Hardware Stability

The Intel Macs

Apple releases the Macintels ahead of time

As consumers become aware of the move to Intel microprocessors since November 2005, Apple has decided to build and release in January 2006 the first Macintels ahead of schedule to avoid loss in profit in the sale of laptops and desktop computers. The success of this move will depend greatly on the ability for the new computers and the Intel-optimised OSX to run PowerPC OSX and OS9 Classic Environment applications just as well as the Intel-specific software. If it can't, the company will face a tough time ahead.

NOTE: There is no Classic Environment on the Intel Macs.

The biggest problem for Intel Macs: Rosetta

Ignoring the hardware issues, the biggest software headache is the Rosetta feature for running pure PowerPC code of applications — it is considered a little bit rough programming wise in that not all PowerPC applications will run with stability and speed.

For example, if it is a minor thing like an incompatible third-party plug-in for Safari (e.g. Macromedia Flash images don't work), try turning on Rosetta. But if it is still not working, it is time to upgrade the plug-in.

As for Java applications, you will have to wait until all the Java components installed on Intel OSX are updated (look to OSX version 10.4.5 to solve most of these Java applications issues).

Also third-party contextual menu plug-ins designed for PowerPC will not work on Intel machines. You will have to wait for the developers to come up with a universal binary format of their software (to work on both Intel and PowerPC Macs).

And Apple has been a bit slow in not getting all standard Apple software tools in OSX converted to universal binary or pure Intel. So things like running network tools could fail or be excrutiatingly slow on the Intel machine.

For example, users and network administrators have been complaining about how slow it is to connect to Xservers on the network using the Apple file sharing protocol (AFP) via Connect to Server command and likewise between an Intel-based Mac and a PowerPC Mac (especially those running Panther). Up to 30 or 40 seconds will transpire before the servers appear. While it has already been established AFP is unusually slow on OS9 and OSX for PowerPC users compared to OS7 and 8 (an inherent bug introduced by Apple to stop freeloaders getting onto Mac servers easily), it is considered much quicker compared to the new MacBook Pro trying to connect to the same servers. Perhaps a new Mac server with Intel running at its core may improve speed. Or the reality is that with Rosetta turned on, emulation of PowerPC instructions and the built-in delays in checking network resources is exacerbated on the Intel computer. The only workaround so far is to know precisely the IP address of the server you want to connect to and type it in (i.e. afp://xxx.xxx.xxx.x). Don't let OSX do the searching for you.

Similarly uploading and downloading files through FTP on an Intel-based Mac may be very slow suggesting to some users their broadband connection is running at dial-up speeds. One MacFixIt reader named David Padfield wrote:

"Uploading files to my Web site (at Interland) is now glacially SLOW. I use GoLive CS2 on my Intel-based 20-inch iMac.

I have a Cable modem, but downloading files from Apple's iDisk makes it seem like I have a slow dial-up connection. I even sent a letter to Apple complaining about the download speeds, but they assured me it was my problem. Funny, it is only my problem on my new iMac, not on my old G4." (MacFixIt.com: Intel-based Macs: Slow network connections (#3); Changing wireless security settings; more. 1 February 2006.)

The solution to any TCP/IP speed problem is to set the "delayed_ack" property to 0. Or better still, download this file and install it to achieve the same thing. At least this file solves the problem of losing the property settings each time you make updates to OS X.

The same is true of most PowerPC-based OS X games and certain other OS X applications you may have invested on the older Macs. Things will be slower. Quitting from a number of PowerPC-based OSX applications running on Intel Macs through the emulation tool Rosetta can take 30 to 40 seconds or more.

However, on the positive side, you should find most major commercial applications such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Dreamweaver MX will run with stability when Rosetta is turned on (although it will be slower in speed). Expect the next upgrade (and expected cost) to these applications to be fully Intel compatible, bringing them back to a respectable speed for professional users.

These laptops have begun shipping in late January 2006 for US customers and March for all others. Professionals users should wait until 2007 for the incompatibility and speed problems to be ironed out in most software and the hardware to be stable. And when you do, only purchase Intel-based software for the business critical areas. Everything else can be run in Rosetta mode as cheap secondhand software now that many Mac users will be selling up anything to do with PowerPC software.

