The Computer Blog

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Installing an ATI Radeon 9550 on a Windows 98SE System

When I tried to install the ATI Catalyst 4.10 driver on my Windows 98SE system, I got an error message that said the software could not find components it was looking for and I needed to check my software and hardware configuration to ensure it met system requirements (or something close to that). At one point, it suggested I try installing the video card as the Standard VGA driver. Frankly, that driver and the Standard PCI Graphics Card (VGA) driver is all that would install!

I finally got some time to try to troubleshoot the problem. While the ATI website had no direct words on my problem, I did find something that hinted the problem could be due to a hardware or software conflict preventing the installation routine from recognizing my card as a Radeon 9550. That made me think I might be able to figure out a workaround for the problem. I eventually did, and here’s what worked.

(1) If you’ve had ATI video cards installed on your system in the past, download and run the Catalyst Uninstaller. Otherwise, proceed to Step 2.

(2) Download the Catalyst 4.10 driver and control panel combined download. If you haven’t tried to install it yet, do so. If it installs normally, you’re done. Otherwise, continue to Step 3.

(3) Right-click on my computer and select Properties. Click on the Device Manager tab. Click on the plus sign for Display Adapters to expand it. Click on whatever video card is listed there and then click on the “Remove” button. When the dialog pops up asking you if you want to reboot your system, click on “NO”. Repeat as necessary to remove all video cards. (Video cards with dual monitor support will have two video card entries.) Now, reboot your system.

(4) When the Add Hardware Wizard pops up, it will detect a “PCI Graphics Card (VGA)”. When it asks you if you want it to search for drivers, tell it instead you want to search from a list. The list will pop up with nothing in it. That’s okay. Click on the Browse button.

(5) Navigate to the folder where the ATI driver extracted itself for the earlier installation. This is typically C:\ATI. Navigate down to the ATI/Setup/Support/wme-catalsyst-8-03-98-2-041020a-018705e/Driver/9xinf folder and select the “C8-18705.inf” file. The list will then show a bunch of ATI cards. Select the “Radeon 9500 Series”.

(6) The operating system will protest that this software is not compatible with your hardware and it may not function properly. Select it anyway.

(7) Repeat Steps 5 and 6 for the “C9-18705.inf” file when the operating system finds and hunts for a second video card (Dual monitor support will install as two cards on your system).

(8) Reboot your system and set the video card’s number of colors and resolution.

(9) Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The "iPod Halo Effect" - How Real Is It?

It wasn’t that long ago, a year perhaps, when Apple’s stock was selling at $29 a share. Today, it is listing at $100, making me wish I had bought some. Why is it so high? Because one financial analyst is predicting that Apple will once again wind up with double-digit market share. The prediction is based on a survey of iPod users and shoppers that asked if they were considering buying a Mac. A large percentage of them answered they were.

The design of Apple’s G5 iMac is based on the iPod in the hopes of cashing in on the “halo effect” of the iPod’s success. The “halo effect” theory states that people who use the iPod and like it, especially people who have not owned an Apple product before, will be drawn to the brand by the device. And there seems too be some truth in that. But is it really all that it’s being cracked up to be? I have my doubts.

I’ve been shopping for airplanes lately. One thing I’ve learned about buyers from that experience is that there is often a wide gap between “wants” and “will do’s”. My bet is there are a lot of people out there thinking about switching to a Mac because of the iPod; but the percentage of them who will actually make the move are small, though perhaps as large as 15%. Why do I say that? Let me share a recent personal experience.

This weekend I was in the local MicroCenter getting ready to buy a new G5 iMacs. I wanted to give myself one last look at one before deciding to make the purchase. The PowerMac and iMac display models are set up on a square table offset from the center of the room. A very tall gent with thinning blonde hair and black eyeglasses sat slouched in a chair in front of the 20 inch G5 iMac rubbing his chin. A salesman was standing next to him and they were talking about the machine. The prospective buyer was asking about compatibility and mumbled something about viruses. The salesman was a Mac user and told him he had never had a virus, but I could tell the buyer was still afraid to make the switch even though he was tired of dealing with Windows. In the end, he got up from the table and wandered back into the PC department.

