What happens when you try to load Microsoft’s Vista Ultimate OS on a new Apple laptop? And why would you try such a dangerous stunt? I wasn’t planning to do it, I swear! It’s just that a brand new Apple 17-inch MacBook Pro laptop arrived in my office on the very same afternoon as a package arrived from Microsoft containing its new Vista Ultimate operating system. I had nowhere to load the latter, given the fact that my office PC was too old (and our IS department would kill me if I touched it!) and my system at home was peaceably running Microsoft XP (and I enjoy peaceable computers at home.) Then, possibly still overdosing on chocolate Easter bunnies from the day before, a radical idea forced its way into my Mac-oriented brain and I knew exactly what I’d spend the day doing—loading Microsoft Vista on the Apple MacBook Pro!
Now, I ended that last sentence with an exclamation point because I have a pain-filled history with the statement “loading Microsoft (fill in blank) on the Apple (fill in the blank)” that goes back over 17 years. Ok, that far back the only thing Bill Gates wanted to do with Apple was crush it into Apple sauce, and the term cross-platform compatibility hadn’t been invented. But as part of a school project (circa 1989), I first experienced the disconnect between Microsoft and Apple when I had to figure out a way to get image files to transfer from PC’s in my college lab at RIT to a brand new Apple II computer. My project? Point a Canon Hi-8 camcorder at photos I had printed, feed the video signal to a “high-res” Vista XVGA video capture card on a PC (Vista capture card? Hey, doesn’t that name sound familiar?) save them as PICT or TIFF files, and then transfer them into a Mac so I could manipulate them in a Beta copy of an exciting new program called Adobe Photoshop.
Simple, yes? Absolutely not! Back then, PC’s couldn’t read Mac floppy disks, and it took a special program running on the Mac to read a PC floppy at all. But after many dead ends and blank looks from faculty members, I found a new Mac IIn in the building running that program. After that, it only took five minutes to convert captured photos from a PC format TIFF file to a Mac-readable TIFF file (remember, these files were only about 500KB in size). Five minutes? I was elated and didn't realize the importance of what I had done! Within day’s word spread throughout the campus that some crazy student had figured out how to do the impossible and soon representatives from the Audio Visual, Film Production, and Video Schools showed up at my door with piles of PC floppy disks they need to convert for use on the Mac. Guess I could have gone into business back then, but I decided to give them the name of the Mac program (File Transfer) so I could find the time to graduate instead.
Flash Forward: Since then, it’s been part of my job to struggle through every new OS introduced by Microsoft and Apple. In addition, I’ve had to review or attempt to use numerous early-release software programs. As a results, I can’t even estimate the hundreds of hours I’ve spent dealing with bugs and incompatibilities.
So you can imagine the level of adrenalin in my blood stream (or it may have been left over Easter Bunny chocolate) as I began the process of loading MS Vista Ultimate onto a new 17-inch MacBook Pro. My goal? To be able to boot up in Vista in order to test or use new PC-only programs, or boot up in Apple’s OSX 10.4.9 when I wanted to use Aperture and other Mac-specific programs. (I could choose to listen to iTunes in either.) The very concept of one computer running both OS's in native mode was unthinkable before Apple starting using Intel processors in its computers. Following that, Apple created a free program called Boot Camp that made it possible for dual platform users to load Windows XP on their Macs. But even they couldn’t load Vista in boot-up mode until Apple released Boot Camp version 1.2 on March 27th.
I set aside an afternoon to deal with all the headaches I expected, but an hour after I started the process I was completely finished! No glitches, no bugs, no swearing, no crashes, and no wishing I had opted for root canal surgery instead. First, I downloaded Boot Camp 1.2 (fortunately using a super-fast cable modem since its over 130MB). Then I ran it on the laptop and created a special driver disk on a CD. Next, I chose to partition a 20GB section of the hard drive for Vista use.
I restarted the laptop with the MS Vista Ultimate install disk inserted, followed all the screen commands, filled in registration codes and other needed info, and left it alone for about 15 minutes as it went through its loading procedure.
After rebooting in Vista and the pretty background image I had selected for my desktop, I inserted the driver CD (made in Boot Camp), ran the install, and rebooted again. Voila! The system came up with all the cool Aero graphic features of Vista Ultimate and informed me that my Vista Experience Index was an impressive 4.7. (When Vista launched the highest score you could from available PC hardware was 5!)
In the several days I’ve been running both systems I have experienced the following: total strangers on the train asking me “What the ^&*%$??? Is that a Mac running Vista?” Members of the company's IS Department stopping by to see if it really works. Some agitation that I still haven’t been able to access the Mac side of the hard drive while in Vista, but I can do the opposite while running the Mac OS, and the special keys to turn up the monitor brightness or control sound are disabled when running Vista (there are dual key shortcuts that work the sound control.)
BUT SO FAR, NO SYSTEM CRASHES OR FREEZES! A miracle of technology and cross-platform compatibility? Maybe, but what if this is all just a good dream that I haven’t been willing to awaken from, or hell has actually frozen over?