NOTE 1: We recommend a careful look at the ability to run your software on these computers if you intend to purchase one now or in the next few months. If you know someone who has bought a MacBook Pro, ask if you can borrow it and check your software for compatibility. Also check to see whether the Classic Environment can still run OS9 software (including 68K stuff).

NOTE 2: If you are a FileMaker Pro Developer creating self-running database applications, you may be forced to purchase a new FileMaker Pro Advanced (version 9 when it comes out) for total compatibility with Intel on a Mac (i.e. with adequate speed). Otherwise run the Windows version to create self-running applications for Windows users (and Mac users willing to run Microsoft VirtualPC or other Windows emulation package). Actually, the latest news on the Intel front is that FileMaker Pro will run on Intel machines with Rosetta turned on, but will be slower. The only incompatibilities will be FileMaker Server, FileMaker Server Advanced and FileMaker Mobile 8. You just love Apple for it, don't you?

NOTE 3: Any software application with a slow startup (e.g. Adobe Acrobat) on PowerPC systems because of its apparent need to let us know which plug-ins are being loaded, will be painfully slow on an Intel-based Macintosh. Once loaded, it shouldn't be too bad. Just so long as it is not a business critical software.

NOTE 4: The PowerPC version of Microsoft Office OSX version 11.2.x could have some incompatibility issues when running on Intel-based Macs. For example, saving older Microsoft Word files could cause Microsoft Word to hang, and quitting Microsoft Office applications may freeze the applications running under Rosetta.

Apple releases the cheaper Mac-mini to help improve sales

The limited numbers of drivers to run the full gamit of hardware and software tools, no significant new features added (actually some features have been lost in the MacBook Pro such as an inbuilt modem), the slow speed of emulating PowerPC applications under Rosetta and the increase likelihood of bugs emerging from PowerPC software running under this mode, and the price of the new MacBook Pro is not winning many friends in the consumer world.

So Apple has introduced the Intel-based Mac-mini, the cheapest Macintosh computer you can buy (until you realise you have to buy a screen, keyboard and mouse as the minimum components for running it).

Running Windows XP — a new positive direction for Intel Macs?

Thanks to the problems of running PowerPC-optimised Windows emulation software and the cost to purchase an Intel-optimised version, a competition was held to see whether there is a genuis out there who can find a way to boot Windows XP on an Intel Mac.

The competition has ended and a winner announced. Now it seems we have the instructions and the relevant tools needed to run Windows XP. Incredible!

As winxponmac.com stated:

"Contest has been won - updates to follow shortly. All further donations will go into an account to sustain the open source project that will be launched with the initial solution."

Here are the official instructions:

(a) Get yourself an original Windows XP Pro SP2 CD installation disk. As the genius said, "It doesn't have to be bootable, but it should have a I386 directory on the root."

(b) Download the Winxponmac_0.1.zip file. This is the key to running Windows XP on an Intel Mac.

(c) On a PC, insert the original Windows XP CD into your CD-ROM reader. Open up the My Computer icon and find the CD drive icon (e.g. D:\).

(d) Double click this icon to give you access to the CD contents (or choose File>Open) to avoid self-running the CD.

(e) Select all files by pressing Ctrl-A.

(f) Copy the files using Ctrl-C.

(g) Navigate to the folder C:\xp\src.

(h) Paste the files in this folder using Ctrl-V.

(i) Recheck to make sure you have the 1386 folder inside the sp2 folder (or directory).

(j) Now open up Nero Burning ROM software. This can be done by double clicking on the sp2.nrb file inside the folder C:\xp.

(k) In the right hand pane of Nero, navigate to C:\xp\src. Select all the files and folders, by tabbing once and clicking Ctrl-C on the keyboard, click the left hand pane, click on the CD that says "XP_PRO_SP2"), and paste the files and folders using Ctrl-V.