There also were lots of folks wandering in to look at iPods. Those who had PC’s made sure the salesmen knew it, and they did not look at Macs.

In those two categories of buyers, I believe you have most of the new iPod market. And if I’m right, Apple stock is overvalued, and the market at some point will make a correction.

This is one time I’d like to be wrong.

Windows Never Looked So Good! (Radeon 9550 on 20 inch Apple Cinema Display)

When I was at work yesterday, I mentioned to a friend I had bought a 20 inch G5 iMac and now had a 20 inch Cinema Display I could occasionally hook up to my PC because I was going to sell the PowerMac it had been attached to. He started talking abut me using the PC’s Samsung 760V TFT LCD in addition to the 20 inch Apple Cinema Display to make a three window setup for Microsoft Flight Simulators. That made me realize that the dual monitor setup might bypass what I thought was a permanent limitation of running the ACD on my PC, i.e., the display would be black until Windows XP booted, meaning that the BIOS screens were unreachable. My PC is a homebuilt AMD XP 2800+ powered machine with 512MB RAM and an ATI Radeon 9000 All in Wonder video card. Checking to see if it would support dual monitors, I found out it wouldn’t, so I spent a few minutes checking out the ATI and CompUSA websites to look for a video card that did and wouldn’t cost much. I didn’t come up with a firm answer and decided to drop by my local CompUSA to do “up close and personal” research.

I started looking at the ATI Radeon 9600SE but then noticed the ATI Radeon 9550 at the same price after rebates. The 9550 had twice as much video memory and supports DVI and VGA monitors, exactly the setup I needed. The 9600SE supported two monitors as well, but I decided to buy the 9550.

Once I was home with it, it took me only a few minutes to pop the side off my PC, remove the 9000 All in Wonder card, install the 9550, rearrange my desk to accommodate the 20 inch Apple Cinema Display (hooked to the 9550’s DVI port using Apple’s ADC to DVI adapter) and the Samsung 760V. I booted the PC and much to my surprise and delight, I saw the PC’s BIOS screen pop up on BOTH monitors! What I had thought was a limitation of the Apple Cinema Display instead appeared to be a limitation of the video card. That meant I could run the Apple Cinema Display as my prime monitor; and since I really didn’t have enough desk space to support both the Samsung and the ACD, I pulled the Samsung off the system. (Since this caught me by surprise, I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do with the Samsung.)

Windows XP is gorgeous running on this display! The display is running at its native resolution of 1680 x 1050 pixels and 32 bit color. Man, it makes me want to use the PC more! I haven’t run any of my Microsoft Flight Simulators on this display, yet, but that’s coming. They were the major reason I attempted this, and it’s paid off in spades!

The only problem with this setup is that the Radeon 9550 is not supported by Windows 98SE. It’s installed as a VGA PCI card over there running 16 colors and 640 x 480 resolution. No ATI driver set I’ve tried has worked, most of them bombing out as they tell me some components they were looking for could not be found. It looks to me like the only way to recover a functioning Windows 98 is to upgrade to ME, and I’m not sure I’m going to do that. Instead, I’m trying to move every application I really need over to the XP side. I still have some things I can’t get XP to run and really need, so reconfiguring the dual boot system to XP only is not something I’m going to do right now, even if I did have the time to do it and I don’t.

I really love this setup. It’s very seductive. I’ve been wanting to get a 20 inch display on my PC for some time to support the flight simulators. I’ve accomplished that now by spending only $130 vice $1300. (Of course, there’s the indirect cost of the 20 inch iMac that made it all possible and wound up killing several birds with one stone, so I haven’t yet figured how to divvy that out.) For once in the PC world, something I’ve done has worked out even better than I had hoped!

