Windows to the world

This has been an incredibly strange week for me. A week ago, I was sitting in my favorite chair at home with my MacBook Pro, running Mac OS X Tiger; today, I’m sitting in the same chair with the same computer, but I’m using Windows XP Pro. It’s strange how things work out sometimes. I was intrigued when my colleague Rob Griffiths posted his experience on getting Windows XP to boot on Apple’s Intel-based Macs using a third-party hack. However, that didn’t intrigue me enough to endure the pain Rob went through to run Windows natively on his Mac mini. My MacBook Pro remained an OS X-only kind of machine. Still, that interest in running Windows on an Intel-based Mac prompted me to look into alternatives to Microsoft’s Virtual PC. What I found was QemuX, an Intel-native Mac OS X application that allows you to setup virtual machines that will run Windows on your Mac. I’m used to testing out Virtual PC and know how slow emulation software can be, so my expectations weren’t high for QemuX. Still, the program impressed me—it was a snappy little app (though it’s hard to compare how it performed against Virtual PC since the programs run on different machines). After installing, re-installing and testing more times that I care to count, I came to the same conclusion I always reach—Windows emulation is just too slow for me to bother with it Then Apple dropped the bomb— a way for Mac users to dual-boot their Intel Macs. This got my attention—and the attention of most people in the computer world. Imagine the possibilities here—the ability to just natively boot Windows whenever you need it. That will save a lot of people quite a bit of money, including me. I have a PC at home, mostly for my 10-year-old son to play games on. But I use it every once in a while to catch up on what’s happening in the Windows world. How many people are like me and have a Mac and Windows PC at home? How many would buy just one machine if they could boot both operating systems? How many companies would buy Apple hardware for this feature? I immediately installed Boot Camp and started installing, re-installing and testing different versions of Windows. (See a pattern here?) I even went against Apple’s system requirements and installed Windows XP SP1. Apple says you need SP2, and for good reason—SP1 didn’t work out so well so don’t bother trying that yourself. After doing this about eight times with different Windows configurations, Boot Camp finally gave up; when I tried to partition the drive, the program reported that there were files that could not be moved. In order to fix this problem, I would have to backup my hard drive and reinstall Mac OS X. I don’t blame Boot Camp for this. Even though it is a beta, I abused the program and got what I deserved. Still, it was fun. So, now what do I do? I have an install of Tiger that I can no longer partition —since I was in an adventurous mood, I backed up my files and formatted the drive. When I restarted, I didn’t even use my Tiger DVD; I just booted from the Windows XP and did a fresh install. In the last seven days, I went from: using Mac OS X Tiger exclusively; Tiger and Virtual PC; Tiger, Virtual PC, and QemuX; Tiger, Boot Camp, and many different versions and setups of Windows; Tiger, Boot Camp, and Windows XP Pro; and Windows XP Pro—all on my MacBook Pro. My wife asked me why I would want to put Windows on my MacBook. I told her that this is what I do—I experiment with things and then write about it. Her response, as she looked at my MacBook running Windows XP: “You have taken the soul out of that computer.” This weekend, I plan to format my MacBook’s hard drive again and install Mac OS X Tiger and Boot Camp with Windows XP. I’ll have my Mac OS back, my computer will get its soul, and my wife just might talk to me again.

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