Computer Hardware - Mac or PC (and a little bit about Boot Camp)...

As an Interactive Designer I've always worked on both Mac and PC - dependant on the application, the software, the delivery platform the but mainly what machine was available at the time. Personally I own a MacBook laptop and also a Dell desktop PC. I can see the advantages (and disadvantages) in both OS's.

This, in my experience, is an odd way to be. Most people in the design industry fanatically champion either PC or Mac... but not both! I know people who would take you outside to 'discuss it like men in the street' if you so much as suggested a PC was as good as a Mac. I know another individual (no name mentioned) that has a tattoo of the Windows logo on probably one of the most painful areas to have tattooed on the human body... now that devotion!

This Platform Fanaticism is a strange phenomenon... almost like the hatred you get between Snowboarders and Skiers - if you are one you automatically have to hate the other. Yet no one really knows the reason why. If you challenge a member of either faction you usually get the response: "Cos PCs/Skiiers are ****!" or "Macs/Snowboarders are just ********!" Not very well thought out, or considered, answers. It’s almost like two separate religions blindly going along with their own individual faith and totally unaccepting of others. Maybe in the future when the human race no longer has need for traditional religions we will begin aligning ourselves with Operating Systems (or ways to travel over snow) instead.

Personally I find that Macs are great for design and video editing. They specialise in throwing graphics around quickly, they are easy to use and (since OS X) they always seem to just work. PCs are more versatile and I find it is much more sensible to develop website and Flash or Director Applications on them. There are two reasons for this: mainly that the chances are the end user will be using a PC to view the finish project so it makes sense to develop and test on one. But also because you have a lot more features available on the PC to help you with development processes.

However – things have changed slightly lately. Since Macs have been using Intel Processors it is possible to run Windows XP and Vista on them. This means I now only need to buy one piece of hardware. Although Macs can be expensive it is far cheaper to buy a Mac and a copy of Windows than it is to buy two whole computers. This brings me on to Boot Camp…

For those of you that may not know Boot Camp is Apple’s way of helping you to install Windows XP onto a Mac creating a dual-boot system that can start up using either Windows Vista/XP or Mac OS X. I have to say – it is excellent. You simply download Boot Camp to your Intel-based Mac. Once run it will create a disc containing all the Windows drivers for your Mac hardware and allow you to partition your hard drive - one partition with the existing OS X and the other for your new Windows install. Once this is done you simply insert your Windows installation disc and away you go.

I have heard people say that it is as easy as installing Windows on a normal PC. In my opinion they’re wrong. It’s easier!

You see once I’d installed Windows on my MacBook I simply put the disc Boot Camp made for me in – it automatically installed all the Windows drivers for my MacBook - even rebooting where necessary and continuing afterwards. It was a simple as that. Everything worked perfectly.

As a comparison I have recently reinstalled Windows Vista on my Dell desktop PC. It was been a nightmare. Yes Dell supplies the drivers but they are bundled with all the other drivers for the current Dell models via a very cumbersome interface - it’s not really that clear which ones need to be installed. Dell also have a useful web-tool where you type in the serial number of your Dell and it comes back with a list of all the hardware your Dell was shipped with plus links to the drivers. Good idea. Except you still need to click on all the drivers separately to download them (even if you add the drives you need to ‘My Download List’ you still can’t download them all in one go). And of course – once you have downloaded them you still need to install them all individually. Time consuming and - compared to boot Camp – irritating. It took me a whole day to get Windows Vista up and running on my Dell.

I have been running Windows Vista on my entry level MacBook (with 2GB memory) for almost two years now. I use the apps from Adobe Master Suite all day, every day and it has been excellent. It runs far, far, far better than my (slightly newer) Dell – which was “Designed for Vista”. It’s almost embarrassing that the Mac can out-strip the PC in terms of reliability when running a ‘borrowed’ OS. Yes it does have a few niggles such as the lack of right-click on the track-pad and no ‘print screen’ button. But I can get round both of these with a piece of free software. Or just plug in a normal mouse.

So – after the nightmare I have had re-installing windows Vista on my desktop Dell I have made a decision… No more native PC hardware. From now on (and unless anything major changes) I’m only going to buy Macintosh computers.

Apple MacBook battery not detected when running Windows Vista under Bootcamp...

I have been running Windows Vista on my Apple MacBook for a while now. Installing it with Bootcamp was a breeze. Well done Apple - Microsoft could learn a lot from you in terms of making things simple and user-friendly. 

Oddly Vista works better on my Mac than it does on my newer Dell that was 'built for Vista'. (I could rant about my Dell all day but I'll spare you the rage - this time at least.) The only problem I've been having with Vista on the MacBook is that occasionally Vista stops detecting the battery. The 'phantom' battery still works as I can power the MacBook using just the battery but the taskbar icon in Vista tells me its not there. Not very useful if you are out and about and need to see how much battery you have remaining...

