Posts tagged with boot-camp

First impressions of Snow Leopard

I came home from work today to find my family pack upgrade version of Snow Leopard. It’s been a few hours, so here are impressions so far.

Packaging & installation

The packaging was very small and lightweight and eco-friendly compared to the big-plastic-box-monsters that come out of Redmond.

Installation went mostly smoothly apart from an abort-and-restart that seems to have been caused by my DVD drive flaking out on me. It’s been trouble since it came back from the Apple Store.

I had to run the separate Xcode installer to update that – it wasn’t automatically detected – which left me wondering if I need to manually install anything from the optional installs or not. Running Xcode before updating it not only failed to launch but left a background process I had to force quit with Activity Monitor to let the installer upgrade it.

The less-is-more-approach followed through to disk space which freed up another 10.5 GB – impressive given that I had purged all the non-English language resources already using Monolingual and I elected to re-install the Rosetta PowerPC binary support.

Noticeable changes

Despite being an optimization release Apple squeezed a few features in to sweeten the deal the majority of which are documented at their site and in proper reviews. The ones I’ve encountered so far are:

Location services, detect time-zone

Screenshot of location aware time-zone in Snow LeopardGreat for traveling users like myself, it found my nearest city instantly.

AirPort status in menu bar

Pop-up menu now shows signal strength of all other networks. (Hold down alt when popping up this menu to see detailed connection stats)

Smoothing options

Gone are the Automatic, light, medium and strong options replaced with a single “Use LCD font smoothing when available” option that isn’t too good at detecting third-party displays but you can activate the old hidden options.

Sub-pixel quality

The rendering just looks plain wrong when booting. It has that awful color-fringe that you see from time to time, the cause of which seems to be related to the default gamma (the curve on which digital colors become analogue levels) on Mac OS X changing from 1.8 to the PC compatible 2.2.

It seems however that the sub-pixel rendering algorithms haven’t been updated to correct this. There is absolutely no point in posting a screenshot as either your browser, screen or OS would make it appear different to how it did here.

Help is at hand though, you can head into the ColorSync Utility in your Applications folder and calibrate your display – just follow the instructions and set the gamma back to 1.8. It’s worth turning on “Expert” mode and spending a few minutes setting it up properly though.

Unable to open NIBs

No compiled nibs error in Snow LeopardI used to love opening up other people’s NIB files. You could in theory create your own customized versions of an applications interface. Localize it for yourself. Maybe even create a UK English version where Colour is spelt correctly.

No more.

Whether this was to save space or to prevent such hacking is anyone’s guess.

Compatibility woes

So far I’ve had a couple of things break:

  • Cyberduck quits on launch – beta replacement is out
  • Xbox 360 controller extension (I don’t use it anymore anyway)
  • iStat Menus fails to launch – I need this to replace menu time with time-zones and a drop-down calendar

Features I was expecting

Given the lean-and-mean plus sensible small refinements I was expecting…

  1. Login Window keyboard shortcut – come on, seriously, with the secrecy at Apple surely you need this too?
  2. Uninstaller – AWOL since the transition from OpenStep to NextStep and sorely needed
  3. Language purging – I still don’t want French etc. on my laptop, odd omission given the reduction goals
  4. System update framework – Other apps could use this too you know guys – and put clever delta’ing support in
  5. Grab – STILL only saves in TIFF format. So I save it there, load into preview then into PNG. WTF??
  6. Safari – should have an option to force new windows to open in a new tab

I’d also love to see being able to pin documents to their dock icon and being able to push a window to an edge to tile like as these were two features I found useful in Windows 7. Talking of which when you hold the mouse button down on a dock icon it greys everything else out for a truly UAC-like moment every time you want to quit an app from the dock…

The Menlo font

Menlo and Vera Sans Mono overlaid for comparisonApple needed to replace the aging Monaco as it has poor international Unicode support, has just a single style and poor hinting (it uses embedded bitmaps to look good without anti-aliasing in Terminal).

Given Steve Job’s apparently love of typography would they commission a gorgeous new monospaced font as Microsoft did with Consolas? No.

