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Monday, September 03, 2007

The MacBook Project

Having amassed a collection of nearly every type of Mac/Apple manufactured in the past 20 years, I felt it was high time to take the platform seriously. This is not to say that I did not consider them serious computers. I have always used DOS and Windows based PCs for most of my work, and tended to relegate the Macs to the cool, and interesting to play with, category. I have had many technical positions over the years that required a cursory working knowledge of Macs and Mac software. I even participated as a team member on a project for large industrial automation that featured Mac at it's heart.

With the introduction of Intel based Mac computers, my intuition told me that it would not be long before the lines between the two platforms would become somewhat blurred. As Apple's BootCamp product moved from one beta release to another, I made myself a promise that when Vista compatibility was touted, it was time to take the plunge. My reasoning was the desire to seriously test the MacBook, as well as an excuse to try Vista out on a non mission critical project.

D-Day was Friday, August 31st 2007. I exited my nearest Apple store with a new Black MacBook (2.16 gHz, 1GB Ram, 160GB HDD), and made my way to the nearest software retailer for a full version of Vista Home Premium. Although the Business or Ultimate versions would have proved useful in testing, Home Premium was the minimum level that would test MacBook's video subsystem with the Windows Vista Aero Theme.

Day #1 – Nobody packages products quite like Apple does. From the quirky square box beginnings of Ipod, have emerged a family of handled white boxes that shout to the world that you just dropped a load on a cool new computer. Unboxing the product is like Christmas morning. Once unboxed and powered up, I was viewing OSX Tiger in a matter of minutes. It always amazing to me how appealing minimalist design can be. This laptop has all of the ports, software and hardware of every other laptop I have owned, and then some. What takes some getting used to is the fact that it has exactly two (2) buttons. A power button in the upper right corner of the bottom half, and the track pad click button.

My last stop for day #1 was at the NeoOffice website. They have done a very nice job with their particular distribution of OpenOffice. In fact, I am writing this article using the word processing application from NeoOffice.

Day #2 – As I began the process of figuring out how one goes about opening a package of Microsoft Retail software, it dawned on me, the packaging has gotten as sophisticated as the software. I wanted to glance over the package and make sure I had everything I needed before proceeding with the loading of BootCamp on my MacBook.

The BootCamp installation is a very straight forward process. I did not have my first panic attack until reading the warning about printing out the instructions before proceeding. I had not yet tackled the task of getting the MacBook to print to my shared office printer (Canon MP780). Thankfully Apple thinks to include a PDF Writer as the initial default printer. A quick save to a memory stick had me printing the instructions in a matter of moments.

The BootCamp installation went flawlessly. I did not originally understand the first step of creating an Apple Driver CD/DVD. The beauty of that step would reveal itself post Vista installation.

Having created a partition (32GB) and made my driver DVD, I proceeded to install Vista. Other than entering the License key and a couple of mouse clicks, it was a completely effortless install. After the install of Vista, I got my courage up for loading the drivers from the DVD burned earlier in the BootCamp process. With my MacBook having restarted and taken me to the main screen of Vista, I inserted the driver CD. All of my past experiences with drivers told me that I was in for a trial and error Easter Egg hunt to resolve all of the yellow question marks in my device manager. Nothing could be further from the truth. The entire effort consisted of clicking that “Yes” I did want to run the Setup.exe file that was found on the DVD. After completion, all of the things that normally took you on a UN tour of manufacturers websites hunting for drivers, were installed, configured and working. Audio, Network, BlueTooth, Built-In iSight Camera, KeyBoard, Trackpad, well, you get the idea. As Apple has been known to say, “It Just Works”.

The next several days will be incremental trial and error, as I get to know this new hardware and software(s) platform(s). Plans over the coming days include the installation and testing of:

Virtualization Software
Windows Emulation Software
Print Sharing
File Sharing
Feature Discovery

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