Switching (again)

So I finally cracked the shits with Optus and their spotty reception around UTS, and absolutely terribad data network. Let's not even mention charging for tethering, since the data network was so bad. I bought a Telstra pre-paid sim, and decided to port my old number across and have a play.

Perhaps activating a new number, and porting an old number, over the phone on a Friday evening wasn't the smartest idea. The new number came up straight away. The port didn't, and it wasn't until Monday evening that everything transferred across number wise. Once that was done, I found that the default iPhone APN for mobile data wasn't working. I could browse the internet, but couldn't access the iPhone specific stuff (tethering / unmetered site to check usage, etc). MessageBank also seemed to have failed somewhere in the number porting.

So bracing myself for the worst, I put my headset on and called Telstra. After 18 minutes on the phone, my internet is fully functional, tethering is enabled, and a request has been lodged for voicemail issues. The two people I spoke to were well spoken, only slightly too chirpy, and didn't bullshit around.

So far, as much as it goes against the common trend, I'm happy with Telstra. Here's hoping the honeymoon continues.

Sen from my iPhone with a functioning data network.

Boot Camp is Hard Work

So, the Windows-based gaming world has dangled a large, juicy carrot in front of my face again, in the form of Star Trek Online. In the earlier discussions about this game, there was talk of an Xbox 360 version, which would be fully interoperable with the PC version. That was a very tasty idea, and ensured that my Mac at home stayed a "single boot, occasional VMWare" system.

Unsurprisingly, as release grew closer, the console port became a "still interested in doing it" while the PC version became alpha, then beta quality. So it became painfully clear that my legit Windows 7 licence (inorite?) would have to be transferred off my VMWare install and onto a dedicated partition.

Then started the drama ...

I have a late 2006 model Mac Pro. It's MacPro1,1 for those of you playing at home. It's got two Core2Duo processors, so it's definitely 64-bit capable, but being one of the first wave of C2D-based computers that Apple released, it has a 32-bit EFI bootloader, instead of the 64-bit EFI running on the latest stable of Macs. Hurdle number one - my Windows 7 DVD shits itself when trying to boot via 32-bit EFI. Of course, this wouldn't be an issue if Apple had, gasp, released an EFI update to 64-bit for capable computers once they developed it, but no, that was not to be.

Thankfully, between Microsoft and the MacRumors forums, I was able to find a solution. Of course it involved a Windows utility, making a fresh ISO image and burning a new install dvd, totally convenient, but at least it was a reasonably simple task and meant that I now have a "backup" Win7 install dvd.

Now on to part 2 of my saga. I have four drives in my Mac Pro:

Pegasus 250GB - (wut?) System drive
Oberth 500GB - Software archives and photo duplicates
Constitution 750GB - Music, Photos, random "Movies" in the downloaded trailers, game montage, etc sense and a few legitimate backups of TV Shows.
Excelsior 750GB - Some other legitimate backups of TV Shows, purchased DVD movies and so on.

I had the most free space on Excelsior, so decided that would be a split drive. I resized the partition, added a partition for Windows, and reboot to the (freshly created, 32-bit EFI compatible) Windows 7 install dvd. A few clicks later, an "advanced options" here and a "format" there, and I was ready to go.

To ensure that all Windows features work correctly, Windows might create additional partitions for system files

Oh, okay. You just do your thing then Windows.

Windows totally failed at creating the partition and now won't install, kthxbai

Niiiiice. A bit of post-saga googling revealed that I may have been able to avoid all this with some partition jiggery-pokery, but I didn't try at the time. Instead, figuring that Windows was having dramas with partitions and free space, I headed back to OS X, fired up Disk Utility and instead gave the Windows installer a big chunk of unpartitioned space to play with.

Restart, hold down C, go through the "loading Windows files" black screen of interminable slowness and start again. Create a new partition, leave some space on the drive, format, kgo. At this point I would like to refer you to the blockquotes above. Go read them again, I'll wait.