Sunday, November 21, 2004

iMac City

My wife’s refurbished iMac showed up yesterday and I managed to snatch it out of the hands of FedEx before they dashed off. (A female shipper was at my door already writing the “sorry we missed you” note fifteen seconds after knocking at my front door.) After I talked with my wife on the phone about what her preferences were (She was at work.), I unpacked the machine, photographing the process all the way, and popped its back off to install an Airport Card before setting it up next to her “old” flat panel G4 iMac, laughing all the way. For two people who didn’t like the G5 iMac’s square looks, we sure have gone for them!

Amazingly, the iMac didn’t seem to exhibit any unusual noises and its screen brightness seemed fine. The new Setup Assistant came on screen after the initial registration screens Apple always produces. It asked if I had data on an old Mac I wanted to transfer; and when I answered “yes”, it had me connect the two machines via Firewire cable. It then instructed me to boot the G4 iMac in Firewire Target Disk Mode by holding down the “T” key on the G4 while it booted. Once I had done that, the Assistant inventoried the “old” iMac, presented me with a list of the areas it was going to copy so I could approve it, and then it proceeded to copy everything from the old machine to the new one. The process is additive. In other words, you’ll more than likely find your Applications folder has a few more things in it than you were expecting.

Once the process completed, the G5 iMac booted into Mac OS 10.3, otherwise known as Panther. The desktop looked just like it had when my wife last turned off her G4 iMac. Sweet!

I booted various applications, including Photoshop and Word for Office v.X among others, looking for application or operating system crashes. There were none. No crashes, good screen brightness, and no dead pixels on the display. This was a good day!

I played with the machine for a few minutes to see how I felt about moving back to a 17 inch format from the 20 inch I was used to. For the first time since I had started debating with myself about whether I was going to get an iMac and which one if so, I knew. Turning off her machine, I gathered me and my credit card up and headed over to Micro Center.

Two hours later, I was home with a new 20 inch G5 iMac and a much larger credit card bill. (Authors’ note: I got a special deal on this. 2% interest until I get it paid off, which is the only reason I was comfortable with it.). Still, I only paid $10 more than I would have for a refurbished one from Apple to get a new one. (That’s $1704, folks! MicroCenter has 10% off all Macs in the store until December 5th. It’s an in-store special and a bigger discount than one directly from Apple as a federal employee or a teacher! The place was packed, and for good reason!) And I was able to get a full 1GB of memory for only $162! Apple is charging an extra $525 for a single 1GB stick of memory ordered at the same time as your iMac, and Crucial.com is charging $259. All in all, even though I spent a bunch of dough, I saved just under $300! Not bad!

It was my dual 1 Ghz G4 PowerMac’s hard drive this iMac’s Setup Assistant cloned. The process went better than I had hoped; I was uncertain if it would transfer the OS 9 System Folder and all that went with it. When it was done, I found everything had transferred and most of it worked, with irregularities showing up in the operation of my Microsoft Mouse, my Griffin PowerMate, and my Epson 1600 Photo scanner. After some troubleshooting, I recovered the Microsoft Mouse’s function by reinstalling OS 10.3.6 using the combo updater and Intellipoint 5.0 drivers, the PowerMate by reinstalling its version 1.0.6 drivers, and the scanner by installing the latest drivers from Epson. I also had to re-enter settings for connecting up with the VPN network at my workplace, but that was about it. Considering all the software on my machine, that really was pretty good.

The new iMac has three USB 2.0 ports and two Firewire 400 ports. The keyboard only supports USB 1.1, though, so one USB 2.0 port is essentially lost even with a standard setup. The rear-mounted ports are not as handy as front mounted ports, but they’re accessible enough, though putting anything in the ports requires me to also find a way to brace the iMac against movement.