(l) Make sure the I386 directory is DIRECTLY underneath the CD icon, like this:

* XP_PRO_SP2

+-docs

+-I386

+-SUPPORT

It should not look like this:

* XP_PRO_SP2

+-src

+-docs

+-I386

+-SUPPORT

If it is wrong, try again by selecting all the files and folders in the left side and pressing the DEL key.

(m) In the right hand pane, navigate to C:\xp\patch, select all the files using Tab and Ctrl-C.

(n) On the left pane, click on the CD that says "XP_PRO_SP2" and paste the files using Ctrl-V. You should get a dialog asking you "This folder already contains a folder named I386. Would you like to replace the existing folder?" Click the "Replace All" button.

(o) Verify your Nero version is able to burn this CD. In other words, check to see if the boot tab says:

- Kind of emulation: [No emulation]

- Load segment: [07C0]

- Number of sectors: [4]

- In the ISO tab make sure it says:

 - Data mode: [Mode 1]

 - Filesystem: [ISO9660+Joliet]

 - Filename length: [Max of 31 chars (level 2)]

 - Character set: [ISO9660]

 [x] Allow path depth of more than 8

 [x] Allow more than 255 characters in path

 [x] Do not add the ';1' ISO file version extension

 [x] Allow more than 64 characters for Joliet names

If any option is not present, upgrade your Nero burning software.

(p) Save the nero project in case you need to burn another XOM XP CD in the future.

(q) Burn the CD by clicking the Burn toolbar button, making sure the "Finalize CD" is turned on, and clicking the Burn button.

(r) With your new Windows XP CD for Intel Macs ready, we need to prepare the Intel Mac to accept the Windows XP files during installation.

(s) Back up all critical files on your Intel Mac. The next process will involve wiping your hard disk clean. If you can't back up your files, DO NOT PROCEED TO THE NEXT STEP.

(t) Partition the hard disk of the Intel Mac using Disk Utility on the OSX installation CD as supplied by Apple into FAT or MS-DOS File System (for installing Windows XP) and HFS+ or Mac OS Extended (for reinstalling OSX, your Intel, universal binary and PowerPC applications and critical files you have backed up). In fact, given the size of hard disks nowadays, you are better off partitioning your humongous hard disk into 4 or 5 mini-hard disks of equal size so that in future you do not have to wipe clean and repartition the entire hard disk again. You will only have to reformat just one of the mini-hard disks to load the type of OS you want (e.g. Linux). If you are only going to have OSX and Windows XP, format the extra mini-hard disks as HFS+ (call them MacintoshHD, Data1, Data2 etc) and keep one remaining mini-hard disk for Windows XP.

(u) Install OSX on the HFS+ disk named "MacintoshHD" or whatever you have called it. If you have more than two disks partitioned, it is a good idea to reinstall OSX on a second HFS+ disk. This gives you the extra power of booting off OSX from another disk in case you come across a serious problem on your primary OSX disk, hopefully many years into the future.

(v) After restarting your Intel Mac in OSX, waiting for the movie to end, and going through the registration process, open the Terminal utility. Copy xom.efi file from the uncompressed ZIP file folder into the primary HFS+ hard disk. In other words, you will type "sudo cp xom.efi /System/Library/CoreServices" and enter your OSX administration password to accept the changes.

(w) In Terminal, change directory to /System/Library/CoreServices (the place where you put xom.efi) and type "sudo bless folder. file xom.efi setBoot".

(x) Insert the new Windows XP CD you created, reboot the computer, select Windows using the UP and DOWN arrow keys, press the Enter key, and wait for about 3 minutes. This is a long time because you won't get feedback about what the CD is doing. So be patient.

(y) You will get the partition disk screen. Choose (not create) the unknown partition number 2 containing the drive letter C:. You must use this one. Do not ever allow Windows XP to repartition your hard disk or you will lose your other mini-hard disks created in OSX. It should prompt for File System format. Depending on how big your Windows XP partition is, you may get different options. Choose NTFS Quick/Slow option as your format.

