Deleting Microsoft… Forever
The VAR Guy’s MacBook Pro stopped working yesterday. It was the first major problem he ever had with an Apple product. Only, the problem had nothing to do with Apple. The VAR Guy traced the issue to a Microsoft Office for Mac OS X vulnerability. It was the final straw. The VAR Guy has dumped Microsoft and moved to a complete open source suite (NeoOffice and Thunderbird) on Mac OS X. Here’s the horror story and the happy ending.
The VAR Guy was in a pretty good mood when he got to work on October 25, 2007. He was armed with his new iPhone and planned to blog a bit about the Apple device. But when he booted up his MacBook Pro, The VAR Guy noticed all sorts of problems.
An extended boot time, terribly slow menu systems, applications that took minutes — instead of seconds — to load. It was as if The VAR Guy was using a bloated Windows upgrade on an underpowered PC again. The Horror, The Horror. The VAR Guy moved to Mac OS X back in mid-2006 to avoid exactly these types of performance issues.
So, what went wrong with the Mac Book Pro? At first, The VAR Guy thought the issue was somehow related to his new iPhone. Only hours before the Mac Book Pro problems started, he had synchronized the iPhone with his notebook. Had that process somehow altered — and crippled — his Mac Book Pro?
After an hour of experimenting, The VAR Guy noticed a few patterns. For starters, Apple applications and most third-party applications — everything from iPhoto to Firefox — were still running fine on his MacBook Pro. But all of the Microsoft Office applications were tanking. And Microsoft’s Entourage email client was completely blown away.
Hmmm. The VAR Guy did a quick search of the Web for Microsoft Office vulnerabilities related to Mac OS X. He soon spotted this vulnerability news. But when The VAR Guy tried to install the Microsoft patch, Office wouldn’t accept it. On a hunch, The VAR Guy tracked down directions to uninstall Office from Mac OS. After he followed those directions he rebooted his MacBook Pro. Bingo. The system was now running as if it was brand new.
Now, it was decision time: Was The VAR Guy ready reinstall Microsoft Office? Or was it time to break away from Microsoft forever? In Microsoft’s defense, The VAR Guy could have avoided the notebook meltdown if Microsoft’s recommended patches had been in place. But on the other hand, a growing list of open source options offer potential relief from some of Microsoft’s bloatware.
One prime example: At home, The VAR Guy’s Dell PC runs OpenOffice on Ubuntu Linux. All of the applications feel tightly written. His wife and kids — who are not power users — can easily navigate OpenOffice and Ubuntu.
Now, back to The VAR Guy’s MacBook Pro: Various ports of OpenOffice for Mac OS X are either under development or currently available. But The VAR Guy has heard some positive buzz about NeoOffice, a version of OpenOffice for Mac OS that’s considered stable and mature enough for mainstream users. Installing NeoOffice was a snap — it required only about 15 minutes. The VAR Guy also installed ThunderBird, an open source email client.
Will The VAR Guy regret — or celebrate — these decisions in the weeks ahead? Time will tell. Thunderbird seems to be running fine. And a few document tests with NeoOffice went fine. Peers running Microsoft Office have been able to open, view and edit documents that The VAR Guy had created in NeoOffice.
So far, so good. The open source applications seem to be running fine. And The VAR Guy’s MacBook Pro once again offers screaming performance. Hackers who target Microsoft applications and Microsoft vulnerabilities are no longer a threat to The VAR Guy.