Posts in category microsoft - page 12

Apple’s Boot Camp and my new MacBook Pro

Apple announced their Boot Camp technology – basically a set of drivers for Windows XP, a wizard to help resize your existing disk partition and the necessary magic to load XP from the EFI BIOS.

I can imagine the Windows on Mac Intel project that raised $12,000 USD are wondering why they bothered…

Anyway, it’s good news for me as this means my Dell 8100 and TiBook G4 1GHz are now replaced with a single machine I can use at home for media goodness and at work for Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 etc. Clarissa gets my Dell upgrade and I guess the TiBook will find a place on eBay.

Hardware

The hardware looks quite different from the TiBook – the keyboard is the same grey as the rest of the machine as opposed to the slightly translucent charcoal of the TiBook. I’d have gone with the TiBook’s look in this department until the MacBook Pro’s light sensor powers up the keyboard back light and the keys glow through….

On the other hardware fronts the machine’s finish feels less polished than the TiBook – Aluminum isn’t as cool as Titanium either… The ports on the side takes a bit of getting used to but I’m finding it less likely to snag the dongles and keyboards when they’re visible there…

The built-in 802.11G (as opposed to the B), web cam (tiny, great picture quality and lots of fun with Photo Booth) and built-in Bluetooth are all very welcome additions. The way the headphone and microphone jacks have fibre-optic inside the jack itself is pretty sweet engineering too.

Sounds is greatly improved and for a laptop sounds pretty damn good although still not up to external speakers obviously. The screen has very slightly less pixels but is substantially brighter.

One bad thing is the machine heats up pretty damn hot even with the latest firmware update. If there is a fan it’s either off or damn quiet… I’d prefer a bit of fan noise over cooler legs. Don’t even think of using it while wearing shorts.

I spent a few minutes trying to find the fabled Front Row app but couldn’t see it anywhere. I installed the dev tools and X11 from the optional stuff on the DVD but still no sign. In desperation I picked up the included infra-red remote and nearly fell off my chair as the screen shrunk and rotated while transparent icons flew over the top. :o I guess the X1600 Mobility can shift some serious polygons.

Boot Camp

First off I had to upgrade the MacBook Pro’s firmware and restart then into the Boot Camp Assistant which burnt me a CD-R full of Windows drivers before letting me re-partition my disk and asking for the XP SP2 CD. A quick reboot later and the familiar Windows XP installer became my home for the next hour.

Windows behaved exactly as expected and Apple have included a couple of minor tools such as monitor brightness and a driver to map the eject key. Graphics were taken care of by the ATI driver and sound by drivers from Sigmatel. The Bluetooth stuff works fine and is identified as Apple…

There are still a few devices unknown in Device Manager at the moment but I’m sure Apple will address those as they can. If they can’t I’m sure third parties will fill the void. One notable absence at the moment is the keyboard back-lighting doesn’t work under Windows.

Migration

My iPod 60GB has been a savior here allowing me to transfer important folders from my old mac such as Music, Movies, Delicious Library, Address Book, Mail and Documents.

I’m sure using the transfer option would have been easier but I didn’t want my crusty 3 year old profile full of god only knows what hitting this machine.

Compatibility

It’s run my usual apps fine so far although I’ve gone and re-downloaded all my favorite apps to make sure I get the Intel/Universal binaries where possible.

The only exception so far seem to be the Flip4Mac drivers to enable WMV/WMA support inside QuickTime which specifically told me they wouldn’t install on Intel and that I should check back soon…

[)amien

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion on the Xbox 360 – first impressions

Last night I went home with Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion for the Xbox 360, wired up to the projector producing 720p high definition imagery that dominates the darkened room.

You start off with an incredibly comprehensive character generation where you can choose race, sex, hair color, eye color, age… and a bewildering number of options to customs your face. So many options in fact it’s quite difficult to come up with something you like. Hitting the random option until you see a good starting point is probably the easiest way to progress.

The narrative starts and you find yourself in a prison cell at the royal palace. If there was a reason for my being here it must have been in the as-yet-unread manual.

The plot initiates with Patrick Stewart voicing the emperor of the Imperials and we descend into the sewers and tunnels beneath the city. For the next twenty minutes you scramble around in the dark with the occasional pointer on getting to grips with the control and game-play mechanisms. During this process you must choose your star sign which gives you an extra ability/bonus and a class to determine your core abilities and role.

I thought I’d have a bit of fun and choose thief for a change. Lots of creeping round, lock-picking the many chests and doors and generally just, well, thieving. For the record I normally play some form of ranger or melee class.

Having acquired a minimal set of adventuring kit from the residents I met along the way, now deceased, I step outside…

The sun is setting and it’s vibrant hues of purple and red are reflected upon the rippling lake in front of me.

The wind is stirring up and the branches of the trees bob back and forth casting shadows upon the ground.

A started deer looks up and jolts away from you through the thick grass and disappears behind a boulder reflecting the suns last rays.

The adventure begins.

[)amien

Why I haven’t yet ordered a MacBook Pro

My aging Dell 8100 is struggling with the recent demands of Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 mostly due to the fact it only supports 512MB RAM. Paging is bad enough on a desktop but on a laptop with slower drives and battery drain…

MacBook Pro

Apple’s first x86 laptop is based on the Intel Core Duo processor and will be available later this month. The enclosure is very similar to the previous aluminum PowerBooks with some changes to the socket line-up but retaining the backlit keyboard and wide-screen aspect ratio.

