Windows won't work? Time for a Mac

Yet another Windows system crash... what's a computer user to do? Turn to trusty Mac OS X, that's what

In my computing life, there's one constant: the Macs don't crash and the Windows machines do. I mention this because on Thursday I went to see my friend Rob (Enderle, the noted industry analyst) and took along my Fujitsu Tablet PC. I used it at Rob's house to take notes of our meeting.

That went well enough, but when I got home the machine had slowed to a crawl -- and there it's stayed. Now XP is never a speed demon at boot time, but 10 minutes to boot is ridiculous even by XP's standards. The computer works fine in Safe mode, but if I try to log on normally the Task List shows a process called "winlogin" taking 99 percent of processor time. That's why the machine has slowed to below the speed of plate tectonics. And, no, it doesn't catch up by moving really fast all at once as terra not-firma sometimes does.

My bet is that it isn't the hardware's fault, that something corrupted some system file between the time I left Rob's and when I got home. I think I've done about all I can do with the machine short of rebuilding it. I've tried booting with the last known good settings and I've done a System Restore back to the time when the computer was almost new. The next step will be to find the restore disks (if I can find them) and reload the OS -- just what I want to do with my weekend.

Meanwhile, the Compaq Armada M700 that I've been nursing (with help from my friend Big Ernie) has relapsed: I crashed it loading some apps and have finally decided to give up. I'll use the drive and memory I bought for it for some other project. Goodbye, dear friend.

My HP Media Center crashed after Symantec SystemWorks 2004 first failed to install properly and then didn't allow itself to be uninstalled. Yes, the antivirus component was half-installed but has no entry in the Add/Remove Programs Control Panel. There's an antivirus remover on their support site, but it doesn't work with the 2004 version.

I'd say that installation snafu was a fluke -- except that it also happened on the Fujitsu. I'm in the process of switching all my virus protection to Panda's line, which works well and isn't expensive. I'm not sure what I'll do for disk utilities and registry fixers. If you have a recommendation, drop me a line. I'd like to find something besides Norton to recommend. This isn't the first problem I've had with a Symantec installation, but it may be the last. Sad, since I've liked their stuff for so many years.

Symantec has a way of purchasing other utility companies seemingly to cut down on the competition. Remember Central Point Utilities? They were at least as good as the Norton utilities of their day, but vanished after Symantec bought the company.

More recently, Symantec bought PowerQuest, another interesting utilities company. It'll be interesting to see how much of that company's technology finds its way into Symantec products. A friend of mine who swears by PowerQuest's disc tools was really bummed when he heard the company had been bought. (The acquisition occurred months ago, but I just mentioned it to him. Ruined the guy's whole afternoon.)

I'm down three Windows machines right now. I could use Rachel's machine -- I paid for it and she is my assistant, after all -- but there's important stuff on it and just in case it's a bad case of compu-Karma that's crashing these machines, I want to leave hers out of my sphere of negative influence.

So I'm doing what I always do when Windows ticks me off (that's not the word I really want to use, but this is a family show): I grab a Mac. Right now, I'm typing this column on a 15-inch PowerBook G4.

The nice thing about Mac OS X is that it's darn near uncrashable. No matter what programs I install or uninstall or how I use it, OS X just runs. I've been using it since before the commercial release and have had only one serious crash -- and that was during a hardware installation. The machine then booted right up without further incident. Other that that, the OS has been -- at least in my experience -- rock solid. And that's more than I can say about my Windows machines.

Sure, not all the programs I want to use run on Mac, but it's like I tell people: if a Mac does what you want to do, it's a much more stable OS than Windows.