“Hah! How can installing Windows on a Mac be an upgrade?”, I hear you ask – surely that’s tainting all that Apple wholesomeness with a BSOD-inducing, spyware-ridden, unreliable piece of software – at least, that’s the impression that you will get if you listen to Scott Bourne…
Back in the land of all that is operating system-agnostic, my Mac has been running Mac OS X (most of the time) and Windows XP (a fraction of the time) since the end of July and, as it’s the most advanced piece of PC hardware that I have, I decided to upgrade my Windows partition to Vista. The first thing to note is that Apple only supports Windows XP SP2 for Boot Camp (although others have managed to use alternative operating systems successfully), but then Boot Camp is also beta software (i.e. with limited support) so, not to much to lose then!
I booted into Windows XP, inserted the Vista DVD and ran the upgrade advisor (third time lucky as it first insisted that I install the Microsoft XML Parser 6.0 and then the Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0) after which was very pleased to see that my hardware would run Vista Ultimate with all the 3D effects so I could finally experience Aero glass first-hand (I’ve seen it demonstrated but all the PCs I’ve run Vista on up to now have had low-end onboard graphics cards). The upgrade advisor warned me about a few devices for which it didn’t have drivers (SigmaTel High Definition Audio Codec, Apple Built-In Bluetooth and Canon CanoScan N650U/N656U) as well a couple of applications that may have problems post-installation (Symantec AntiVirus Client and Windows Messenger) but as there were no show-stoppers I went ahead with the upgrade (Vista also gave me the option to perform a clean installation, but I figured upgrading from an existing Windows XP installation with all the correct drivers would be a good starting point).
The upgrade itself was smooth and after a while I had a running Windows Vista Ultimate Edition system (not yet activated). As could be expected, Windows wanted to locate some missing drivers, but strangely they weren’t the ones previously identified by the upgrade advisor: firstly there was my Nikon LS4000ED film scanner (for which the Windows XP driver seemed to work); and another device that stopped working during the upgrade was my graphics tablet, although Wacom has a beta driver for Windows Vista that was easily downloaded and installed, following which the tablet PC input panel appeared. More worryingly, Mediafour MacDrive 6 stopped working under Vista so I have no access to non-Windows partitions and, annoyingly, there was no mention of this from the upgrade advisor, nor does a search for “vista” on the Mediafour website turn up any results (I have since opened a support request and been referred to an article which states that Vista is not supported – apparently that will be in MacDrive 7 next year, and will cost me some more cash). Although I was able to work through the driver issues (if not the MacDrive application issue) I have to question exactly what is the point of an upgrade advisor that doesn’t identify all the likely issues?
Because I had upgraded from a working XP installation that was using Boot Camp v1.0.2 drivers, most of my Mac hardware was recognised by Windows (and Vista was even able to find a driver online for one device that hadn’t previously worked – the Infineon Trusted Platform Module). Even so, more recent versions of Boot Camp provide additional device support – like being able to use F14 for PrtScr – so I decided to upgrade the Apple Keyboard driver. After creating an updated driver CD using the Boot Camp Assistant v1.1.2 under Mac OS X, Tim Gaden’s article on wrangling Boot Camp v1.1.2 drivers into Windows Vista guided me through extracting the driver files to a location on my hard disk (“D:\Install Macintosh Drivers for Windows XP.exe” /A /v), from where I was able to locate the Apple Keyboard driver (in locationofextractedfiles\program files\Macintosh Drivers for Windows XP 1.1.2\Apple Keyboard\) and run the setup wizard. Tim’s article was written for Vista RC2, but I can confirm that the same fatal error occurs with the RTM build (build 6000) if the /a /v switches are not used to extract the setup files and run them individually.
Once the Apple Keyboard driver was properly installed, I could use the extra function keys but as the UK Apple keyboard lacks a # character, I couldn’t type # directly (Alt+3 no longer works) although Alt+035 does the trick (note that the 035 must be typed on the number pad, not using the numeric keys above above qwertyuiop).
There were still a couple of devices with warnings in Device Manager – no driver seems to be available for the performance counters (at least that’s one step ahead of the Windows XP installation which simply referred to this item as a PCI device) and I have a USB Human Interface Device for which the drivers won’t start (hardware ID USB\VID_05AC&PID_8240&REV_0110 – this was also unrecognised under XP and 05AC denotes Apple but I’m not sure which device 8240 relates to). Sadly, the Apple remote still doesn’t work – a shame really as I much prefer Microsoft’s Windows Media Center to Apple’s FrontRow.
During the upgrade, I also noticed a nice feature as I held down the Alt/option key on each reboot to select the Windows partition – as well as Macintosh HD and Windows, the boot loader offered the choice of booting from the Windows DVD (I’m not sure if this is available to Mac users without Boot Camp?).
I have previously criticised the Vista user interface but I’m finding that I actually like the full experience with all the 3D effects turned on (sorry Microsoft). Flip 3D is cool; so is the taskbar thumbnail preview; and I like the way that Windows fade in/out as I maximise/minimise them.
Extolling the virtues of Vista’s user interface does not in any way reverse the opinion I have previously expressed as a Microsoft business customer – by and large, corporates don’t care about 3D graphics and the main requirement is for a reliable and secure operating system, something for which only time can tell if Windows Vista is or is not.
As for those who point out the similarities between Windows Vista and Mac OS X (I did blog about the spoof videos earlier this year and yes, I have seen David Pogue’s video article on the New York Times site, to which it should be added that Pogue is a well-known Mac user – he even writes books about Apple software!), let’s play that particular criticism back another way (which I haven’t seen anybody comment on)… it’s well publicised that it took many years for Microsoft to write Vista and Microsoft is far less secretive about new features than Apple is – who says that Apple didn’t steal some of Microsoft’s ideas in the meantime and bring them to market first? After all, the much acclaimed Time Machine feature in the forthcoming version of OS X sounds very like a feature we have had in Windows for years (the volume shadow copy service). Or maybe (and more likely in my opinion), consumers expect features like a calendar application and digital media management built in to our operating system (heaven knows that Outlook Express was long overdue an update). As for gadgets/widgets and desktop search (Spotlight) – they are not Apple inventions either (in fact, many Mac users eschew Mac OS X’s Spotlight search in favour of Quicksilver).
I’ll still be running Mac OS X most of the time (at home anyway – I need to use Linux and Windows XP for work) but it’s good to be able to test Vista in all it’s glory and it seems to run well on my Mac Mini. In fairness, I do have a Core Duo processor and 2GB of RAM, but it feels responsive (at least as much so as OS X) and the overall experience is positive – and that’s on a machine which only scores a Windows experience index of 3.0 (dragged down by the built-in Intel GMA950 graphics – the other metrics are all above 4).
As I’ve written previously, Windows Vista is a fantastic achievement on Microsoft’s part, although I do wish that there had been simultaneous consumer and business launches (if only to stop all this Â¨we don’t support it because it’s not available yetÂ¨ nonsense from software vendors who should have been getting ready for Vista months ago). Now we just need to stop all the noise from David Pogue and others about how Microsoft copied Apple and just live with the fact that Vista will be on hundreds of millions of PCs by this time next year – regardless of whether or not it is the best operating system. Despite my initial reservations, I like running Mac OS X, I also like running Linux, and I like running Windows too – they all have their good and bad points so let’s play nicely together.
(In the interests of my operating system-agnostic credentials, I should add that I started to write this post on a PC running Fedora Core 5 whilst the Mac was being upgraded, then I switched to the Mac, adding details whilst booted under both Windows Vista and Mac OS X!)