(z) Reboot and press F2 many times to disable CD booting, choose XP by using the down arrow key, hit eneter and begin the second phase of the Windows XP installer of actually installing Windows XP, the installer may hang after completing the installation, give it enough time to be sure everything is finished, and press the Power button for about 5 seconds to shut off the Intel Mac. Restart Windows and finish the installation, making sure to remove the CD before choosing Windows. Done!

Pretty amazing stuff! So where does this leave the Intel Mac now? In a state of disarray? Perhaps. Then again, it might be the Apple faithfuls who will continue to buy Macintosh computers. However given how many problems plague the hardware of Macintosh computers, once can't imagine there would be enough of them to prop up Apple sales and profits. This puts Apple Computer, Inc. in a precarious position.

And what about the world of Windows emulation on a Macintosh computer? Microsoft Inc. is certainly itching for an opportunity to save money by throwing away the Microsoft VirtualPC windows platform, and why not also the Macintosh version of Microsoft Office? The company can do it now. And consumers can save money by purchasing a copy of the Windows XP Professional installation CD and the original Microsoft Office package for Windows and the rest is basically history.

This raises the question as to whether it is necessary for Intel-based OSX to run on a Macintosh computer. We already know hackers can run the developer's edition of OSX on PCs. So why not the commercial version of OSX?

If that becomes a reality, who needs to buy a Macintosh computer? Given the existence of higher quality PC manufacturers out there to compete for your dollar, the chances of finding a better built PC than a Macintosh computer is much better.

In which case, why doesn't Apple get out of the computer manufacturing business once and for all and focus on good software and service? It makes a whole lot of sense. Less costs and hassles for Apple and their customer base when it comes to flaky Apple computers and numerous Apple repair extension programs, and more money to make for selling high quality Apple software to run on any PC, whether it is on OSX or Windows XP.

Now this will force Apple and Microsoft to compete with each other to make higher quality software, and let the consumers decide what they think is the best.

Oh yeah!

Apple releases its own Windows XP-booting utility ahead of schedule

After the release of the unofficial hack to allow Intel Macs to run Windows XP, Apple's big plan to run Windows XP at a later date had to be pushed forward by providing users with a beta version of Boot Camp (as of 6 April 2006). With this utility, the job of partitioning, installing and booting Windows XP has been made much easier.

Only one catch. If you have applied the above third-party hack and installed Windows XP, you won't be able to use Boot Camp. And if you have already partitioned the hard disk, it won't work either. You will need to reformat the hard disk again as a single partition, reinstall OSX and update it to 10.4.6, partition the hard disk using Boot Camp (not Apple's Disk Utility), run Apple's new firmware update and then you can run Boot Camp and Windows XP in the manner Apple is happy with.

We thought you would be pleased with the extra work. It is a pity it took a hacker to get Apple off the blocks on this occasion.

Here are the instructions:

(i) Install the latest OSX 10.4.6 update on your Intel-based Mac.

(ii) Launch the utility Boot Camp.

(iii) Burn a CD with the drivers Windows needs to recognize Mac-specific hardware.

(iv) Make sure you have at least 10GB of free hard disk space and you are running OSX off a single partition. If not, do not proceed beyond this step.

(v) Boot Camp has the ability to partition your hard disk without moving any of your Mac files around. But in case something goes wrong, you should backup all your critical files before proceeding to the next step.

(vi) Move the slider in Boot Camp to set the size of the Windows partition.

(vii) Insert your genuine Windows XP SP2 (Home Edition or Professional) installation disk into the CD/DVD drive.

(viii) Follow the prompts for installing Windows XP. One thing to remember is to select the correct partition for installing Windows XP. Windows calls this the C: drive. Choose the correct partition. If you get this wrong, you could easily lose all your Mac files and application. Again we can only reiterate the importance of backing up your files in case you make a mistake.

(ix) After the installation process is complete and your Mac has booted Windows, you'll need to insert the Macintosh Drivers CD you burned previously. On insertion, it will automatically install the drivers.

(x) Finally, because Windows is more susceptible to viruses, you are enouraged to download the latest security updates from Microsoft.

