New Vistas for Mac Users
(Windows Users Will Want to Read This, Too!)
By Jeffrey Allen
This column will take an unusual perspective. It will focus on the Vista experience created by Windows. I do this for a particular reason: to remind the Mac-using lawyer how much easier and better life is with a Mac.
As you probably know two major developments in the world of operating systems have recently occurred. First, Apple announced that it would not release its Leopard (OS X 10.5) software by June as originally planned. It seems that Apple felt it could not deliver both the iPhone and Leopard on time, so it diverted is resources and talents from the evolving OS to the evolving Apple iPhone. Anticipating that the iPhone will prove highly popular, maybe even rivaling the now iconic iPod, Apple decided it will make more money on the iPhone than it will on Leopard and chose to follow the dollars. I guess we can hardly blame them for that decision, but that did not blunt the disappointment of the delay of the release of Leopard.
On the other side of the OS World, Microsoft did release Vista (finally). In fairness to Apple, we should note that Microsoft delayed Vista’s release several times. The delay of the release of Vista built up a considerable anticipation of its release. The release itself, however, proved anticlimactic. Most of the lawyers that I know that run their offices on Windows computers and who have installed Vista have expressed disappointment in it. Others who have not yet installed it have told me that they have not decided to install it yet or even when to install it.
Because I run my office on the Mac and only have occasional need for Windows to run programs that I like that do not run on the Mac (such as CaseMap), I felt freer than some of my Windows OS friends to experiment with Vista. I tried to install it on three different computers. Two of the computers were Macs running OS X 10.4.9, and the third was a Lenovo 3000 N100 laptop built for Vista, but sold to me several months before Vista’s release with XP Home on it (which I immediately upgraded to XP Professional). The only hardware modification I made to the Lenovo was to upgrade the RAM to 2GB. The Macs consisted of an iMac 20” desktop and a MacBook Pro laptop. Both had 2 GB of RAM, but I have since upgraded the MacBook Pro to 3 GB. The iMac had a drive created with Boot Camp and run through Parallels. The MacBook Pro had a virtual computer created through Parallels, without the use of Boot Camp.
I attempted all three of the installations as upgrades. In fact, I created a separate virtual computer in the MacBook Pro, but as I had an upgrade copy of Vista Business, it insisted that I install the older XP system first and then upgrade to Vista.
Interestingly, other than the glitch of having to install XP first and then upgrade, the MacBookPro using a Parallels virtual machine installed easily and virtually automatically. I had to make only a couple of choices, click a few boxes, and type in the required code numbers. At the conclusion of the installation process, Vista ran smoothly, but a bit slowly (hence the upgrade of the RAM to 3GB so that I could allocate 1.5 GB to Vista). The only problem I had with the installed OS related to activation. Although it appeared to activate on installation, a few weeks later, I turned it on and it told me it needed to activate. I said OK, but it would not activate. I called Microsoft customer service and spent an hour being passed from one place to another, getting disconnected and reconnected. I finally reached the right person, and about 2 hours later, after modifying many settings made automatically by Vista, the Microsoft Activation expert got it activated again. The call center representative had no response to my question about why the preset settings interfered with the activation process. I have had no problem with it since.
The Lenovo installation proved very problematic. Initially, Vista would not install because it did not like the Norton software on my computer, so it insisted that I take it off. After I removed Norton, the process went a bit further before stopping, but continued to fail. I finally called the Microsoft tech support people, and the technician and I spent several hours trying to make it work. Ultimately, we concluded that it could not install from the upgrade disk and moved all the files to the hard drive. It finally installed, and immediately after the installation it appeared to work fine, although the automatic activation process apparently failed to go through at the conclusion of the installation. Interestingly, it tells me it is time to automatically activate, but doesn’t try to do that. I have tried to activate automatically, without success. Eventually, I will probably call the activation people at Microsoft, but I haven’t had the time to go through that process again yet. In the mean time, although I am not supposed to be able to get updates before the activation process completes, Vista has updated itself without any problem.
As for my iMac, I never could get the system to install on the Boot Camp-created drive. I gave up trying after a few failures, without attempting to figure out what created the problem. I did try to do the installation both through Parallels and by booting directly into the drive using the XP system previously installed. Neither worked. Not wanting to go through the debugging process again (lack of time on my part), I gave up and simply created another virtual machine through Parallels and installed the OS.
I find it at least ironic that the easiest installation of the new Vista OS occurred on, of all things, the Macintosh computer. I would have expected the Lenovo “built for Vista” machine to have the easiest road to a complete installation; but the facts simply did not support the theory.
I will say that I like the Vista system in terms of its operation after installation. Microsoft built in considerable security protection. Much of that, however, quickly grew insufferable, and the Microsoft technician (anticipating that eventuality) showed me how to turn some of it off. Otherwise, it appears to have the potential of an excellent system.
What do I conclude from this experience?
Vista for Business is a decent operating system that works well after it is finally installed and activated. The process of installation and activation, however, has proven so painful that I have to conclude it needs improvement and that Microsoft should have addressed that prior to marketing it. Hopefully a fix will occur fairly soon.
I predict that within a year Vista will achieve general acceptance. For now, it has the kinks and issues so often associated with new Windows operating systems. Additionally, many important Windows programs do not yet support Vista; likely they will within the next few months.
If you want to run Windows on a Mac, you can run Vista, but you will likely be better off with XP, both in terms of avoiding the potential installation/activation issues and in terms of the fact that Vista requires more RAM and appears to run more slowly than XP. If you run Windows through Parallels, you must allocate your physical RAM between the Mac and the Windows operating systems. You can make that work with Vista, but it works more easily with XP, particularly on the iMac, with its 2 GB maximum. Finally, even if you want to run Vista, make sure that the Windows software you plan to run works with Vista before undertaking to install and activate it.
In the meantime, I am going to go back to my Virtual Computer with XP Professional on it. I will leave my Lenovo on Vista so that I can test other programs with it.
It will be interesting to see whether Leopard will have any similar issues or any software compatibility problems when it finally comes out. In the past, I had very few problems with any upgrade of a Mac OS except from 9 to X, a problem that Apple solved by allowing OS X to run OS 9 as “Classic” within its structure for several years. In fact, I believe that OS 9 ran more stably and more smoothly as a subset of OS X than it did as a standalone system. I know I had far fewer issues with OS 9 as a subsystem under OS X.
Jeffrey Allen is the principal in the Graves & Allen law firm in Oakland, California. A frequent speaker on technology topics, he is the special issue editor of GPSolo’s Technology & Practice Guide and editor-in-chief of the Technology eReport. He also teaches business law in the graduate and undergraduate divisions of the Business School of the University of Phoenix and is a member of the Law Society of England and Wales and a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.