The Mother-in-law versus Vista battle cold war never ends. Every week, it's something different that goes wrong that brings us to the brink of annihilation, and I have to swoop in on the weekends to fix the inevitable new problem that comes up. Fortunately, I have the system more or less stabilized, and I finally figured what was going wrong with her Multiple Listing System printing out all sorts of HTML garbage issue. You care about how I figured it out, right? No? Well, too bad.
You see, being as protective and sensitive to virus and spyware issues that I am, I installed Mozilla Firefox on mom's laptop, in addition to a virus scanner and spyware sweeping software and some other general crapware cleaning utilities. This has always been my standard operating procedure on my own XP systems, which I maintain primarily now as VM's running on my servers. Naturally, I carried forward the same methodology to mom's Windows Vista laptop.
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When I installed Firefox, I answered the following question when prompted - "Use Firefox as the default system browser?" - naturally, I answered yes. Unbeknownst to me, with this single click of a mouse, I screwed up mom's line of business application.
You see, as it pertains to Vista, when you do this, a number of default file associations get set in the registry to use Firefox instead of Internet Explorer 7. While this may not affect a lot of web sites, it did happen to affect Garden State MLS, the main web site she uses. I had to do a lot of Googling to find out just exactly why this was happening, but eventually, the solution to this problem was "Uninstall Firefox". EDIT: Oh, I tried the expected path of using Control Panel and fixing the file associations in the GUI. Didn't work.
On her previous XP machine, I had her using Firefox and IE 7 for different uses. IE 7 for GSMLS, because it was an IE-only site, and Firefox for her other uses. Everything worked fine, and I even had Firefox set as her default browser. Spyware and Virii were kept at bay, and everyone was happy. But clearly, when installed on Windows Vista, the application installation and registry interaction clearly does not behave the same. Granted, her older box used Firefox 220.127.116.11 and the new one 3.0, but when I regression tested 3.0 as the default browser on my own XP systems and with the GSMLS site, it worked just fine. The problem reproduced itself on a Vista VM running on my ESX 3i box and on my father in law's new Acer laptop running Vista Basic. So this is clearly an issue that only manifests itself on Vista.
I had thought I had finally isolated all my Vista woes until this last week. My wife's PC, a HP XW4100 workstation, a dual 3.0ghz Pentium 4 system, is starting to show its sign of age. I recently upgraded it to 2GB of RAM so she could use her DVD Slideshow maker program and Blurb for making self-published photo albums, both of which are very CPU and memory intensive. Her copy of XP is also starting to exhibit signs of 2 year crotch rot, which means it's facing a re-install.
I decided rather than to re-install the old box with XP, that I would order a new PC and recycle her old machine as a Linux test box or NAS server. COSTCO, as it turns out, is running a nice system on sale, a DELL 4GB SDRAM Intel Core2 Quad with 500GB hard drive, sans monitors, for $599 which is preloaded with Vista Premium. As much as I wanted to get Lenovos, these particular Dells ended up being cheaper than my own corporate discount for an equivalent machine, so I picked one of these up for myself. Rachel is going to get my current Taiwanese Frankenstein special ASUS M2N-based machine with an Athlon X2 5000+ with 4GB RAM and whatever other spare parts I throw into it, with a fresh XP SP3 install. No need to make my wife suffer with Vista when her current environment works fine.
I, on the other hand, will image the Vista install that comes with the box, throw a second 500GB hard disk in it, re-initialize the drives, run RAID, and install Ubuntu as my primary OS. Vista can sit sandboxed on a 4GB VM on Hyper-V or ESX 3i where it belongs on my server. Keep that evil beast in its cage!
Have you finally submitted to Vista as your post-apocalyptic zombie overlord or are you seeking refuge in your XP SP3 or Linux bomb shelter? Talk Back and let me know.