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Using Windows XP on a Mac (happily)


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I'm pleased to report that I finally scraped together the dough to buy a brand-spankin' new Apple 2.66GHz Intel Xeon Macintosh Pro computer a few days ago, with 5 gigs of RAM and 2TB of storage. (Yes, I'm completely insane, but that goes without saying.)

I just finished installing Parallels and Windows XP SP2, so I can run Windows-only applications occasionally when I need them. While Apple zealots may tell you otherwise, there are still certain Windows-only programs out there for which Mac equivalents do not exist. In my case, I needed some audio utilities to help me manage my out-of-control music collection (4TB, six 60G iPods, and rising).

I'm really happy with how well Windows has worked so far. There are two different modes: regular, where a large screen-within-a-screen appears, with the familiar Windows desktop inside the Mac desktop. You can also hit a button and expand this screen, so that the computer looks like it's running 100% Windows. The second mode is coherence, where if you just need to run a single Windows program, the program pops up in a self-contained window on the Mac, looking exactly like a Mac program -- except for the pull-down menus.

I haven't yet installed any anti-virus or anti-spyware software, but I have some technical issues to resolve before I do so. I'm probably going to activate Windows OneCare on this machine (as I have for my partner's PC and my own separate PC). For the moment, I'm just being extremely careful which websites I get on, and I'm not downloading anything from the Windows side of the machine. Of course, even if I did, it would only corrupt the Windows side. I can fix that just by trashing the entire Windows install and doing it over, which gets rid of any viruses, but I'd rather just get an anti-virus thing.

Two major drawbacks so far: 1) the Windows side only recognizes USB and USB2 external drives. This is a drag because I'm a Firewire kinda guy, but I'm slowly adapting when I need to. 2) it's a teeny bit buggy. I've had a few occasional moments of flakiness, like when the Windows cursor suddenly turns into a finger and won't go back to a cursor -- I assume this is Microsoft literally giving Mac owners 'the finger' -- but I haven't had any disastrous crashes. You gotta be careful how you sleep the computer, though, and there are a few other limitations, like how to move large files (over 10 megs) from the Mac side to teh Windows side, and vice-versa. But there's always workarounds.

The good news is, both Mac and Windows run like a bat outta hell on the system. It's clearly four or five times faster than my old G5 Mac, and I think it's at least as fast (or faster) than my old 3G Pentium M Sony Vaio was at running Windows XP. I'm lovin' it so far. But I think the Sony is jealous; it's beeped angrily at me from across the room, angry with my obsession with the new machine.

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You lucky, lucky *jealous expletive removed*

AND a 4TB music collection!!! :shock: Then I suppose it depends on your sample rate. Still ... nope, can't get over this extreme jealousy ... must go get therapy....

5GB RAM, 2 TB storage! *shuffles away talking to himself*

:icon13:

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Is this the 8 core model? If so, I hate you more than anyone on the planet?

Please tell me more about your experience as it develops. The no-firewire issues concerns me as I am all firewire (except the mouse and KB) and in fact I'm almost all firewire-800 at that. USB blows.

If you need software advice on either side I shall gladly help.

I've heard nice things about parallels myself but never used it.

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Is this the 8 core model? If so, I hate you more than anyone on the planet?

No, if I had done that, my partner would have killed me, and buried my hacked-up remains inside the computer shipping box and tossed it in the backyard. This is just the "mere" 4-core 2.66, the mid-priced model. The 8-core would been four grand, and as I say, the loss of life and property would have been too great for mankind to bear. But we did get the 5-gigs of RAM, which helps a lot. (Can't wait to install the new Final Cut Pro Studio 2, out next week.)

The no-firewire issues concerns me as I am all firewire (except the mouse and KB) and in fact I'm almost all firewire-800 at that. USB blows.

I use Firewire 400 when I'm on the Mac side, and USB2 when I'm on the Windows side. Can't do both at the same time, unfortunately. We are using MacDrive so that a Mac-formatted hard drive shows up OK under Windows. Without that, we'd be S.O.L. What I'm waiting for is eSATA, which is faster than both Firewire 800 and USB2. Haven't invested in that yet, but we will, eventually.

Don't forget, I'm a total propeller head when it comes to this crap. My partner and I were into DOS in 1982 (I beat him, since I got an Apple II and CP/M in late 1980), then slowly switched over to the Mac around 1987 or so. We've always had PCs around the house when we had to use them, but Mac OS was always what we preferred. Hell, I used Wordstar as a word-processor for almost ten years. I grow misty and nostalgic remembering when I used to type on an amber (whoa!) monochrome DOS monitor...