In 2003 Bitstream released the family Bitstream Vera under a free license which included a great Sans Mono with bolt, italic and bold-italic variants. It even has some capable hinting so looks pretty good without anti-aliasing although could do with a few delta’s to clean that up. While it was short on the Unicode support several forks filled in the gaps such as Deja Vu and Apple took Vera Sans Mono, grabbed some of these additions (adding 2900 glyphs) and tweaked some of the existing ones. Specifically they moved the vertical bar up on EBH, widened MN, shifted il, changed 0 from dotted to crossed and move/resized punctation then packed it up in a True Type Collection file that stores multiple TTF’s in a single file.

While these changes themselves look quite good – it seems they were optimizing for 14 point – in the process they destroyed the hinting for these glyphs despite the tiny amount of change made.

Menlo on Windows in NotepadMenlo on Mac OS X in TextMate

Spot which ones Apple modified on these screenshots (curiously Windows refuses to use the TTC file as it believes it is corrupt).

Screenshot of Terminal preferences showing anti-aliasing forced for MenloApple is obviously aware it’s not a good job as the option to turn off anti-aliasing in Terminal when using Menlo is curiously disabled – this seems to be something hard-coded into Terminal.app as it doesn’t affect TextMate.

Boot Camp

Installation here was a little tricky as initially the installer told me that Boot Camp 64-bit was not supported on my computer model.

Whether they don’t support 64-bit Windows on a late 2007 MacBook Pro 17″ (MacBookPro3,1) or whether it was complaining about Windows 7 isn’t clear as there are no Windows 7 specific drivers on the disk.

All is not lost however as if you navigate into Boot Camp\Drivers\Apple folder you can run the BootCamp.msi or BootCamp64.msi from there and it does not seem to perform the check. All the drivers installed without complaint and the track pad, mouse, audio etc. is working just fine.

[)amien

Boot Camp 2.1, VMware Fusion 1.1.2 and MacBook Pro firmware

Boot Camp 2.1

Apple have released Boot Camp 2.1 which finally includes official 64-bit support on Vista and support for Windows XP Service Pack 3.

This update may mean that 3D games will play without locking up or installing Nvidia’s own drivers and that the track-pad functions correctly again (broken since Boot Camp 1.x)

MacBook Pro Firmware 1.5.1

Apple’s MacBook Pro Firmware Update 1.5.1 applies to all recent MacBook Pro’s including the ones with MBP31.0070.B05 firmware that the 1.5 update failed to upgrade leaving 17″ owners on MBP31.0070.B07.

The new firmware does not fix a problem where track-pad input would become jerky after suspending/sleeping and turning Airport off would make matters worse. 10.5.3 has fixes for Airport after sleeping which might solve the issue…

VMware Fusion 1.1.2

VMware Fusion 1.1.2 is just out and includes a host of fixes and improvements including:

  • Windows XP Service Pack 3
  • Network and USB compatibility
  • Time Machine compatibility

Now that VMware lets Time Machine backup the VM image file and that Time Machine backs up modified files in their entirety you might want to exclude ~/Documents/Virtual Machines it unless you fancy loosing several gigabytes per hour whilst using a VM. Of course if you have your VM running off it’s own partition to allow Boot Camp too then that’s not an issue.

With any luck VMware will figure out a way of Time Machine backing up changed individual files within the Windows file-system…

[)amien

Windows 2008 Server on my MacBook Pro

A troublesome disk (a story for another time) has forced me to reinstall my MacBook Pro and review my Windows partition.

My Boot Camp partition was running Vista Ultimate x86 which felt sluggish, ignored the last 1GB and bugged me with UAC. One Windows update kept failing to install which also prevented SP1 from completing.

Apple’s Boot Camp doesn’t support 64-bit Windows (except on the Mac Pro) and my 64-bit experiences have been unpleasant so far (no Flash for IE x64, limited 64-bit shell extensions, Live! refusing to install, drivers etc.) The increased x64 memory consumption would also be an issue when running in a 1.5GB virtual machine via Parallels or VMware Fusion.

Windows XP was one option but losing IIS7 and DirectX 10 would see me reinstalling Vista within weeks so I decided to try Windows 2008 Server x86.