Connections include a new magnetic power connector, FireWire 800 has been dropped and PCMCIA makes a departure to be replaced by ExpressCard/34. Optical digital output makes an appearance too while wireless connectivity is suited by both Bluetooth 2 and 802.11G networking.

Familiarity ends on the outside with the internals sporting a 667MHz front side bus equipped with DDR2 memory sitting round Intel’s latest chip which curiously Apple only supply up to 1.83GHz despite Intel having a 2GHz part. The hard-drive has gone SATA with Apple offering 120GB 5,400RPM or 100GB 7,200RPM drives.

Apple are now offering the 2.16GHz processor option (14/07/2006).

But what about Windows?

There is no way at the moment to run Windows XP on this at the moment. Apple went with Intel on their new replacement for the aging BIOS called EFI. EFI isn’t all-new having already made its début as part of Intel’s 64-bit Itanium platform but at the moment Windows XP doesn’t boot on it.

Microsoft have always claimed they are about shipping software and they don’t care about the platform but I can’t see them bending over backwards for Apple on this one. If Intel are pushing other OEMs to use EFI Microsoft could be pressured into back-porting the EFI support from Vista into a Windows XP service pack or EFI edition.

Virtualized Windows?

Dual-booting would be good but speedy virtualization like Virtual PC or VMware would be even better… but the Mac’s number one x86 emulator for the PPC, Virtual PC, was brought out by one Microsoft a couple of years ago.

For Microsoft this was a win-win-win deal; it gave them control over the Mac’s entry into the Windows world, gave them virtualization software for Windows and a code-base to work from for getting their x86 based Xbox games running on their PPC based Xbox 360.

The situation for Apple was much more bleak. The PPC G5 processor came from IBM and as such didn’t have some of the Motorola G4’s features that Virtual PC used… and Microsoft wasn’t quick in coming out with a new version although they eventually did.

There is of course the possibility somebody else will deliver that virtualization. I can’t see Apple itself compromising by providing it but VMware is one option although that would need substantial porting.

Another option might be Transitive who provided the technology behind the PPC emulation in OS X x86 called Rosetta although their product line-up currently consists of emulated processor and virtualization, not just pure virtualization as would be required.

While we’re on the Apple subject check out the responses to the original iPod announcement over at MacRumors forums.

[)amien

Xbox 360 – More thoughts

Okay, so I’ve been living with my 360 for a little while now and was able to pick-up a hard disk and a headset from Kmart while in the USA (they’re a little scarce here in the UK at the moment).

Backwards compatibility

Now I have a hard-disk I can play my old Xbox games (it died a while back). I gave Buffy: Chaos Bleeds a shot and it seemed okay apart from the unexplained slow-downs in some parts. Alas it seems about half my collection isn’t supported -Outrun 2, Shenmue 2, Buffy (original), Soul Calibur 2 and Headhunter: Redemption. I can however play KOTOR, NFSU2 and Fable apparently.

All these games are now supported, thanks guys!

Gamer cards

The gamer card system is pretty cool, mine is shown here;

Basically everybody you play against on-line has something like this and you can see what games they have and what achievements they have met. You can also review a user if they were good or bad which affects whether the live system will put you with them again. If a number of people review you good or bad, it affects your star rating with 5 stars being an all-round nice guy I gather.

Dashboard

The dashboard that I found so cool to start with is leading to a number of annoyances. The first is content management – it can be confusing to locate items you have downloaded or if you just want to delete/transfer stuff between hard disk and memory card. Basically it could do with two lists – what’s available to download and what you have on your disk – each with a filter of content types (music/video/games).

Another major niggle is the downloading which seems to occasionally abort mid-download with no automatic retry and also the fact that it ties your whole 360 up while downloading something. Rumor has it that background downloading has an outside chance of turning up on the next dashboard update.

Xbox Live Arcade

The live arcade consists of small downloadable games you can buy for “credits” which cost real money. By using credits MS think you won’t notice how much you spend? Anyway, I’ve tried a few…

Gauntlet

One of my childhood favorites marginally enhanced to improve the text readability and allow 4 player on-line gaming. This should be good fun but it is marred by a few issues. The first is the multi player game suffers major lag problems. Secondly you only get 700 health points per level – hard work when constantly teamed with people who don’t know what they’re doing. The final issue is that diagonals and avoiding objects are trickier unless my memory is rose tinted.

Quite why the developers chose to do Gauntlet and not the superior Gauntlet 2 I’m not sure. With Gauntlet one of the top sellers on arcade at the moment no doubt we’ll see the sequel soon.

Hexic HD

This game came pre-installed on the hard disk and is very similar to Bejewelled 2 in that you have various colored pieces that need to touch to explode and be replaced by more pieces. They are both kinda fun but rather slow to get going and the only on-line interaction is a leader board and achievements. There is no head to head mode – a missed opportunity indeed.

Voice communication

The headset is quite comfortable although covers one ear effectively killing off your stereo/5.1/7.1 surround systems in one clean swipe. It’ll no doubt be putting a drain on the battery in the wireless controller too.

Speech quality is variable. In PGR3 I’m normally paired with other Brits – often northern guys who laugh for the duration although not always at my PGR3 skills. Gauntlet on the other hand seems to consist of broken speech with young American boys and possibly girls – it’s hard to tell the difference.

[)amien