Its screen brightness and clarity are on par with my other 20 inch Cinema LCD displays, though they look a tad clearer. (Note: If you buy one of these new iMacs, make sure you go into System Preferences/Appearance and set the “Font Smoothing Style” to at least “Medium-Best for Flat Panel” before judging the quality of text on your display. The iMacs seem to be arriving from the factory set at “Standard – Best for CRT”.)

As you might suspect, ergonomics of this new iMac are excellent. The bottom baffle of the machine below the screen raises it to a good height, and most things are at near eye level, just slightly low. The keyboard’s keys are responsive and not too resistant. The keyboard’s USB ports are near the center of the keyboard vice being at each end. That requires less chord to reach the ports but also means the routing of any wires must near the center of the keyboard. (Not a problem for me.) All cables, including the keyboard’s, are routed through the hole in the machine’s metal stand behind it and are invisible from the front. Fan noise is generally minimal, though it sometimes does increase after the unit has been on for a couple of hours. Still, even then, it is not objectionable but it is noticeable if the room is quiet. (It’s a soft, medium pitched whirr.) (Note: Using an Energy Saving Processor Performance setting of “Automatic” and under light to normal use, the iMac CPU seems to run at 53.5 degrees Centigrade.)

In general, let me summarize how these stack up to our previous Macs using the following categories:

Ergonomics: Excellent, though the ability to move the display screen to exactly where one wants it still leaves the G4 flat panel iMac as the winner in this department. I actually like the optical drive in the G5 iMac’s side-mounted vertical position better; it seems more natural to put in and retrieve optical disks than from a tray I have to look down into. Screen quality and brightness are on par with the G4 iMac’s and almost equivalent to that of the wide-bezel 20 inch Apple Cinema Displays. Ports are more easily accessible on the G5 iMac than on the G4’s. It’s much easier to find and manipulate the power button on the G5. Noise levels are fairly low even as the machine heats up and you notice the fans. The fans in my wife’s 17 inch iMac are louder than the ones in my 20 inch.

Performance: Really nice speed on everyday tasks, though not significantly faster than my dual 1 GHz G4 PowerMac on most of those. However, photos and collections of photos (such as in Photoshop CS’s File Browser) appear faster and scroll fairly effortlessly. I don’t have any 3 d games here and haven’t any plans to produce much video on this machine but will post any impressions on the website later if I do. Cinebench 2003 benchmarks will be posted to my website within the next week. I did see a noticeable but not significant improvement in overall performance when I moved the memory from 256MB to 1 GB. If you want to understand more about the G5 iMac’s speed, check out articles at Barefeats.com. There’s a bunch of them.

Expandability: Not any iMac’s strong suit. The G5 iMac can handle up to 2 GB DDR 400 (PC3200) memory. However, there are only two slots for memory, so to get to that amount you must have 1 GB in each slot. Unlike the G5 PowerMac models, however, the G5 iMac can use single memory sticks, i.e., memory does not have to use matched pairs. (One of Apple’s support documents states that this improves performance; but at least with the current operating system, the difference is not significant.) The hard drive can be changed out as can the optical drive, but as of this writing anything other than a part sent to you by Apple Care will void your warranty.

Value: …the best in Apple’s G5 line unless you already own recent displays you’d like to keep using. Then look at the dual 1.8 PowerMac. A refurb dual 2.0 GHz is even better. Don’t buy extra memory from Apple unless you just want to or are ordering a Build To Order machine and have some reason to pay more. Look for good third party vendors instead.

I have to say I’m not happy about the expense but am happy with the purchases. I’m looking forward to growing with my G5 iMac and waiting to see what 64 bit performance will buy me in the future. Hopefully, something…

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Apple's Achilles Heel (or Hell, depending)

I’ve commented (okay, bitched!) about Apple’s lack of quality control ever since I became a switcher. You would think by now that the company would understand that quality control is its Achilles heel and the one thing, more than any other, that will keep it from acquiring significantly more market share.