Boot Camp happily accepted the 2008 Server x86 CD where I chose the BOOTCAMP partition, formatting it as NTFS and electing for a standard installation. The Boot Camp drivers subsequently installed without complaint, all 4GB of RAM was accessible and there are no 64-bit compatibility issues.

Microsoft are giving away 1 year evaluation copies of Windows 2008 Enterprise Server x86 as part of their Heroes Happen Here launch program for Windows 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008 if you don’t happen to have an MSDN subscription to hand. There are however a few tweaks you need to do to get a more desktop-like experience:

Install desktop features

Head into Server Manager and Add Features then choose Desktop Experience to install Windows Media Player, Aero etc.

Go into Services and set the Themes service to Automatic and Start it to make themes available and then choose Browse… from the Theme Settings in Personalisation to select %windir%\Resources\Themes\Aero.theme

Install wireless networking

This one had me stumped for a while as I thought my wireless card/drivers weren’t working. The reality is that 2008 Server has wireless networking removed by default so head into Server Manager > Add Features > Wireless LAN Service to install it.

Enabling hibernate

Open a command prompt and enter:

powercfg.exe /hibernate on

Remove annoying shutdown

Head into the registry to HKEY\_LOCAL\_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows NT\Reliability and change the ShutdownReasonOn DWORD key to __.

Relaxing local password policy

A controversial change I’m sure but I’d rather choose something complex and unique that will last 90+ days than something memorable every 30. Head into Local Security Policy > Account Policies > Password Policy > Maximum password age and change it to something more reasonable.

Going further

A great guide with screen-shots on additional tweaks for a more workstation-like experience also exists – wish I known about that earlier!

Simone Chiaretta has highlighted the that tap-to-click is absent and there are some Bluetooth issues stemming from missing drivers.

[)amien

Windows Experience Index on MacBook Pro 2GHz compared

I just got the opportunity to try out the latest version of VMware and thought I’d do a quick Windows Experience Index on Boot Camp, Parallels and VMware to see what the performance is like before my new MacBook Pro 17″ arrives (hopefully on Friday!)

When I installed Leopard on my machine I took the opportunity to carve out a dedicated 20GB partition again to put a fresh install of Vista on. As well as being able to boot natively this also now means I can run my single Windows partition switching between native, Parallels or VMware at will which admittedly drives Windows Activation crazy.

Host machine

Hardware MacBook Pro 2GHz “MacBookPro1,1”
Memory 2048MB DDR2 667MHz
Processor 2.0GHz Core Duo
Graphics ATI Radeon X1600 256MB
Disk 100GB 5400RPM
Operating system Mac OS X Leopard 10.5.1

Configuration

Memory 848MB (Virtual machines only)
Disk 20GB Boot Camp partition
Operating system Microsoft Vista Ultimate Edition 32-bit

Testing notes

  • No other applications running in OS X or Vista
  • Full-screen mode
  • Vendors guest OS tools & drivers installed

Scores

VMware
1.1 62573
Parallels
3.0 5570 beta
Boot Camp
2.0 drivers
Processor 4.7 4.7 4.7
Memory (RAM) 3.9 3.9 4.9
Graphics 1.9 1.9 4.1
Gaming graphics 1.0 1.0 4.4
Primary hard disk 5.9 5.9 5.9
Overall 1.0 1.0 4.1

Thoughts

  • Processor: A little surprising given that VMware supports multiple cores but that Parallels doesn’t.
  • Memory: To be expected given that the VM was only running with less RAM.
  • Graphics: Disappointing and likely caused by the VM vendors graphics drivers not being WDM which based.
  • Gaming graphics: Very disappointing and caused by lack of DirectX 9 graphics support.
  • Hard disk: Like processor this is a pleasant surprise.

After my new 17″ MacBook Pro arrives (hopefully this Friday) I will produce another set of scores which should show how much faster the 2.6GHz is with all the options and let me compare like-for-like on the memory front.

I also want to run some Visual Studio 2008 build time comparisons (probably of SubSonic) because compilations are what really counts ;-) If you have any further suggestions for benchmarks, leave a comment!

[)amien