As you’ve probably heard about now, Apple has made a cool piece of software available called “Boot Camp”. Of course I had to sit down and try it out immediately. This is what I find.
Here is something that is probably alien to you unless you are a Mac OS X Server administrator: You’ll have to read the documentation. Really. Thankfully, Apple managed to compress it to a mere 16 pages of which a couple are the front page, index, and back page. So it is not overly much.
First step: Get your gear together. Some assembly required! Hey, this is bound to be fun (if you are the kind of person who likes to fiddle with stuff).
You’ll need: A brand new Mac OS X 10.4.6 and the latest Firmware update.
Now, do I install the firmware first or the Mac OS X update? I go for the Mac OS X update, a mighty 108 MB download. Luckily, I’ve got broadband, so no big deal.
While it is downloading I am asking myself the most important of questions: Why?
I know that I do it because I do this kind of thing. But why should a perfectly normal person want to do it? Probably - games: This thing (hopefully) allows you to run a bunch of games not available on the Mac. On the other hand, can you call such a person perfectly normal?
I am very curious to see how this works out in the market. Of course, now a bunch of people will buy a Mac because it looks good and run Windows on it. A challenge poses itself to the small Mac developer’s head marketing person (that’s me!): How do I communicate to the customers that our apps run on Macs running Mac OS but not on Macs running Windows? It sounds easier than it is. Heck, it is a Universal App, it should run anywhere, right?
While Mac OS X 10.4.6 and the Boot Camp software continue to download (broadband over here is sometimes not as broad as it sounds) I take a look at the documentation. The title is Boot Camp Beta. When was the last time an Apple software product was available publicly while still in beta?
The document starts in a tone unfamiliar to a Mac user: full of warnings of potential pitfalls. Being a proper Mac user, I dare to ignore them.
Because the neat little four steps of installation (Remember Jeff Goldblum? “There is no step 3!”) require resizing your partition to make space for Windows XP, the document repeatedly urges you to make backups of your important data. Sorry, but no time for that.
By now, Mac OS X 10.4.6 update has finished and I am applying the firmware update. Am I the only one who thinks that the firmware update procedure is insane? Yes, one of these days, I am going to get me a life.
Smooth sailing so far.
Also required: The 80 MB download of the “Boot Camp Assistant” which will do all the magic. Getting it requires to type in an email address and to consent to a set of terms & conditions.
As it downloads, I read ahead a little:
First, it will burn you a CD - with the necessary Mac drivers! Unheard of in the Mac world. Unbelievable.
Then, it will resize your existing hard disk partitions to make space for a windows partition. Two sensations in one day!
Lastly, it will start the Windows installation process. Let’s see how that goes.
But first things first. I now have the Boot Camp Assistant on my iMac. Of course, it starts with a parade of warnings that I have ignored before. Otherwise it is pretty unspectacular. Do I want to burn a driver disk? Yes. (Do I want to wait this long for it to complete? No.)
At this stage, the first interesting UI feature pops up: The partition resize control:
Interesting, because it uses the window pane moving button (what is the proper name for that again?) to resize the partitions.
Standard size for Windows is 5GB which seems a bit small as I want to actually install stuff on the Windows partition, I give it 30GB.
Resizing the partition is indicated by a blue, indetermined scrolling bar, so I have no idea how long it will take. In the end it takes about 4 minutes.
The last screen of the assistant asks me to insert a Windows XP Home Edition or Professional CD with Service Pack 2 which I do and click Start Installation.
Three weeks ago, this picture would have been worth $14,000. Oh, well.
Installing XP is the familiar, ugly, white on blue, computer font setup afair you know (or don’t, if you are lucky) from a stock Windows XP installation. Apple’s documentation warns from trying to create or delete partitions with the Windows XP Setup partition manager. This time I am a good boy and do not fall for the temptation. It says you will loose your data, and, because I did not back up, I sure do not want to risk it.
Okay, I goofed up. Because I did not read the documentation ahead in full, my partition is too big to be usable with a FAT file system and I have to use NTFS. The drawback is, that you can not read and write to the partition when working with Mac OS X. With a FAT file system, Apple claims you can do that.
Formatting the partition with NTFS takes ages. But that is not the iMac’s fault. I should have selected the “Quick” formatting option. Which does what exactly? Do I want to know? Welcome to the perks of Windows.
Well, while it formats and installs, I have time to figure out how to upload the pictures to O’Reilly.
About 15 minutes later, it is done with installing and I get to see the first Windows graphic screen. It says “An exciting new look”. No kidding. I am not quick enough with the camera, though…
Installing and autoconfiguring Windows XP takes so long, that the wise marketing folks at MS have decided to parade a neverending procession of ads to show their inability to work with antialiased text.
Oh, wait, now it gets interesting again. I need to tell it who I am and such things. It installs a couple of more things, but eventually it is done and reboots.
Next step: Give it the drivers it needs. Graphics, networking, audio, AirPort, Bluetooth, the Eject key and the brightness control for built-in displays are supported. And, Apple created a Startup Disk control panel for Windows!
“If a message appears that says the software you are installing has not passed Windows Logo testing, click Continue Anyway.”
You’ll have to boot in XP and go to the “My Computer” and click on the Removable Drive icon to choose “Eject” to get the XP installation disk out of the drive. Then you can insert the Windows driver CD which automatically launches the driver installation procedure which runs smoothly.
After about 80 minutes, our iMac properly boots into Windows XP with all the drivers installed. I am in Teletubby Land!
Finally, great games on the Mac! ;-)
Now, how do I get back to Mac OS X? Thankfully, Apple includes a Startup Volume control panel for Windows or you can hold the Option key while rebooting to choose the system you want to run.