Kickin My Macbook to the Curb

I believe I have a pretty high tolerance for inconveniences but I just couldn't take it: running Windows Server 2003 as a primary OS on Macbook blows.

As a fan of Unix, Windows and beautiful UIs, I promised myself I would put down any amount of money for a small Macbook the day it came out and I did just that. Then I ran back to work and attempted a Windows Server 2003 install. I never liked Windows XP and all the free crap it had to offer; I wanted a bare bones, unrestricted workstation and Win2k3 gave me that. It took about a week of hacking but I finally got the drivers installed. From there, my Macbook looked sexy and was super fast but ultimately became an utter inconvenience. As you can see from the sidebar, one of my most popular posts is about running Windows 2003 on a Macbook. I feel for those poor souls and can only hope they don't plan to use Win2k3 as their primary OS. As a friend said, "The Macbook is great. It's just not great for you."

So I've bought a new beauty and I love it, but before I get there, let me outline what sucks about running Win2k3 on a Macbook.

  • This applies to all Macbooks: inconsistent yet persistent fan issues. I don't care what you or you or you say, fans aren't supposed to sound that way. And it's not cool. Speaking of not cool, the Macbook gets way hot at times.
  • Remapping the keyboard to a Windows layout makes for a nasty delay after coming back from standby. The InputRemapper software from that guy works very well, I just don't like the wait.
  • If you want Bluetooth in Win2k3 to work, you have to run hid2hci every time it comes back from being on standby.
  • Built-in microphone jack + loud fans = impossible to make CBTs.
  • Power management sucks.
  • Will installing Leopard mess up my hacked 2k3 install? Will Parallels replace Bootcamp at some point, leaving me with no real option to boot Windows natively? I don't know but wondering causes stress.
  • No right click. I mapped the right Apple key to it but still.

So here I sit at Tommy's Joynt in San Francisco drinking coriander spiced beer and playing on my new Dell XPS M1210. I spent the past two weeks deciding between buying the super sexy but slower Sony Vaio, the equally sexy & slow new Fujitsu LED backlit Lifebook or this pretty-damn-affordable-and-unattractive-yet-lightweight-powerhouse from Dell. Dells just aren't pretty. I often wonder if Ford Motor outsources their car designers to Dell. Sure, you can make a laptop that looks like this..but why?

My new Dell lacks visual appeal (in my opinion) but makes up for it with its incredible amount of power. I've got a Core 2 Duo with 4MB of on-board cache (stylin' like a Xeon), 2 GB of RAM, 80GB 7200 RPM HDD and a 256MB nVidia card.. And to top it off, it's about 4.5lbs and retailed for about $2300 after tax, warranty, shipping and all that. Now I'm finally running Vista Enterprise with nothing but drivers, something I never really expected to do. But I really like it (also unexpected). "WOW" not so much but it's definitely a long overdue improvement. Here's my top favorite features so far

  • I don't need third party drivers to output my laptop display solely to my monitor. Finally!
  • The System Tray is cleaner and more informative
  • Vista Enteprise doesn't come with extra crap I don't need or want
  • Aero is really nice. I like how the taskbar now has popups to show you whats going on.
  • The search actually works. Searching in Windows, especially when searching inside files for text, was broken by Microsoft in XP and 2003. Even NT returns more accurate matches. How was this not noticed by engineers at Microsoft? I'm thinking it was a way to make people frustrated enough to install that Live Search bar.
  • Task scheduler and Event Viewer are super improved
  • The Windows Orb (formerly the Start button) is a big improvement over XP.
  • Dynamic disk resizing -- even on the windows partition

This page has a great outline of some of the new features and it also includes screenshots. Actually, the more tweaks and tricks I find, the more I realize that my initial list is going to change a ton over time. Something cool I just found is called "Additional Clocks" which allows you to add additional time information to the system tray clock hover. You can add up to 2 additional clocks.. I just added Louisiana and GMT.

A few things suck about Vista, including some networking issues but overall, I'm really digging both Vista and the Dell XPS M1210 I've named CRACKLIN. As for the Macbook, I've sold it to a Mac fan who can put it to better use.