Vista on a MacBook Pro

· by Steve · Read in about 4 min · (707 Words)

So, last night I downloaded Boot Camp 1.3 (all 275Mb of it!) and got Vista installed. It took a pretty long time, but I have to say that Apple do a great job with their instructions and tools - after following them I had a vanilla Vista install going with no trouble at all. The only thing I had to do was figure out how to turn Aero on after the graphics drivers were installed. In particular I love that Apple have used EFI in the MacBook as opposed to a shabby old BIOS, which makes the whole boot process so much more flexible and friendly.

I have to say that my first impressions of Vista were extremely underwhelming. Some of that was due to Aero not being enabled to begin with, but even once it was, coming from so recently using OSX it feels very much like watching some guy at a party tell the same joke someone else did earlier, but not so well. Sure, coming from XP the Aero effects are very nice, but really in practice it feels like XP with a few tweaks. I do urge you to disable the blanket transparency effects if you’re on a laptop - it positively slays the battery life and you can cook a summer barbequeue on the underside of the machine when you’re done. You still get all the fading and glowing without it, and you really don’t notice the transparency after a while, but the difference in system load is huge. This is a pokey laptop that can handle the effects admirably, but it doesn’t make sense to make it work that hard just drawing windows. Even with this turned off, Vista regularly makes the MacBook’s fan come on, far more noticeably than in OSX even when I’m doing builds in XCode.

All the stuff that’s been copied from OSX doesn’t feel quite as well thought out - Gadgets are sort of like Widgets, but the interface to modify them is more fiddly, and the sidebar kinda just gets hidden in the busy work area so it isn’t really that useful - unlike Dashboard which flips in / out with a key or mouse gesture and thus manages to stay out of the way and remain accessible. ‘Flip 3D’ where you flip through your open windows in 3D feels totally like a gimmick - it’s hard to see what some of the windows are anyway and there’s no pop-up tooltip like Expose, or a difference between apps and windows. The searchable programs menu I like, but then I had that in Linux before anyway. As for desktop search, Vista seems to grind the disk much more than OSX does and Spotlight just feels more usable and immediate when it comes to documents. Like I say, it’s sort of like a bad knock-off, sadly.

For Windows users though, it’s nice enough. Way, way, way less impressive than 4 years work should look, and really it doesn’t feel like 60 quid well spent (I bought the OEM version of Home Premium), but hey, what can you do if you’re wedded to the MS machine? 😉 Still, it’s better than XP, even if it is by a shamefully small margin, which I guess I would have had to have bought anyway, so it’s not that bad. Still disappointing though - and when Leopard (OSX 10.5) comes along it will look even more tired.

I’m still getting everything set up again right now, but I have at least managed to probe my DirectX caps which has proved that this machine does in fact support 4 simultaneous render targets and floating point textures - they’re just misbehaving in OSX at the moment, I assume because the drivers are extremely new. Hopefully there will be an update which addresses this soon, for the moment I’ll have to skip testing these features in OSX.

The only other issues are that the backslash key is mismapped in Vista (it’s in the top left) and tapping of the trackpad doesn’t work yet, which is a bit annoying, I almost never use the actual buttons in OSX, just one or two-finger taps. Not a huge deal though.

Time to install all my dev tools!