My point is, this is the way you can get the best out of using a computer. Run Windows when you have to, for specialized one-of-a-kind programs that won't work any other way, and run Mac OS for everything else. I'm glad I waited to jump into Parallels, because it was buggier than hell last year. It's a lot better now.

I still gotta go out and buy a legit copy of XP, because I'm getting the "Microsoft Nag Screen" telling me this is a bogus version. Amazon has it for $89 ("OEM version"), and that's at least one way to get Bill Gates off my back.

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You lucky, lucky *jealous expletive removed*

AND a 4TB music collection!!! :icon13: Then I suppose it depends on your sample rate. Still ... nope, can't get over this extreme jealousy ... must go get therapy....

5GB RAM, 2 TB storage! *shuffles away talking to himself*

Yeah, but remember, I have no life, my job is crushing the life out of me, and I'm moody as hell.

BTW, I actually have a lot more than 4TB of music. There's 12,000 original CDs in the cabinets downstairs, and I've only digitized a fraction of them, certainly fewer than 2000. The rest of the files come from many sources on the net, plus radio programmer/friends of mine. I justify it morally by saying, "I've paid for this music many times over, so downloading additional copies is OK." Though there's a lot of stuff you can't get at all through legal downloads or CDs, because it's just not available, except through nutty music fans.

My hope is do eventually have the entire music library as FLAC (or some other lossless codec), and stream it all through Apple TV at various points around the house. I only use the MP3s to entertain myself when I workout or work long hours on unsupervised projects, or for long trips.

My point was: I put up with Windows when I have to, and I think this system gives you the best of all possible worlds, using whichever OS does what you want. For everyday crap -- browsing the web, getting email, writing, database work, etc. -- I prefer the Mac. For certain utilities -- particularly organizing MP3s, ripping from CDs, etc. -- the tools are better on the Windows side. It works for me.

It's kind of a trip, seeing the familiar Windows XP desktop on my big desktop monitor (only the Apple 23" Cinema Display, because my partner slaps me whenever I mention the 30"). I almost feel like I'm straddling two completely different worlds, seeing two OS's on one monitor. Mentally, it's a weird feeling, but so far it's going OK. (Knock on virtual wood.)

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And I'm glad to report that I know (finally) have a legit copy of XP up and running. I got tired of the incessant nagging from Windows Gen-u-whine Disadvantage, so I sprung $80 for the OEM version of XP-SP2B from TigerDirect.com. No more nasty messages, and Bill Gates can now call off his hit-men.

Note that Apple is rumored to be readying a similar scheme in the next version of Mac OSX (10.5, aka "Leopard"), where users will -- for the first time -- have to pay for and register every copy of the OS that they use, on just one computer. But I'm told they'll continue their "family pack," where you can put their OS on up to five computers for about $150, which to me isn't a bad deal.

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And I'm glad to report that I now (finally) have a legit copy of XP up and running on the Mac, as opposed to my previous "used" copy from my old Sony Vaio. I got tired of the incessant nagging from Windows Gen-u-whine Disadvantage, so I sprung $80 for the OEM version of XP-SP2B from TigerDirect.com. No more nasty messages, and Bill Gates can now call off his hit-men.

Note that Apple is rumored to be readying a similar scheme in the next version of Mac OSX (10.5, aka "Leopard"), where users will -- for the first time -- have to pay for and register every copy of the OS that they use, on just one computer. But I'm told they'll continue their "family pack," where you can put their OS on up to five computers for about $150, which to me isn't a bad deal.

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I agree. Such charges to my mind, amount to a definition of corporate taxation without representation.

Microsoft has been doing it for more than six years, so it's not like this is something new. I see both sides of it. On the one hand, it's intrusive, but on the other, I can understand a company wanting to get paid every time you put their software on one of your computers.

To me, as long as the price is reasonable, I'm OK with it. $40 per computer (if Apple sticks to their past rate of $199 for a "family 5-pack for OSX") doesn't kill me. I do have a problem paying double that for Windows XP, particularly when XP isn't nearly as good an OS as Mac OSX.

Anybody know whether Microsoft has a deal to buy multiple copies of XP or Windows for a lower price? As it was, I had to "cheat" and get the OEM version of XP-SP2B from Tigerdirect.com -- a legit copy intended for use with brand-new computers built by independent stores.

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