Please be aware that if you do go along the road of Boot Camp to install and run Windows XP, remember that the utility is just a beta version. In other words, Apple is working on overdrive to iron out the bugs. And it is time-limited, meaning the utility may not perform another Windows installation on an Intel Mac after a certain date. Furthermore no official support is given to this software.

Also you may need to fix up any problems in OSX not booting properly after the partitioning and installation of Windows XP. Use your OSX DVD disk to run Disk Utility in the Utilities menu (press C on startup to boot off the DVD). Or try the following suggestion from MacFixIt.com:

"Try booting your Mac into single user mode by holding down the Command and S keys during startup, then entering the following commands (pressing return after each):

/sbin/mount -uw /

mkdir /var/vm/backup

mv /var/vm/swapfile0 /var/vm/backup/

reboot" (MacFixIt.com: Boot Camp (#8): Mac OS X not booting properly after partitioning; MacBook Pro hotter when running Windows?; more. 11 April 2006.)

If all else, reinstall OSX.

And be prepared for the possibility that your MacBook Pro may run hotter under Windows XP.

The final version of Boot Camp will come at the time when Mac OSX 10.5 (Leopard) is released. Apple claims this will be in January 2007, although the punters are suggesting early December if Apple wishes to make a profit during the Christmas period as this feature isn't probably enough on its own to sell more Intel Macs.

You will also need the latest Windows XP Service Pack 2 CD. No other version of Windows will work.

Parallels Virtualization software makes its debut

The hacker has really pushed things along. News of a new third-party software has emerged capable of running WindowsXP and OSX side-by-side rather than booting one OS or the other. This is essentially emulation software. However it has added advantage of running Windows 3.1, 3.11, 95, 98, Me, 2000, NT, XP, 2003, any Linux distribution, FreeBSD, Solaris, OS/2, eComStation and MS-DOS. And it will run near native performance speeds with good stability, or so we are told by the company.

Now if Apple could buy out this company or provide the CD with every new Intel Mac, and give Mac users a MacOS 7/8/9 Classic Environment emulation tool in the next OSX, then perhaps the company may have something PC users may be interested in buying.

There is just one more thing: make sure the quality control process for making Apple computers improves and the units are solidly built and who knows? Apple could start to make headway into the PC market.

Should I install Windows XP using Boot Camp?

Although the Boot Camp installation works very well, we don't recommend it as yet. Boot Camp in its current form does not deliver enough Macintosh drivers for Windows XP to run the full gamit of Apple hardware. If you want to use Apple Remote Control (IR), Apple Wireless (Bluetooth) keyboards or mouse, Apple USB modem, Mac Book Pro's sudden motion sensor detection system on the hard drive, iSight camera, MacBook Pro's ambient light sensor, and to show an accurate battery reading in Windows XP (or else face early sleeps), you may find Windows XP a slightly unwelcoming experience.

Also the keyboard software has to be updated to stop an issue where users have to disconnect and reconnect the keyboard to get it to work with Windows XP. Perhaps the new Keyboard Update 1.0 from Apple will solve this problem?

People who will install Windows XP through Boot Camp are those professionals whose job it is to have a Windows XP machine but don't want to cart around two laptops or worry about running a Windows emulation software, and a few of those amateur people with nothing else to do but to experiment with their new Intel Macs.

We recommend for average users to wait until OSX 10.5 is released in January 2007 for the full benefits of Windows XP booting to be enjoyed.

Will Windows XP increase sales of Intel Macs?

Well, only if users can see the value of running OSX as well as Windows XP on one machine. But then again, PC users have been able to emulate and run OS9 and hack the developer's edition of OSX for running on PCs with no problem. So why spend a hefty price for an Apple computer to enjoy the benefits of OSX if PC users can do everything on a PC?

The only people who might benefit in this feature are existing Mac users wanting a fast and easy way to run Windows XP. This is the reason why Windows emulation software was so popular in the past.

Certainly it would be understandable how the company might not care if users choose not to use OSX should there be a tenfold increase in Intel Mac sales as a result of this feature. On the other hand, if the sale of Intel Macs is no different or goes down, Apple may have something to worry about.

