Windows XP on Intel Macs using Apple Boot Camp

Boot Camp iconWhen the first Intel Core-based Macs came out and people were asking if they could ever run Windows on it, Apple's response what they don't support it, but they won't do anything to stop it either. However, the decision to use EFI instead of BIOS basically stopped it from happening on a hardware level.Today Apple released a beta of Boot Camp, which enables dynamic, non-destructive partitioning of a Mac hard disk, and installation of Windows XP that will run natively on Intel-based Macs. It even burns you a CD containing all the necessary drivers to support the hardware of the Mac you're installing it on. You still need your own copy of Windows XP (Home or Professional) though. Boot Camp then allows selection of the boot partition on start-up when the option(alt) key is held down. Boot Camp functionality would be incorporated into the next major version of Mac OS X 10.5, code-named Leopard, and would probably be called something else by then. This step is HUGE for apple, and leapfrogging ahead of Microsoft's feeble attempts to port Virtual PC which it acquired from Connectix. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think VPC even got as far as being optimised for the PPC G5. I would personally prefer a full virtualization environment where Windows would be running concurrently, either within a window, or a separate switchable desktop, at native speeds of course. In the meantime, a dual boot option like this is a good start. So now, when you buy a Macintosh, you get a machine that can run both Mac OS X and Windows natively, but the reverse isn't true. It's already been proven time after time that Macintosh hardware is no more expensive than similarly configured brand-name PCs from Dell or HP. Why wouldn't you want to buy a Mac now? But in all honesty, if you've bought a Mac, the question should be - Why would you want to boot into Windows for? Oh, and I love Apple's interpretation of the 4-paned windows logo, as greyscale diamonds, with a glassy, embossed effect.

My New iPod

Back of boxI finally bit the bullet and bought myself a new 5th generation iPod. Yes it's the 'video iPod' but I'll stick with Apple's terminology. I've had my 10GB 2nd gen iPod for just over 3 years now, having received it as a Christmas present from my dad. With each new iPod that was released since, I've been tempted but just couldn't justify getting a new one, as it has been (and still is) working fine. The well-known battery life problems had hit me, but I've opened it up and replaced it with a 3rd-party battery and it's good as new. So I held out and waited but the dang thing kept ticking along. My music library in iTunes had long exceeded the 10GB capacity and I've had to be selective about what to put on my iPod. When the new video-playing iPod late last year, I was impressed with its features. Reviews of its video playback were glowing, and it even had TV output capabilities. Instead of just carrying your music around, you could carry movies, TV shows and other video clips with you, to watch it on the iPod itself or on an external television! I was awed. No doubt there were other video-playing devices already by iRiver and Creative, but Apple gets it right with the size, form-factor and of course, the iPod's renowned GUI. One thing that is seldom mentioned elsewhere is that due to the iPod's vertical orientation, it can be effortlessly used one-handed, unlike the PSP and other landscape-oriented video players. I got my new iPod in the week before I went back to Malaysia, so I could take advantage of the Tax Refund Scheme at the airport, saving a few bucks in the process. Having read about how easily scratched this new iPod can be, I went out and bought an Agent18 VideoShield, which I think is the slickest case around. It is a completely clear hard plastic shell which still maintains the iPod's slim size while offering tough protection. Even the officer at the Tax Refund counter at the airport was asking about the case and where I got it from. The video playback is excellent, and very watchable on the iPod's screen itself, small as it may seem. I've converted some episodes of Lost and Battlestar Galactica and have been watching them while on the train or in bed. I've also taken to subscribing to a few video podcasts. Channel Frederator is excellent if you like animation and cartoons. Homestar Runner also now has a podstar.runner area with ipod-ready versions of Strong Bad Emails clips. Battery life when playing videos could have been better, but overall, I'm very happy with this new toy of mine.

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iTunes Australia

It's about 2 weeks since Australia got its own version of the iTunes Music Store. It had a few glitches in the opening week with pricing of some albums still being adjusted, and some other oddities like tracks being labelled as 'Album Only' purchases, yet where the 'Buy Album' button should be, it says you can only buy it "By Song Only".Despite launching without music from Sony BMG's catalogue, it was been very warmly received by the press and although no sales figures have been released, it seems like the Aussies are on a shopping spree after having made to wait for this long, and after several false alarms with rumoured launch dates. Apple Australia has struck an agreement with Coles-Myer Limited for them to be the exclusive distributor of the pre-paid iTunes Music Cards, which means you can get them from Myer, Officeworks, Coles, Coles Express, Bi-Lo, Harris Technology, Target and K-Mart. I've already purchased some music and it is just too easy to buy songs there. My first track was Madonna's new single, Hung Up which is a very catchy track that has a sample of Abba's Gimme, Gimme, Gimme. I also bought The Sims 2: Nightlife Soundtrack which is unlikely to be found in stores here. These are tunes from the latest Sims expansion pack with new music and some familiar tunes from the game are given a dance twist by big-name DJs. I've also downloaded some of their free-music-of-the-week tracks. I've also created my first iMix, which is basically a playlist you publish onto iTMS. I compiled a list of songs used in the iPod Ads. It is not complete as iTMS Australia doesn't carry all the tracks that I found in my research. With such a high market penetration of the iPod here in Australia, it's surprising how long it took for Apple to bring the iTunes Music Store to these shores, but now that it's here, I'm sure it would be hugely popular like everywhere else they have opened up.

