April 27, 2006

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Apples to apples
Two operating systems on one computer
By John “jaQ” Andrews  jandrews@hippopress.com

Windows on a Mac.

That simple phrase has sold a million emulation programs, placated hordes of gamers who couldn’t give up their Apple devotion and frustrated PC manufacturers aching for one more low-margin sale. The holy grail, though — running Windows natively, with no emulation software — was but a mere pipe dream.

Until now.

A few months ago, Apple turned the personal computing world on its ear by replacing their processors of choice, the 64-bit PowerPC family most recently branded the G5, with chips from industry standard Intel. You can still buy Macs with G4 and G5 processors, but not for long. They’re being phased out in favor of dual-core Intel processors operating at much higher clock speeds.

The Intel architecture has long been the one thing differentiating Windows PCs from the Macintosh world. The two platforms have been growing steadily together, with Apple adopting standard PCI expansion slots inside and PCs co-opting USB and FireWire ports outside. This final step has made it possible to run Windows on a Mac.

Hackers were, of course, hard at work on this even before the official announcement from Apple of their new processor choice. But Apple has wisely decided to make things easy on users with the release of Boot Camp, a free program that helps a Mac user install Windows alongside the hallowed Mac OS.

The program is still in its beta testing phase, meaning it’s not quite “official” yet and isn’t recommended for machines with sensitive data you absolutely can’t afford to lose. The technology will be included in the next upgrade to Mac OS X, called Leopard, but for now, you can download the 83MB Boot Camp installer from www.apple.com/bootcamp.

I, unfortunately, am not rich enough to buy an Intel-based Mac and play. Aside from one of those, Apple says you need:

• Mac OS X Tiger 10.4.6

• The latest firmware update

• 10GB free hard drive space

• A blank CD-R

• A printer for printing the instructions

• A free and clear install disc for Windows XP Home or Pro with Service Pack 2— no upgrade, multi-disc, OEM, came-with-your-PC or Media Center versions

The blank CD-R? That’s for perhaps Boot Camp’s most helpful feature. As part of the setup process, it compiles a driver CD for all the Macintosh hardware that Windows has never before had to deal with. It even allows the use of the eject key on Macintosh keyboards. (Of course, you should be able to install any other PC operating system like Linux as well, but no drivers are provided for that. Either way, Apple explicitly swears off any support for Windows or even Boot Camp itself, since it’s still in beta.)

Boot Camp also features what it bills as “the most elegant hard drive utility ever.” It partitions your hard drive, never deleting anything Mac, with plenty of space for Windows XP, programs and data. Move a slider for more or less space.

Apple points out, without a hint of being cheeky, that you’ll need to keep your Windows installation up to date and virus-free, just like any PC. Could it be that Apple is hoping its users will finally get a fair comparison between operating systems, and conclude that Mac OS is better? Naw...


Comments? Thoughts? Discuss these articles and more at hippoflea.com

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