Apple’s latest debauches center around its 23 inch Cinema Displays and, to a much lesser degree, its 17 inch G5 iMac. Many owners of the new, aluminum 23 inch Cinema Display are reporting color distortions within weeks after taking ownership. Most complaints describe the display turning pink, though some have talked about seeing yellow edges as well. Not the kind of thing one expects when he or she pays $1999 for a display that Apple is bragging can be professionally color calibrated. I saw a note from one owner who had already gone through two displays and both had the same problem. If you had spent all that money to switch over from Windows and then encountered that, would you stay with the platform? I think not! Some 20 inch owners are reporting the same problems as well, though the number seems to be significantly less than the 23 inchers.

Likewise, the new 17 inch G5 iMacs are suffering from two sets of problems as well. Fan noise often has been a problem solved by having the customers replace the machine’s “midplane assembly” (motherboard for you PC folks). Screen dimness is a second, and replacing a power inverter in most cases solves that problem. Still, these are things Apple needs to jump on at the factory during manufacture as soon as it becomes aware of them. Instead, Apple tends to deny the problems until they become so widespread and in the news that denying them is futile. (As I write this, Apple has been pulling discussions about these problems off its forums.) Once it goes after a solution, it tends to find one and then does a pretty good job of getting it out to its customers. As I’ve said before, Apple’s Customer Service, as a rule, tends to be superb, which is the only thing it has going for it that mitigates their quality control gaffs. It is, ultimately, the only reason why I’m still comfortable ordering Apple machines. Even so, I’m always nervous when I recommend for a friend or relative to switch since I never know what their first experience with a Mac is going to be.

I ordered a “new” G5 17 inch iMac for my wife, and it is due to arrive in a day or so. I’ve tried to hedge against the real possibility of something being wrong with her machine by informing her about the generic problems with the machines. The possibility of a problem is one argument against buying a machine via mail order, even straight from Apple itself, which is what I have done. This machine is refurbished, and one would hope that the quality control on a refurb would be especially tight.

I guess we’ll find out.

Monday, November 15, 2004

The Game's Afoot-New iMac G5 Arriving

I’m not sure if I mentioned I was looking at getting my sister some kind of Mac for Christmas. Initially, I had planned on getting her an eMac. But after looking at my costs and options and figuring I could kill two birds with one stone, I ordered my wife an iMac G5 this morning. It’s the mid-range 17 inch 1.8 GHz with a SuperDrive model and a refurb (factory refurbished). That’s just fine with her, and she is anxiously awaiting its shipping. We’ll then give my wife’s 800MHz G4 15 inch flat panel iMac to my sister, hauling it to North Carolina with us when we go to visit just before Christmas.

I’ve been thinking, too, of replacing my dual 1 GHz G4 PowerMac and its 20 inch screen with a 20 inch iMac G5. But, to be honest, keeping my credit cards paid off takes a lot higher priority than that; and I’m pretty happy with this setup. Sometimes an “upgrade” doesn’t turn out to be better than its predecessor, so that makes me cautious. I like the idea of an iMac since it would free up some desk room, keep me from having to crawl under my desk anymore to plug anything in, and moves us to 64 bit computing even though there really isn’t much benefit for us right now. Still, I spent a little over a half hour in the Apple Store last weekend looking at 20 and 17 inch G5 iMac’s but couldn’t get clear which, if either, was really the best choice for me. So, I didn’t buy anything until this morning. My wife really needs an upgrade more than I do, and my sister didn’t really believe I’d give her a Mac. I wasn’t about to pass up an opportunity to make sis eat crow. What brother would?

Earlier in the year, I said I didn’t see a compelling reason to upgrade our operating systems to Tiger when it is released, probably in early in 2005. If we had all G4 machines, I’d still feel that way. But with at least one G5 moving into the house and maybe more later, my position may change. It will depend on what performance advantage Tiger might have running on a G5 that Panther does not. That remains to be seen. Apple hasn’t really done a good job pre-selling Tiger. Rumor now has it that Tiger and possibly G5 PowerBooks will appear at MacWorld Expo in San Francisco in January 2005.

