Spending the morning in Windows land

by Erica Sadun

I need to upgrade to Vista. So early this morning, I started googling around for system requirements and to find out what would be involved in the upgrade. I stumbled across Microsoft's page about its Window Vista Advisor and downloaded a copy. While attempting to install it, it alerted me that it "Requires .Net Framework". I stopped the installation, downloaded a copy of the framework and began to install that.

After agreeing to endless end user licensing terms, the installation began. Nearly an hour later, I had to leave and drop the kids off at school while it was still installing. As I left, I noticed it rewriting my system registry and installing hundreds of megabytes of updates. Upon returning from my errands, the installation was finally complete.

I then launched the Advisor installer, agreed to its terms, and waited another 10 minutes for that to finish installing before I could launch it.

Once launched, it took another 15 minutes to tell me what I already knew--I needed another 256 MB of memory installed on my inherited laptop--and what I didn't know--that other than memory, the laptop was Vista compatible.

So I started doing some math. To upgrade the laptop's memory would cost me about $50-$100 depending on how much memory I added plus the cost of Vista itself, say another $100-$150 for Vista Home Basic. Alternatively, I could go to Walmart and buy a cheap-o desktop unit without monitor but with Vista Home already pre-installed for about $400 or less.

I'm really hesitant to go the bootcamp or Parallels route with this because (1) my Mini already has 2 partitions on it, neither of which I can get rid of at this time; and (2) I need native peripheral support.

So what advice do you have for me? Should I go the add-memory-and-upgrade-the-laptop? Should I shell out for the low-end desktop? All of this is for a 3-month project, after which I will no longer need much of this technology.


Ben G.
2007-06-06 09:29:29
Which native peripherals do you need? I've found VMware Fusion has solid support for Vista (with or without Bootcamp), and excellent USB 2.0 support.

If your native peripherals are USB 2.0, then you're already set.

Erica Sadun
2007-06-06 09:33:45
The only one that I absolutely need will be, er,....the iPhone.
2007-06-06 10:54:34
3 month project? I'd hire something. Unless you suspect you'll be needing it again afterwards.
2007-06-06 10:55:03
Steve C
2007-06-06 10:55:58
Some of the things you left out were specs of the laptop. You'd be surprised what Vista will run on, depending on how fast you need it to be. A gig of RAM is an ideal "minimum" but 512M will do but it will be SLOW.

I assume this is something that REQUIRES Vista and that XP Just Will Not Do. As someone who has done some professional testing with brand new PCs under Vista and XP I have found Vista to be annoying and slow but also better looking than XP. Whenre I routinely turn off all the XP eye candy (making it look like Win2K) I find myself leaving some of the Vista eye candy on.

With all that said you might be better off with VMWare or Parallels (I think V3 supports Vista, heck V2 might as well) that way there is less expense and you can have an instant backup so when you are fiddling with it and it breaks just go back to the virgin HD image. And do you REALLY want another box on your desk or waste even more time upgrading an already working laptop just so you can experience the joy/pain of a new MS o/s pre service pack 1.

Just think of your ordeal just installing the installer advisor. Installing a brand new MS o/s on an "older" or "non compliant" laptop is almost guaranteed to cause even more of the same kind of pain and frustration.

Do yourself a favor and stick with the VM. It takes up less room on your desk, costs less in TIME and money and can easily be deleted/maintained when you do have problems.

Erica Sadun
2007-06-06 11:57:37
As for what I'm going to run? iTunes, QuickTime and do lots of screen captures. That's about all. I just have so many old Windows machines that I never use and I'd hate to get another. I priced out getting another Mini to bootcamp, but it would cost about $800 with 1GB memory and add the cost of the virtualizer on top of that and the cost of the OS.

I probably can pick up a crash-and-dent desktop over at Dell's outlet for about $270 + shipping, including 1GB memory.