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New PowerBooks, Power Macs, Aperture

Wow, has Christmas come early this year? Hot on the heels of the new, very impressive iMac G5, the iPod that plays video, and the sexy little iPod nano not long before that, today Apple introduces updates to both its Pro lines, and then some.The new PowerBooks sport higher resolution screens and improved battery life, while still retaining the G4 processor. The Power Mac G5 on the other hand got a serious beefing up with the introduction of the dual-core G5, basically 2 CPUs on one chip. The lower end Power Mac G5 Dual uses one of these new dual-core processors, in place of two separate G5 chips. The Power Mac G5 Quad has two of these dual-core processors. This combined with a new PCI Express architecture throughout the line-up would mean a significant boost in performance over the previous generation. So much for the speculation that the G5 was on its last legs and with not much room for improvement until the debut of the Intel-based Macs next year. Apple also released Aperture, a new app aimed at professional photographers. While fundamentally it's a image manipulation application that would appear to compete directly with Adobe Photoshop, from what I've read and seen on their site, it takes quite a different approach with the workflow. What impresses me most is the integration of versioning and non-destructive changes to the image. The master image is never altered in any way, and when you save a version, it keeps the images grouped together so you can see all variants at a glance. This and other features that would appeal to pro digital photographers round up an impressive package which would probably become a serious contender to Photoshop. Out of the limelight of all these new products, the Apple Cinema Displays received a price drop of USD200 and USD500 for the 23" and 30" LCDs respectively. Unfortunately the 20" Cinema Display which I've been eyeing remains at the same price. I've been thinking of getting a new Power Mac for the office and held out for these announcements. Impressive as they are, I'm not even sure my work calls for all that much power. I've been doing my web design work using a PowerBook G4 1Ghz, though lately I've been getting a bit annoyed with the sluggishness especially with Photoshop and Illustrator running. Even a lowly iMac with its G5 would be a vast improvement in speed, perhaps I might be able to net myself a superseded G5 Dual 2.3 for cheap?

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A Very mini Macworld

The last round of product releases by Apple at Macworld San Francisco on the 11th were pretty amazing. The iPod shuffle is amazingly tiny, about the size of a normal thumb drive, and priced very similar too, to such devices without an integrated player.

Although I'd personally not be interested in getting one of my own, I'm sure I'd appeal to a lot of people especially with it's impulse-purchase price of USD 99 (AUD149). With 29% of total market share belonging to inexpensive Flash-based players, the iPod shuffle is going straight for the jugular.

It's quite interesting to read too, that many existing iPod users are interested in the iPod shuffle as a complement to their full-sized iPod. On some forums I've read that they'd like the iPod shuffle for it's tiny size and weight and the fact that it's flash-based and totally skip free. For use on quick commutes and while working out. Besides, with approximately 120 songs on the 512MB model, that still amounts to about 8 hours of continuous music. Not too shabby I'd say.

The Mac mini is an odd one though. It doesn't fit into any of the existing Apple product lines. I am quite impressed and intrigued with the Mac mini though. It's Apple's cheapest ever Macintosh at USD 499 (AUD 799). So much for the Macs-are-expensive argument. It's quite obviously made for the so-called Switchers market. As the iPod has drawn the world's collective eye to Apple, they are now enticing more Windows-based users of the iPod to the Mac platform. They tried to do that with the iMacs and eMacs, but problem is, all of Apple's entry-level computers before this were all-in-one machines with built-in monitors. While this might appeal to first-time buyers who just want everything in the box, existing Windows PC users who want a cheap way into the Mac platform didn't like that. The Mac mini is for these people.

Some long-time Mac users are critical of the Mac mini being underpowered and a backward step for Apple, doomed to be another failure like the G4 Cube. I think that won't be the case. The Mac mini has something going for it that the Cube didn't. Price. The cheapest Cube configuration when it was launched was USD 1799. It also had a slew of proprietary connectors for audio input and output, as well as an ADC connector for the display, thus forcing you to buy an Apple monitor, generally costing more than other brands using standard VGA or DVI plugs. Easily pushing up the cost of a complete system to about $3000.

One main criticism of the Mac mini by existing Mac users is that it's too basic. It doesn't even come with a keyboard and mouse! But it's not made for that market. It's aimed squarely at the Switchers. They'd already have a sizable investment in their Windows-based machine and they've had a good experience with their iPod and iTunes on Windows and are ready to give a Mac a go. They don't want an all-in-one eMac or iMac, and a Powermac G5 is just too big an investment for a machine just to play around with or as a second computer. Enter the Mac mini. At $500, it's almost a no-brainer. Granted it's specs aren't spectacular (but neither are $500 budget PCs), and it works with all your existing equipment. DVI or VGA displays, USB keyboard, mice, digital cameras, Firewire drives and video cameras and of course, the iPod. Optionally you could get an internal Airport card and Bluetooth transceiver. They'd very easily be able to hot swap their equipment or use a KVM to switch between the Mac and the PC, and when they are ready to make the jump, the other, more robust products in Apple's catalogue are available.

Granted, this might still be a very specific market they are aiming for, but one that has the potential to be huge. Already the iPod has about 65% of worldwide digital music player sales, and converting even a quarter of those into Mac sales would be huge for Apple's Macintosh market share. I suspect the Mac mini is going to help do just that.