I’m looking forward to my wife’s iMac arriving, too. I’m hoping the noise problems appearing in many of the 17 inch iMac’s do not plague us; from a quality control standpoint, one would think Apple would be even more careful with a refurbished machine. I also want to use it to see if I might be happy with a 17 inch iMac instead of a 20. While larger screens work with desktop publishing, when writing I’ve found that the larger screens create a visual distance from my writing that creates an emotional distance as well, i.e, smaller screens feel more intimate. I’ve got a novel to revive and though I can do it on my PowerBook hooked up to a 17 inch flat-panel Apple Studio Display, I’d really rather work on an iMac. But the web, Photoshop, and PowerPoint work I do as well as sporadic work in Illustrator and In Design argue for the larger screen. If I decide I want to stay with a 20 inch screen, I also have another option which will save me some dough and some hassle, and that is to buy a single 1.8 GHz G5 PowerMac. It would cost less than the 20 inch iMac, yield the same performance, be slightly less convenient but much more expandable.

I’m not sure which argument is going to win out.

I'll also post a review complete with pictures after it arrives and update the AMD, G4, G5 Shootout article with its Cinebench performance once I get 512MB of RAM in it.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Office 2004 Professional for Mac- Some Impressions

I had been waiting until Microsoft released their first “bug fix” before trying Office 2004. Service Pack 1 for the software arrived several weeks ago, and reports started hitting the Internet street that some of the major problems I had been avoiding had been fixed. I also needed to get a copy of Virtual PC that would run Windows XP or 98 on my PowerBook. While hunting around, I stumbled on a good deal at Amazon.com. They were selling Office 2004 Professional for $279 before a $50 rebate! For those of you who don't know what Office Professional for the Mac is, it's a copy of Office 2004 bundled with Virtual PC 7.0 running Windows XP Professional. Office 2004 retails normally at $329 by itself, and Virtual PC 7.0 with Windows XP Professional retails for $249. With this deal, I could get both applications I was interested in for less than the price of one of them! Needless to say, I sprang for the purchase.

Office 2004

The jump between Office v.X for the Mac and Office 2004 is not a leap but a skip. User interface changes are not huge. The addition of the Project Center, which is accessible not only from the Project Gallery wizard but from the applications themselves, is the biggest major change.

In Word, the thing I noticed right away was the red toolbox sitting on the Standard menu. Click on that toolbox and the Project Center window flows onto the screen. The window has a toolbar near its top sporting a Scrapbook, Reference Tools (the icon is a picture of several books standing together), the Compatibility Report (the icon is a wrench), and the Projects briefcase. The Scrapbook is a place where you can store all kinds of items you may need to assemble together a project (putting all your graphics on one place). The Reference Tools window contains the dictionary, thesaurus, a button to “Search Encarta Encyclopedia” and one to “Search MSN”. The Compatibility Report section lets you run your document through a check to see how compatible it is with other Windows and Mac versions of Word. And I don't have any current projects so clicking on the Projects briefcase does nothing. As soon as I have a project and can see that little icon in action, I'll let you know.

In general, other changes in Word are minor. Like some of the recent versions of Windows Word, this version gives you the option to automatically undo an action by clicking on an icon that appears next to the word acted upon. The extra automation is also one reason why this version of Word is slower than the last, though not significantly so. The speed loss is minor but it is noticeable if you spend a lot of time in the application.

