Today I’m catching up on my losing battle against configuration. It all started with my brand new LCD flat screen ViewSonic monitor. You see I had this older cathode-ray tube screen temporary loner that weighed 3,000lbs sitting on my desk that I needed to disconnect. Add to that the fact that I have less desk space now since our office moved and there’s no designated drop-off place for old unwanted equipment. That leaves me with less floor space as I tucked the giant black cancer inducing peripheral under my desk for the time being. I like the new flatscreen but it doesn’t match my existing Dell flat screen which means things will be a little off in dual monitor mode. So now I go looking for a buddy with either a Viewsonic or a Dell flat screen to swap with.
Things got interesting after I got my monitor hooked up and went to try connecting to my WinXP desktop from my Macbook. (For those of you new to my site I have a Macbook pro upon which I do all of my development now.) If you work in IT you quickly realize that you can spend a good portion of your life dedicated to hardware/software configuration. That’s because no matter how easy different vendors try to make integration there are always incompatiblities and problems that you have to learn about and work around. Then those work around impose future problems which require more work arounds. Before you know it you’ve become a software Q/A and hardware engineer instead of a programmer. Anyway, my big idea was to move some of my development effort back onto my WinXP desktop. You see, I’ve been working on a number of projects, none of which are moving any faster. Half of my work requires Visual Studio while the other half can be done on any platform. I tried using UVNC to work on my XP desktop remotely from my Macbook but keyboard mapping became a nightmare so I resolved to running Windows over Parallels directly on my Mac. That brought other problems along since working with my Mac meant using wireless net access. (my work area is one ethernet port short of what I need.) So I have to use VPN software to get into the corporate network which has to be launched from both the host and the guest OS under parallels. Because I need my IP address to share files with my XP box using the VPN confuses me. I can’t open the “Windows Sharing” preference pane to figure out my IP address the way I usually do. Instead I learned (only hours ago) that I have to open the stats window to find out my IP address. Today I had a clever idea. I figured I’d run Windows remote desktop from the Mac to remote control my XP box. This would give me a better user experience than UVNC because the screen resolution would auto adjust where I couldn’t figure out how to get the resolution correct even manually with UVNC. Also the key mapping under parallels is much better than what comes out of the box with my VNC client. All in all it was a big win. I still have the pain of starting Parallels, and Windows, and connecting to the corporate network (which when coming out of hibernate or pause in parallels involves a complicated sequence of disconnecting my airport connection and reconnecting it and opening the VPN client twice.), and logging in to my guest Windows then finally logging into my remote Windows box.
I had even more fun when I found out that my remote desktop connection would only live for 10 seconds. Repeat connections and disconnections revealed the source of my trouble. There was another user logging into my system at the same time, UVNC. Drilling into the services dialog, canceling the automatic startup and killing the service fixed the issue. (I had to get faked out by a phantom instance of Tight VNC server that I un-installed a while ago but never cleaned up properly.) What I ended up with was a crazy setup where my Mac is plugged into the flat-screen and speakers that were meant for my Linux desktop (that’s a whole ‘nother can o’ worms better left for another post), a layered Windows XP instance (XP over parallels logged remotely into XP on my desktop) that I have to manually keep synch’ed up (copying fonts, projects, and Thunderbird settings from my desktop to my Mac-based XP install), and a quasi-dual monitor setup where Windows shows on my laptop screen while OS X shows on the flat screen. Life is good.