To start with I thought the problem was intermittent and I could remedy it by removing and putting back the battery... This is not actually the case. Once it happens it stays happened... until you reboot in Mac OS! Once you've run Mac OS and reboot into Windows Vista again the battery is back!

So in short - to fix the problem - boot the Mac OS then next time you boot Windows the battery detection works again.

Sorted! Now I just needs to figure out what makes the battery 'disapear' in the first place!


New Honda Civic is like Windows Vista...

I recently traded in my pre-2007 Honda Civic Sport in for a new shape (Diesel) Type S... I didn't really want to because I loved the old Sport, even though it wasn't Type R(my preferred choice but money wouldn't stretch that far), the handling was great and I'd just finished paying it off. However - with rising fuel prices and the amount of mileage I'm currently doing I felt it was probably the best option to trade in to a diesel model.

The first time I got in the new one for a cheeky test-drive I couldn't help being a little bit scared by the dashboard. It looks really nice and all - something like a cross between the starship enterprise controls and a Fisher Price toy - but it seem REALLY complicated. The rev counter has a blue glow around it and the speedo is a digital readout rather than a dial. All the other knobs and buttons, although pleasing to twiddle and poke, are spread out in a seeming random fashion all over the place. I couldn't help looking under the steering wheel in case Honda had chosen to secret some vitally important button or switch there... like the headlights switch.

For example: in my old Civic the air con / heating interface was made up of three matching dials. One for temperature, one for fan speed and one to select which orifices the air spewed from. Simple. In the new version the same interface is made up of three or four seperate clusters, each laid out differently with almost no switch following the same theme as any other. It doesn't seem to do anything differently from the old car - just be mindbendingly difficult to use. I still haven't managed to memorise the layout and have to resort to glancing over and stabbing at things with my finger until I hit the right button. Not good when you're doing 70 on the M4 and fancy warmer feet.

As I drive along, wondering if there is a course I can go on to help me learn this new layout, I can't help but draw parallels between my new car and Windows Vista. Both seem to have been 'improved' to look prettier but not actually do anything better, or easier than the old version. The handling and the brakes on my new car are slightly worse than the old model just as the stability and usability are slightly worse on Windows Vista compared to XP.  At least my new car goes faster than the old one where as Vista certainly doesn't.

Lets hope the new Civic doesn't crash as much...

Running Quickbooks 2005 on Windows Vista...

(If you want to get straight to how to run QuickBooks on Vista without reading my blather click here

It's the week before my VAT return is due and I start thinking I should wade into that pile of paper in the corner and sort out my accounts. Why do I always leave it to the last minute I ask myself as I frantically install QuickBooks Regular 2005 on my new Windows Vista machine (my old XP machine, which is actually FAR better than the Vista one is sat in the corner gathering dust).

You can probably guess whats coming here...

I click on the QuickBooks ison and...


I knew it!

Firstly I phone my accountant. She's as helpful as ever and seems as annoyed as I am that it isn't working. She suggests an upgrade which is what I was thinking so I hit the QB website. No upgrade info - just a new version of QB Pro 2008 for £299.99. Thats steep for something I hate doing, I think. So, with a due sense of dread, I call the support line. They want thirty five quid to 'go through some steps' or I can upgrade (I can't help feeling he just wants to get rid of me). So now I'm thinking I can solve this myself but I'll have a gander at the price of an upgrade first. It can't be more that 50barr as my original full version was only about £130. He puts me through...


So an upgrade is more than the new version? I say... No, he says, its the same... No, I say, its not...

Eventually I get him to agree that its more and that there is actually NO upgrade, just a new product - for less - and hang up.

I open Google and within seconds find out:

How to get QuickBooks 2005 to run on Vista:

1. Locate the program file 'qbw32.exe'. The easiest way to do this is right-click on the shortcut icon and cut and paste the Target field under the Shortcut tag (without the end bit - 'qbw32.exe') into Explorer.

2. Right-click on 'qbw32.exe' and and select 'Properties'. A Properties window will open. (You may need to have administrator priviledges or something to do this. Who knows.)

3. Click on the 'Compatibility' tag.

4. Check 'Run this program in compatibility mode for:' and select: 'Windows XP (Service Pack 2)' from the drop-down.

5. Check 'Run this program as an administrator' near the bottom. (You really, really might need to have administrator priviledges for this).

6. Hit the 'Apply' and / or 'OK' button and your done. Run your QB 2005 and smile smuggly whilst you use it. Occasionally I shout HA! when I think they wanted to charge me at least £35 for this! Don't let them get away with it...

Cheers yo!