PowerPoint is also changed little. The biggest addition to the application is the addition of Presenter Tools; but since I haven't used them yet, I'll reserve comment. The biggest thing I had to get used to was the changed Formatting Palette. At its top is now an “Add Objects” section that lets you add AutoText, Tables, Symbols, AutoShapes, Lines, and Text Shapes, including text boxes. Graphics can also now be inserted using tools in this section. Many of these functions were previously accessed through a floating toolbar, and their movement and use within the Formatting Palette were not intuitive. The Formatting Palette is now also almost totally transparent when not the active window, which can be good or bad, depending on how hard you have to look for it. Otherwise, the rest of the Office v.X functions are still there and it doesn't take any guessing or retraining to use them.

The biggest thing I've noticed about Excel was the subtle change to the worksheet view. The application boots with a lower magnification view and dotted lines now show you where the page edges are if you immediately print the worksheet. I haven't really used this feature enough to have an impression of it one way or the other. Stay tuned. Most other interfaces appear to be the same.

Entourage is where the Project Center is now located. It has its own little button next to Mail, Address Book, Calendar, Notes, and Tasks. I haven't yet seen any significant differences in most of those applications. What has caught my attention has been Mail's Junk mail filters. They are on by default and do a really good job of intercepting spam. Lots of people seemed to also be enraptured with Entourage's natural filing of messages into groups sorted by when they were received. That's not a feature I like. I've turned it off. While this version of Entourage also has expanded Exchange Server functions, I was not able to get it to work well enough with my Exchange Server at work to adopt it. I still use Outlook 2001 (in Classic Mode) to connect to my work e-mail using VPN. The only other thing about Entourage I'm going to mention is that, as a security feature, HTML messages that arrive with photos arrive without pictures, which Entourage has stored on your e-mail server. It does give you a link telling you to click on it to download the pictures and see the message as intended. I'm not sure exactly what evil it's trying to protect me from, in true Gatesonian fashion.

Virtual PC 7.0 (for Mac) with Windows XP Professional

Since I own a Windows XP/98SE powered PC, I never thought I'd ever need Virtual Pc for anything. That changed when my wife and I decided to buy an airplane and the Aircraft Owner's and Pilot's Association released a Windows-driven “Real-Time Flight Planner”. It is an awesome tool to use for flight planning, but there is no Mac version. The AOPA site shows Mac is supported, but when you read the fine print, it is through running the application using Virtual PC and Windows XP. While I could easily run the application on my XP PC when I was at home, what was I going to do when I was on the road? My laptop is a 1GH G4 PowerBook. My choice seemed to be to buy a Windows powered laptop (something I might still have to do) or try running a Virtual PC/Windows XP combo. The 12 inch Windows laptop I wanted (by Averatec) could not be had for much under $1000, so I decided to give Virtual PC a shot to see if I could save some money!

Installing the application took about 15 - 20 minutes on my PowerBook, which at the time was running with 512MB of memory. The installation went without a hitch, and actual inputs to get the new OS configured were, well, no more than it takes to normally set up Windows. The application installed a little Start menu icon on my Dock; by clicking on it, I can access the Windows XP Start Menu just as if Windows XP was running.

The boot up process is not exactly quick. It takes a little over a minute for XP to boot to the point where it asks for a password, and another forty seconds after that to get the desktop loaded and the rest of the operating system booted. (This is on a 1GHz G4 PowerBook with 1.24 GB of PC2700 DDR RAM.) System response with this setup is adequate, roughly equivalent to running XP with a 1 GHz Pentium 3 and 256 MB RAM. It is adequate for my purposes, though screen redraws and other system responses do require some patience. Networking over the PowerBook's internal Airport Extreme connection has been flawless, as has been networking using the PowerBook's internal modem.

Interestingly, I evaluated system response with both 512MB and 1.24 GB of RAM in the PowerBook. While I wasn't trying to run any heavy duty Windows apps, I could see no perceptible difference in how the system ran. This may be because the allocated memory didn't change (512MB for both cases).

So far, I've been happy with how Virtual PC has performed. It's an okay way to run average Windows applications, though almost any kind of 3d game would be out of the question. Certainly, for what I paid for it and Office 2004, I made a great buy.