out the Boot Camp instruction manual, and discover that I need Windows XP Service Pack 2 to make this work. I search for a good deal on Windows XP, and fine a nice, new copy on eBay for about half the price of what it costs on, Best Buy, etc. I pull the trigger and order my copy of Windows XP through eBay. It arrives a few days later, thanks to the U.S. Postal Service. Total price: $94.13

Cut to Saturday, February 17th, 2007:

8:00 a.m. – I begin the Boot Camp installation process, trusty Boot Camp manual in hand. I make sure I have all the latest OS X updates and firmware. I burn a copy of all OS X drivers to a new disc, as instructed. I take off the shrink wrap from the very official-looking copy of Windows XP, and insert the disc when prompted to so. Various files are copied. It’s slow, but it looks like it’s going well.

8:45 a.m. – I am prompted to enter my 25-digit alphanumeric product code for Windows XP. I check the back of the CD envelope. I check the back of the manual. I frantically skim through every page of the manual. There is an intriguing note on the back of the Windows XP manual: “Your computer manufacturer has affixed the 25-digit product code to the back of your computer. Please refer to this sticker when prompted to enter the product code during the Windows XP installation process.”

8:46 a.m. – I am greeted by a wave of nausea, a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I realize that I have just bought, and tried to install, a pirated version of Windows XP from eBay. I can’t bypass the product code screen. I can’t exit out of the Windows XP Install screens. I try rebooting the machine. Nope. Won’t let me. I physically unplug the iMac and plug it in again. It magically arrives back at the Product Code screen in the Windows XP install process. This is Not Good.

9:00 a.m. – I head out to Best Buy in a driving snowstorm. I purchase a legitimate copy of Windows XP Service Pack 2, making sure that the product code is clearly visible. I head back home. Total price: $213.48

10:00 a.m. – That ominous “Enter your 25-digit alphanumeric product code” screen still stares me in the face. I eject the pirated Windows XP disc, insert the newly purchased legitimate disc from Best Buy, and type in the 25-digit alphanumeric product code that appears on the back of the packaging. No dice. Product code not recognized.

10:15 a.m. – Phone call to Microsoft technical support. I explain the situation. Apple iMac. Trying to install Windows XP so I can run Boot Camp. Terminally hosed. Microsoft doesn’t support Boot Camp. Call Apple technical support.

10:40 a.m. – Phone call to Apple technical support. I explain the situation. Sounds like a Windows XP issue to them. Besides, Apple doesn’t support Boot Camp. You’re on your own, bud. At about this point, the phrase “booting the machine” has begun to take on a whole new meaning.

11:45. a.m. – Back out again into the snowstorm, this time heading for MicroCenter. The 2-month-old iMac is nicely packaged in its original box. I tote the iMac into the store, fill out the necessary forms, and drop it off at the service desk. Assuming they can figure out how to get out of the Windows XP Install screens, they’ll probably need to re-image the machine, restoring it to its “like new” state, where I’ll then get to relive the joys of Senuti. Total cost for diagnostic evaluation: $64.52

Total time invested in Boot Camp: About 6 hours.
Total cost: $372.13, and still counting
Cost of frustration, aggravation, and inability to get writing done at home: Priceless

Lessons learned:

1) If the price on eBay looks too good to be true, it probably is.
2) When feeling the hankering to play games, buy an X-Box.


Anonymous said...

I have been using the itunes backup utility just in case something like this happens to me. I've been using CD's since I have a meager collection compared to yours- I think I'm up to 20 CD's or something like that. Have you considered using an external hard drive thingie to back up your music?

Oliver Wilmot said...

What a pickle! I'm getting my MacBook tomorrow morning. I want to install Windows XP on it using Boot Camp, just so that I can use one program which I can't get hold of on Mac. Hearing your problems worrys me, I'm really not sure if I should do it or not. My main concern is that I'm not sure what XP serial number to put in. I have an official XP licence for my PC, do you know if I can use the same code? I don't want to have to buy another XP licence. Do you think it'll tell me that another PC is already using the licence?

Anonymous said...

I am pretty confused about the problem you guys are having with your lisences. I am not encouraging you to pirate software but I used pirated keys numerous times.

Once there was a case where the original was lost but the copy was legitamate. Instead of buying it again or trying to call and spend my minutes on the phone trying for a retreival, I access my sources of serial numbers and basically by trial and error find a match on the 2nd try.

On other occassions I let my friends get a copy of my software and use the same key.

For all of this to be possible you have to understand that the keys can function on multiple units and that there must not be that many variations in XP reg keys.

You can go strictly by the book all the time and end up paying for something you have already paid for, or you can utilize the resources available and save yourself the trouble time and money that the writer experienced.

You should be perfectly fine using your license on all of your computers. After all they cannot say that more than one person is using the computers (1 person can own and exclusivley use multiple machines)

Anonymous said...

If you wanted to get off the product reg screen, you probably could have shut off the Mac, then as you turned it back on held the alt key. It would have given you the option to boot from the CD, as you were doing, or boot from the Mac hard drive. At least thats what worked for me.

Anonymous said...

Restart Imac while holding alt key. Boot into Mac os X and then go back to boot camp setup utility. Restore to one partition. Then start the boot camp process again while using the legit copy of windows.
This should only have taken the repair center 10 minutes.

Anonymous said...

If the entire family is using ONE computer, then you're doing it wrong.
Sharing a computer is like sharing your underwear. It just isn't done unless you're a loser. If you've got kids, get them their own box. Used machines are cheap. If they screw it up, that's their problem. Personally, I don't approve of school districts that mandate children do homework on a computer. It's asinine to assume that kids are going to learn about anything useful while sitting in front of another tube. Argh, I hate this box, it's a time-killer!

Anonymous said...

Have you ever tried looking on your Dell for a Windows key?

...Just a thought...