Days of Winrot and OS what-not

There's no doubt that Winrot is one of the greatest IT productivity sinkholes. In case you aren't familiar with the term, Winrot is the creeping, pernicious degradation of the integrity of Windows systems to the point where they run slowly, behave erratically, stop working altogether or all of the above.

The most common cause of Winrot appears to be DLL hell, the popular name for the infernal mess that comes with the cumulative updates and replacements of Dynamic Link Libraries. These changes result in incompatibilities, errors in the Windows registry, and other more mysterious and usually unresolvable issues.

The solution to Winrot is not to clean the registry, find the broken and mismatched DLLs, and remove the accumulated cruft of odd files that Windows, Internet Explorer and sundry programs strew throughout the file system with the wild abandon of cherry trees scattering their spring blossoms at the bidding of the zephyrs of spring (we've had too many late nights, so what?).

Nope, the answer to serious Winrot is drastic and time-consuming. You have to wipe the affected machine and start again. From scratch. Reinstall Windows and then however many updates and patches need to be applied, which will entail more reboots than the mind can comfortably encompass, followed by reinstalling all the applications.

Now if you were sensible, you would have a cloned image of the original Windows installation, but of course you'd still have to do the upgrades. You'd also have another image of the installation with all of your core applications. But it still is going to be death by upgrades. And you still have to re-create all of the application settings. There is no easy way around any of this.

Our main desktop has Winrot so extensively that among its many new and interesting behaviors, it can easily take 60 seconds for a Word document that is being sent as an e-mail attachment using Word's "Send to" command under the file menu to appear as an e-mail message under Outlook, even when Outlook is running.

Oh yeah, and all my keyboard shortcuts that use the control key rarely work when you first hit the keys - for example, it usually takes two tries to get control-C to work. But not always.

Why are we discussing Winrot? Because a number of you have written to share your pain over this topic. Do we have a solution? 'Fraid not. It seems that the fundamental architecture of Windows makes Winrot inescapable and expensive. So, we're asking for your input:

Do you have any strategies for at least delaying Winrot?

How do you determine when Winrot is so bad that drastic action, such as rebuilding the PC, must be taken?

When you discover intractable, terminal Winrot, do you have any strategies that make it easier to rebuild PCs?

OK. Onto our other topic for the week - running Apple's OS X on a PC. Nope, we're not talking about the forthcoming release of OS X on Intel hardware or using the available Apple Developer Transition Kits. This effort is centered on the OSx86 project.

At the heart of this project is a freeware PowerPC processor emulator called PearPC. Its author describes it as an "architecture-independent PowerPC platform emulator capable of running most PowerPC operating systems" (note that it does, of course, have the usual performance penalties you'd expect of an emulation running at 1/15 to 1/50 of the speed of a PowerPC-based system).

Installation instructions are available for the Macintosh world for Apple's Darwin (the open source precursor of OS X), as well as OS X 10.2 (Jaguar), OS X 10.3 (Panther), and OS X 10.4 (Tiger). Most intriguingly, PearPC running OS X can run under VMware. We have added this to our make-and-do list.

Tell gearhead@gibbs.com what's on your list. For links and notes for this column, check Gearblog.

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Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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