If Apple is trying to increase sales of Intel Macs, we would not be surprised if Apple shares should go up in anticipation of this move to help give the impression to consumers that Apple is doing well and therefore there is a benefit for having a dual Mac/Windows computer.

If that is not enough, Apple will definitely need to build and sell lots of the popular iPods to help offset the low sales in Intel Macs.

Does this mean the end of OSX thanks to Windows XP booting?

Not likely. What could disappear however is the Macintosh hardware for running OSX as people realise Apple could easily run OSX on a PC if it wants.

But will Apple give up on the computer hardware and just sell OSX, iPods, iTunes music, Final Cut Pro and various other software? It will depend on how well the Apple computers are built and whether it provides users with what they want to see, not what Steve Jobs thinks people should have.

The future for running Windows applications on a Mac

It is interesting to see commentators saying how Microsoft VirtualPC will not disappear because Boot Camp will not permit copying and pasting information between Windows and OSX (you will have to save the information on a file and boot the other OS to help read the file and extract the information). VirtualPC runs inside a window all on its own within OSX so it is very easy to transfer information between the OS. You can't do this easily by booting into Windows XP and leaving OSX behind.

Knowing this basic limitation, what would happen in the future for Windows applications on OSX? Maybe not much. The agreement between Apple and Microsoft may prevent one or the other company from treading too deeply into the other's territory. For Apple, this is especially important as the company needs Microsoft Office to be available on OSX. The only reason why Apple has allowed Windows XP to boot on a Mac is because of a briliant hacker doing the job for which Apple hasn't until it had to.

But if there wasn't an agreement and both companies did compete with one another, would Apple survive? Probably not unless it can improve its computers and make its software fully Windows compatible and stop putting bugs or restrictions in OSX.

Actually, if Apple did have to compete with Microsoft, it will have to provide a lot of benefits to users to stick to or move across to OSX. Perhaps a background software utility in OSX to allow Windows applications to run just like an OSX or OS9 application running under OSX. Then it won't be necessary to run Windows XP just to access any kind of Windows applications (e.g. Microsoft Office). As one MacFixIt reader suggested:

"I can hardly believe Boot Camp will continue in this primitive mode, and I can easily imagine the day when you just turn on your Mac, and, without further ado, use whatever software's on it, Mac or Windows. VPC's on its way to becoming history." (MacFixIt.com: mac.column.ted: Apple's April Surprise: XP on a Mac!. 5 April 2006.)

However, something else must be added to this to make PC users see the value of running OSX for all Mac and Windows applications. What could that be? Perhaps some really awesome, durable Apple computers at last? Or the ability to emulate other OS applications including Linux under OSX?

This is something Apple will have to think about and prepare itself in case Microsoft decides to stop making MIcrosoft Office for Macs.

Microsoft is looking into this latest development very carefully and deciding how it will proceed: Will it be better to do away with VirtualPC. Or will the company decide to buy out Apple to reduce the competition?

UPDATE
1 September 2006

The guys who created WINE, a library of Windows API to allow running of Windows applications on Linux, has arrived on OSX for Intel Macs. The advantage of this software is to run Windows applications without having Windows XP or other Microsoft operating systems running in the background.

Currently as a beta, CrossOver is likely to appeal to those who need a quick and easy way to run Windows applications. Until the bugs are gone, Boot Camp will remain the best way of booting Windows on an Intel Mac.

UPDATE
2008

Microsoft has pretty much done away with VirtualPC. Intense competition from Parallels and the ability for hackers (and later the rest of the Mac users ith Apple's help using Boot Camp) to run Windows on a Mac intel machine has pretty much dried up Microsoft profits from the sale of VirtualPC. Is Microsoft happy? Probably not. But then again, maybe it always wanted to get rid of it to reduce the numbers of Windows being run on non-PC machines and, therefore, force users to purchase a proper PC. Now the company has realised it can't. So maybe that's the reason Mac users are getting an inferior Microsoft Office 2011 version compared to the PC version to encourage everyone to buy only the PC version on a proper PC machine that's fast enough to run the behemoth and feature-bloated software.