2007-06-06 12:48:59
First of all, you can install the upgrade versions of Vista cleanly. Just install like normal and skip all the registration/activation screens. Then re-run the setup once Vista is installed while you are running Vista. It will upgrade itself from itself - then you can activate it. Apparently, this is perfectly legal and a whole lot faster to install. The horror of a messed up upgrade from WinXP would give me the willies! The shear complexity of all those files and registry keys is frightening to say the least. I always do clean installs whenever possible, especially on development boxes.

I would pick up the cheapest e-Machine I could find and drop in at least 2GB's of RAM. Vista is certainly RAM hungry to be sure! 1GB is barely enough and 512MB had 78% of system resources used with no applications running!

If you can get away with WinXP do it. There is little need to upgrade to Vista unless you have to. I've been testing Vista for months and I don't see my company rolling out for a few years at least.

Erica Sadun
2007-06-06 12:53:49
Let me throw this question out at you then (although it probably deserves its own post): What kind of screen shots would best serve iPhone users in articles and books and stuff? As far as I know, the majority of existing iPod owners use Windows. Do you think they'd be okay with XP screen shots? Or do you think that Vista would provide a longer-term how-to base?
2007-06-06 12:56:15
Hey Erica,
I was in the same boat recently - a project where MS was necessary for illustrating a manual. Bootcamp works well, but it means a re-start every time you want to swap OS. Parallels accessing a Bc partition is not good (you need to activate Windows twice). The best soution is to run Parallels only, epsecially if it is for screen grabs etc.

When the project is done, save the Virtual machine to a backup for re-install when you need it again.

One tip - don't try running it alonside InDesign they do not seem to get along!

Mitch Cohen
2007-06-06 13:01:24
I'd pick up a hard drive for your Mini, and run Parallels. Parallels is great for productivity - everything is still right there. I've never had trouble with USB connectivity, including Windows-only devices like an obscure voice recorder. If absolutely necessary, you can bounce back and forth between Parallels and Boot Camp. The total cost (HD + Parallels + Vista) may be more than a cheapo PC. But at the end of your project instead of having a crappy PC you have a decent external hard drive you can actually use. Something like a MiniStack from OWC, and there are others.
Mike K.
2007-06-06 13:29:13
I run a CCD imaging system on a university-grade astronomical telescope with Parallels and Mac mini, so you'll probably be fine. ;)

I'd recommend going Parallels, and just pick up a cheap external USB (or firewire) hard drive on which to put the Parallels disk image. You'll notice a speed boost in Parallels' performance as it isn't competing with OS X for disk access, you won't have to worry about eating up disk space on your internal drive, and you can now move your Windows install around between different Macs (with Parallels installed) simply by unplugging the drive and carrying it to another machine.

I picked up a 120 gig Western Digital passport USB drive for $99 CDN, and host all my Parallels VMs on it.

2007-06-06 14:21:04
Ditch the MAC and get a real os, such as XP or Vista. I know making websites for your Cat is great and all -- but the real software is run under the MS platform; it seems to me that _every_ mac user is a windows user and every windows user is not a mac user. I think there is something to be said about that. Why else does every other mac user run boot camp or parrallels ...

p.s. I am just returning the anti-ms sentiment you loving mac users send to us.

p.p.s. I have both, but I like my windows machine better. :)

2007-06-06 15:16:28
Yes Justin, very mature. I too have both and guess what, I like my Mac partition better. The reason I run Windows as well? PS2 emulation, that's all.
2007-06-06 18:27:19
Why not just get a cheapo firewire drive and install boot camp
/ with vista on it?

jimmy Hill
2007-06-06 23:22:56
Buy the cheapo desktop. When you are done with the project sell it and buy more RAM for your lappy!
Pedro Melo
2007-06-07 00:21:52
Buy the cheapo computer to run Vista. It is the easy way to get vista up and running, and you don't have to play around with your main work system, less chance of breaking that.

At the end of the project, if you really don't need it anymore, donate the computer to your favorite local charity.

Best regards,