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

Apple adopt Windows? Inane drivel from Dvorak

John C Dvorak believes Apple may ditch OS X in favor of Windows.

His rationalization for such a belief? A professor has noted that;

  1. They stopped the switch campaign Well duh, all ad campaigns stop eventually
  2. They dropped FireWire on the iPod Mac’s have USB, PC’s have USB so go with USB and save a few bucks
  3. Apple switched to the Intel chip Had enough of not being able to follow the industry’s MHz race?

Okay, not even Dvorak can be that gullible so what other evidence has he got;

Drivers

Dvorak now believes that having an Intel chip in the box means they can’t possibly control the hardware any more and Mac owners will expect to be able to stick any old card in and it just work.

The Mac has had PCI slots for over 10 years and USB for almost as long but users don’t just expect to plug in any old “for use with Windows” device. Anyone buying a Mac is quite aware it is not Windows even if it uses an Intel processor.

Dvorak also fails to notice that Apple are using EFI – Intel’s BIOS-replacement. EFI lets you load EFI-aware drivers before the OS starts much like DOS and Win16 used to do with the BIOS.

What this means is that as EFI takes off device manufacturers could, in theory, write a single EFI driver and have it work on any EFI compliant OS. That could be Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, FreeBSD… It’s some way off but it’s a brighter future.

Apple is a hardware company

Dvorak states that Apple is a hardware company and now they have the iPod they can afford to drop OS development.

Creative is also a hardware company and had an MP3 player out long before Apple. So in fact did Rio, another hardware company.

What gave Apple the edge to trample over the competition and wrap up this lucrative market? Is the iPod hardware much better than the offerings from Sony?

No, not really… it’s the software. Without iTunes the iPod would never have been such a success.

Could Apple have achieved this without years of experience in developing operating systems and applications? No chance. Sony has some experience with software and a music label under its belt and it still couldn’t achieve what Apple has managed.

Being both hardware and software gave Apple the chance to own an entire new industry while the hardware vendors and Microsoft couldn’t get their respective software and hardware acts together to deliver a unified solution. You have a problem? Is it the store, maybe it’s the music software… or maybe the device. Who’s to blame? Who’s going to help?

Preserve the experience

Only somebody who has not used Mac OS X extensively could believe that the experience could be easily replicated by another layer on Windows.

Third parties go to great lengths to mimic the appearance of the UI and the dock on Windows. And that is just skin-deep.

The Mac uses a development system called Cocoa that works though a system of messages to discover and extend the user interface and controls. Windows has no such low-level capabilities.

Right-click on any text box in OS X and you’ll see options for spell checking or any other service that has been registered for handling text. On Windows you’ll be treated to the same cut-copy-paste menu Windows 3.1 had.

Vista is not due out to the end of the year. Two features slated for delivery are the hardware accelerated UI and the searchable file-system. Both arrived on the Mac last year – or was it the year before?

People fed up with Windows and trying to keep it spyware and virus free consider and switch to the Mac. Having an x86 processor in your Mac means that porting just became a bit easier…

Flies indeed

Dvorak notices that the Apple fan base will not be happy. Most of them have tried Windows and come here to escape. They’d destroy their existing niche and semi-protected user base to grab some of the Windows user market-share.

Which part of that market-share? Those prepared to pay a good few extra notes for a smarter well-built machine loaded with additional system utilities, shell extensions and media tools.

Right, so that’s the Sony Vaio market-share which is already less than Apple’s in all markets bar international notebook sales where they have an extra 1%.

In the mean-time Mac sales are up to 29% as part of the iPod halo-effect.

Sign-off…

Apple’s Market share is increasing and it has removed perceived negative performance by sticking to Intel.

Success with the iPod shows it to be the only company out there capable of delivering a whole package of slick hardware, software and content delivery.

Apple is in a unique position to take new markets with its integration of software and hardware. Who would give that up to compete with tens of established Windows hardware pushers?

[)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