Windows 7 on Macbook Air: Finally A Windows PC that I Like

From Evernote:

Windows 7 on Macbook Air: Finally A Windows PC that I Like

This grainy photo above shows my shiny new Macbook Air running (GASP) Windows 7. While this feature has been available via a utility called Boot Camp, I had always run Windows XP in virtualization, first in Parallels, and currently in the open-source (free) Virtualbox. That said, I wanted a faster option, particularly to see if this set up would run 3D CT analysis software well. My current home workstation, a Dell desktop replacement laptop, slows to a crawl when I run this software, but something told me it may run better with the flashdrive enabled Macbook Air.

Buying a shrinkwrap Windows 7 was not fun -an initial trip to Best (not) Buy revealed that they were happy to sell you an empty box, but after they took your money realized the whole store was empty of actual Windows 7 disks. I therefore went to Amazon and was happy to find Windows 7 Ultimate for 40 dollars off the Microsoft price. It arrived two days later and away I went…

To the Apple Store to buy a Superdrive. I tried various ways of creating a bootable USB flash disk, but after several hours, decided to take the plunge and purchase the MacBook Air Superdrive. The Boot Camp setup was a little annoying -you had to download Boot Camp drivers and burn a CD to load onto your Windows drive. You then had to partition the hard drive -I initially set aside 25 Gb but now find that I am running out of space as I load up with necesary software.

After a few days of fiddling, and running it in Windows, I have to say I am surprisingly pleased. Windows 7 is as beautiful as Windows XP is mofugly. It anticipates your needs and just works -for example, drivers for my network printer were automatically downloaded upon adding it to the printer list. This sort of ease of use used to be associated with Mac OS only, but Microsoft has finally bit the bullet and realized that the “for business” label was just an excuse for keeping things arcane and difficult. Getting XP to recognize a network printer is a Sisyphusian task. Windows 7 does it with elan.

Strangely enough, I am enjoying working on Windows 7. Sure -the fonts aren’t as good looking, but the OS is polished and refined. Frankly, I love it. The 3D CT software runs as well from my home as it does in the office on its server (a Dell Xeon PC which is monstrously huge). I am loading Office on it. During the late ’00’s, Microsoft seems to have gotten the message that their software was preferred by geeks, but generally despised by an increasing number of people. What always kept be away from Windows 7 was the terrible hardware available -I had miserable experience with Sony and Dell, and am dubious of any of the large PC makers. Boot Camp and Macbook Air changes all that.

Oh, the virus thing -Microsoft now offers a free download called Microsoft Security Essentials which does a decent job of policing the computer. Kudos to Microsoft and here’s to hoping much luck and fortune to that other iconic American company.

The Crossdressing Mac

snc10088My Macbook Pro 15 inch (Santa Rosa Core-2 Duo Processor, LED backlit screen, 4Gb RAM, 160GB HD) which I purchased a year ago, is a dream to work on. It lets me stay productive for 3-5 hours at a stretch on a single battery -with the two extras I have, I can go a full 12 hours straight before I have to plug in. It does everything the Mac OS X operating system promises very well. Most PC laptops are pretty much obsolete after a year. Not so my Mac. It is likely to be three or four years before I even consider upgrading. My last three laptops have been Sony Vaio’s and they were a miserable lot -pretty to look at but expensive to purchase, they failed at many of the basic things that my Macbook does so well. Even with a Sony Digital Camcorder, none of the Sony Vaio Laptop’s could handle moviemaking, something my Macbook does with polish. I maintain a professional work-related blog with the built-in iWeb software, and all the basic things that I do are just easy and stress free.three-os

On occasion, I do need to go back into Windows. This is where the Macbook really shines. It is not well known by the average user, but the Intel chipped based Macs all run Windows very well -enough so that PC Magazine rated the Macbook Pro 17inch the fastest PC Laptop in 2007. You can run Windows in two different ways.

First, you can run Boot Camp -software that comes with the Mac, that lets you boot up (start the machine) directly into Windows. It reportedly gives you a 2-5% speed boost compared to running it the way that I do which is using virtualization software. Virtualization software lets you run Windows and Mac (and Linux, another operating system) side by side. I use Parallels 4.0, but there is also VMWare Fusion which does the same thing and is currently on sale. Of course, whether you run Boot Camp or virtualization software, you need a separate Windows license. I purchased a Windows XP Pro DVD last year, when you could still buy them, and loaded it onto my Mac, and I can access Windows-only software at work with no fuss. The image at top is the Mac running Windows in full screen mode -I’m updating to XP service pack 3 in the picture. 

The Mac is like a smart, well educated person who can speak several languages at once. The image on the right shows three windows -the top left is Windows XP updating to SP3, the right green window is Suse Linux booting up, and the bottom window is Safari on this blog page I am writing. The computer is running with no lag, no delay, and couldn’t care less. Try that on a Vista laptop. 

Why do I run Suse Linux? It’s because I’m at heart an incredible geek. It’s a very stable operating system which runs quickly on older hardware. If you have an older Windows laptop that is getting long in the tooth, you can download OpenSuse Linux for free, burn a bootable DVD and freshen your older hardware -it run quickly, quicker than Windows, is more stable, and lets you keep your laptop running a while longer. There is free office suite called OpenOffice that comes with the OpenSuse distribution. There are also other free Linux distributions available. I have OpenSuse in order to play with databases -another get rich quick scheme!