Working under Windows, my personal hell

If I am to go to hell, I know already what it will look like: no Linux, no Mac OS X or any other Unix. Just Windows and (maybe) OS/2. And I’m still a programmer. And a system administrator at the same time.

It so happens that my current job requires me to work under Windows, to develop software, well, for Windows. For a series of reason that I don’t want to start explaining here, I decided to go with Borland, sorry, CodeGear C++ Builder as IDE rather than Microsoft’s or Qt. The main problem is that the software ha to be redistributed as proprietary, and cannot relay on stuff like .NET framework (otherwise I could have easily completed it already using Visual C# Express).

I have to admit I find myself way more comfortable with Borland, sorry, CodeGear rather than Microsoft’s sorta-C++ environment, mostly because I learnt real programming with BCB 3 (I had a “personal” license that was given for free with an old magazine years ago). I don’t really like much of the orientation that CodeGear has, but at least I can work with it without going crazy, which is decent anyway.

What is the problem? Well I didn’t have a Windows installation for about five years before, and my last license of Windows was Windows 95; I had to buy a Windows XP license (and it still costs €400 even though it has been released more than five years ago by now), and a license of CodeGear C++ Builder (electronic copy costs €100 less, but it still costs almost one grand). Then I had to get used again to working with VCL.

Not a big deal, mind you, but it reminds me why I so much like Qt, GCC and Emacs. Sure I could use these three on Windows, but not for what I need to do :/

On the other hand, I was able to use a piece of free software to save some of my time: rather than using the XML Writer interface as exported by MS XML services, I built libxml2 (which strangely enough supports Borland compiler natively) and used that, it features a very similar interface, but way nicer. The XPath interface is a bit messy (I was unable to find a way to execute recursive XPaths, that is, after finding a node through XPath, I couldn’t find how to run a second XPath on that, so i had to complete the task with sequential access; if anybody knows how to do that I’d be glad to know). I sincerely find libxml2 could use some better API documentation, if I have more time I’ll gladly see to write it.

But it’s not even done here. I decided that running the virtual machine on a virtual disk on the laptop was being too slow, so I decided to use BootCamp to install on the real disk and use that through Parallels. Reinstalling everything is a pain especially when Windows seem to require ten runs of Windows Update to get the updates right. And users complain about having to use --resume --skipfirst with Gentoo from time to time 😉

Right now I am storing my work data on a virtual hard drive still, as I couldn’t give enough space on the real disk for Windows, and of course Windows does not support the GPT partition scheme I use on the external Firewire drive. It’s frustrating that I can share that disk just fine with Linux and OSX but I’d need another hard drive to get it to share data with Windows. I suppose I should write that off for the future.

Using Parallels shared folder feature, by the way, seems to be quite impossible with development environments: .NET based stuff won’t run the applications with full privileges because they are seen as coming through the network; CodeGear RAD Studio tries to validate the hostname (.PSF) and as it is invalid it fails to open any file that resides on it (unless you map it to a network drive), the Borland Incremental Linker (ilink32) fails because Parallels uses case-sensitive lookup for files, while ilink32 looks for all-caps filenames (MainUnit.cpp becomes MainUnit.obj, but the linker looks for MAINUNIT.OBJ).

I should probably put the subversion repository for my work on Enterprise, but I don’t wan to access it through SSh as it would mean adding a private key able to access Enterprise to Windows…

I sincerely hope my next jobs will stay under Linux for a while, after these two are done 🙂