After much thought and playing with different configurations at my desk, I finally came up with one that works well enough to settle down with it.
I was working against several constraints and with several facts.
(1) I was having a hard time finding a good KVM DVI switch that supported my Apple Cinema Display’s 1920 x 1200 resolution. Secondly, the ones that did exist were very expensive, ranging from about $250-$350. Quite a bit of change to risk for something I couldn’t be sure worked until I tried it. That was making me hesitant to go there, though a KVM did seem to represent the best solution to maximizing my investment in the new equipment.
(2) That said, Windows was also initially showing me that it couldn’t get to the 23 inch Apple Cinema Display’s native resolution. This turned out to be a problem with the video driver set-up, and I solved that last night.
(3) I wanted to keep my overall computer setup as simple as I could and use all my resources to the max. Spending money for another display to run the MBP as a second system (or my G5 PowerMac as a second system) was not what I wanted to do. I also didn’t want to spend more than a few minutes reconfiguring things to run the MBP as my “main” machine, if that was what I needed, which would be the case anytime I wanted to run a flight simulator.
(4) I was already out of room on the MBP’s internal hard drive. To get the room I needed to install Final Cut Pro Studio 5.1, I was going to have to relocate all my data to an external drive. I had to accept that running with external drives was going to be a fact of life for me with this system. The MBP needed to run my flight simulators well, which meant I needed to use a fast external drive to both load and run them.
(5) I also needed easy access to the MBP’s DVD drive, because most of the flight sims call for inserting a CD ROM out of the package to validate ownership. Switching between flight sims often means switching CD’s in the drive.
(6) The 23 inch Apple Cinema Display’s power brick and chord design insist that they are located close to the computer using the display. Moving the chord to the monitor also means relocating the power brick as well.
I initially started out with a configuration that sat the MBP on a box on top of my G5 PowerMac under my desk. This set-up required a bare minimum of rewiring (DVI, USB, FW400, Ethernet, and sound system chords) but put the MBP DVD drive where I had to lean under the desk to see or use it. Additionally, if I wound up with a power or display glitch, I had to crawl under the desk, open the MBP up as much as I could (usually a little over an inch and a half) and work in a very confined space. Obviously, the hassles of this set-up, despite the fact that it worked well otherwise, made this something to work around, if possible.
I also tried running the MBP on top of my desk right next to the ACD monitor. This gave me the easy access I was after, though it clobbered the desktop with cables and required me to have to feed the power brick up through the back of the desk and take it back down when I was done. That worked well enough, but I was doing more crawling and wire and accessory feeding than I wanted to do.
I do have a workstation desk sitting perpendicular to my main desk. I used it in the past for my video workstation. It’s where the G5 used to sit, so I could easily hook up the MBP and use it on that desk. I knew, though, I’d want a larger monitor than the MBP’s 15 inch screen if I were to routinely use it for my flight sims; so, that would require buying another monitor. To keep my Apple style would mean at least a $600 investment for a 20 inch Apple Cinema Display and a $1000 investment for a 23. I didn’t want to put that much more money into this if I could help it.
Yesterday, I hit on another and the final configuration. By placing the MBP to the left of my keyboard but on the keyboard drawer, the cables ran under the desk and all reached; and I had easy access to both the machine and the DVD drive. I did have to move the ACD’s power brick so it sat on top of the G5, but that was a minor hassle compared to having to push it up through the rear of my desktop and slide it forward on the desk.
On the keyboard tray, the MBP is also within easy distance of the FW800 external disk drive on my desk that contains the Windows XP extended drive. I still had room, too, to daisy chain another small hard disk to it and use the latter to hold my data. This configuration also let me delete a USB switch out of my system, one that had given me intermittent problems over the years, since I could plug my USB hub into one of the USB 2.0 ports on the back of the ACD. Whatever the ACD is plugged into now had access to the hub. I have tested the scanner using this setup, and it worked flawlessly on the MBP under both Windows and OS X.
Admittedly, this is an interim setup. I intend to use the MBP as my prime PC until I replace my G5 PowerMac with a Mac Pro, at which time I’ll only need the MBP to run Windows (or anything else) if the Mac Pro is tied up. In the meantime, I’m going to be working to pay off my Intel Mac upgrade expenses; and that will be no small chore. But at least, I know how to work things now; and I can use the time I’ve spent exploring computer rigs to getting real stuff done. I’ve achieved the goal I was after in the first place, i.e., knocking myself down to only two systems while still maintaining the ability to run what I needed to on Windows.
I have moved my data off the MBP’s internal drive. Most of it fit on a 40GB IOMEGA 2.5 external hard drive, though I intend to replace that drive with a much bigger (in storage capacity) drive soon. I may even spend the bucks to get a 7200 RPM drive so I can use the MBP to edit video if I want or need to, or maybe even a Mac flight simulator!
The PC is out the door, and the MBP is in. I ran Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator 2 the other night using the MBP’s 15 inch screen, and any “screen size” concerns disappeared once I rolled in on a Japanese Zero. It’s good enough as a standalone machine; larger external screens just make it better.
By the way, I did figure out how to get Windows on the MBP to give me all the 23 incher’s native resolution. In the video driver’s Displays box (right-click on the Desktop to Properties/Settings/Advanced/Displays), I found a button that turned off the MBP’s display (The MBP was being operated top closed, and Windows wasn’t turning it off. This was causing the GPU to have to generate scenes for both the laptop display and the ACD.) There is a little button on the tab that turns the MBP display off, and I used it. Additionally, the Resolution marker (selection graph) on the Settings window was not showing me anything higher than 1440 x 900, the MBP’s native resolution; but a right click on the ATI icon in the Windows system tray revealed all the resolutions available. I right-clicked on 1920 x 1200 entry, and the ACD flashed over to its native resolution. That said, it does not appear Windows remembers that setting; I’ve had to reselect it after each reboot.
I really love the MacBook Pro, and my only reservation about it is its price. That said, I obviously thought it was worth it.
What would make it better? Well, the ability to expand the RAM out to 4GB and a 250GB 5400 rpm internal drive (or a 7200 RPM drive would be better, of course). Even so, it still has decent portability, excellent power, beautiful design, and the best features of the current Mac line (including Front Row and the Apple Remote, which really come to play when I have the machine hooked into my 23 inch ACD). I wish I could regret buying it, but the fact I’m not willing to sell it says I don’t. PC Magazine selected this machine for an Editor’s Choice award. I understand why.