Done, okay. Now punctuate with a healthy barrage of expletives. Awesome, now we're on the same page. So I started to put on the dual-boot IT Support cap and thought that maybe Windows was sulking because it had been shunted off to the rather unglamorous disk3s1 address on a GPT partitioned drive. So I headed back to OS X and Disk Utility again to see how I could juggle my 1.3TB of data on my 2TB of space. If you paid attention, you would've seen that Oberth drops nicely out of that scenario. Also, as a minor aside, I don't have an iconified version of the Oberth class starship, whereas I do have a Constitution icon and an Excelsior icon, so, y'know, it was fate. Thus began the transfer of a few hundred gigabytes of data to other drives, trying not to think too much about the space remaining indicators that I was changing from a healthy green to a horrid red.

Once the transfer was done, I hit up Disk Utility and blew away Oberth. Note for reference: Even when you've copied your Aperture vault to another drive, changed the pointer in Aperture and done checksums, it's still FUCKING SCARY wiping the drive that all those photos have lived on for the past year. I decided to leave nothing to chance. MBR partition setup, a 200GB NTFS formatted partition (thanks to MacFUSE) and the remaining 300GB left unpartitioned for the Windows installer to have if it wanted it, or for me to reclaim on the Mac side later.

Restart, hold down C, more loading of aforementioned Windows files. Select the partition and decide that, fuck it, you'll give Windows EVERYTHING. Delete the Mac-created NTFS partition. Create a new 200GB partition and format using the Windows installer. Click next.

To ensure that all Windows features work correctly, Windows might create additional partitions for system files

Hold breath. Click OK.

The installer ... continued. It was installing! HOO FUCKING RAH!

Along it progressed until the bit where it reboots to finish the installation. Awesome, reboot. Hear the Mac chime, grey screen for a second, and then the flick to black that says "I'm about to load Windows, if you were a zealot instead of just a fanboi you'd be crying now" and then ... nothing. A black screen with a blinking cursor.

At this point, you're probably ready to go get a drink or something, and I had an interlude of several highly colourful turns of phrase, and required a refill on my Cointreau, so it'll add to the realism if you go get a drink now.

A quick google and I discovered this wasn't a totally unheard of error, and that for some strange reason, resetting the SMC on the Mac Pro was a likely fix. Okay, power down, yank the cable, hold the power button for five seconds, plug the power back in, boot up, let's go.

There goes the chime, hold down Option. Select the Windows install, here we go. Black screen, blinking cursor. Expletives. Okay, maybe even after the SMC reset you need to do the WHOLE process again. Power down, restart, C key, loading Windows files, follow the prompts, wipe the partitions, click click click, hold breath, installer's going. Restarting ...

OH MY GOD I WAS SO FUCKING HAPPY TO SEE THE WINDOWS LOGO. Seriously. This shit is crazy, I almost CRIED. The install proceeded, and I was soon logging into Windows 7. Awesome. My Mac Pro original install disks came with OS X 10.4.2, so they weren't much help with Boot Camp drivers. That's okay, fling in the Snow Leopard install dvd. Windows helpfully offered to run "setup.exe"

Boot Camp x64 is unsupported on this computer model

... At this point the phrase "stabby death" was gaining traction amongst appropriate response actions. Instead I opted for running the MSI files directly, instead of using the setup loader. Cue the first problem that I could really blame on Microsoft. UAC won't let you elevate permissions on an MSI file. You have to call it from another program that's already elevated. Oh stabby death indeed. Luckily, I was able to find a registry hack that enables the "Run as Administrator" option in the context menu for MSI files. Run it, hold breath to see if it works, VICTORY.

So, now about 5 hours later, I had a working Windows 7 install, with Boot Camp drivers, running on my late-2006 Mac Pro. It's been a wonder and an honour having your company on this epic saga, assuming you've made it this far.

And as an aside, the time it took me to get this far, was enough time to install Star Trek Online, create a character and to get myself up to Lieutenant 3 and muck around with ship customisations in Spacedock, because thankfully installing Win 7 on the other half's iMac was nowhere near as painful.

So how did you spend your Sunday evening?