Have It Your Way, Revisited
In my previous article in this spot, I spent some time doing what I do best: whining about Windows Vista and how it thinks it’s smarter than me. I’ve learned to live with the disappointment of Windows Vista as a desktop operating system, and just about the time people start actually using it, Microsoft has started showing off Windows 7, due in beta soon after this article first appears. I’m sure Windows 7 will solve all the problems with Windows Vista, and, like Windows Me, will recede into the dumpster bin of history quietly, with few long-term repercussions. (Can you notice the tinge of sarcasm, or perhaps even irony in my tone?) Yes, I’m sure it will.
In the meantime, however, I have two solutions. First of all, I must confess that I have been leading a secret life for the past year or so. Yes, regular readers will remember that I tried and disdained a MacBook Pro with OS X 10.4 two years ago (http://www.code-magazine.com/Article.aspx?quickid=0705121). Over time, I realized that I really wanted to spend more time in the electronic music and publishing world, and the Mac just seems to handle these things better than Windows. Therefore, going against what I publicly vowed, early in 2008 I purchased another MacBook Pro. This time, rather than attempting to make it my only computer, I used it for things it does best, and the Thinkpad running Vista for things it does best (such as running Office 2007 with VBA, so I could use the writing template I’ve used for ten years to quickly rip out courseware). I must confess that the release of VMWare Fusion 2.0 made living with the Mac a lot more palatable, as well. (Using Fusion, I can run Windows nicely on the MacBook Pro, and can boot into Boot Camp using the same installation of Windows.) In any case, the Mac runs Windows as well as, or better than, any other laptop I’ve had, and I heartily recommend it. (I also confess a new-found interest in creating applications for the iPhone, using development tools on the Mac. It’s a whole new world, and it’s a lot of fun. Cocoa, as an API, seems more mature than the .NET Framework, if not as well documented. Core reference topics don’t include sample code. None!) So, yes, Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) makes a nice place to spend time rather than fighting with Windows Vista. I have finally internalized the keyboard mappings, and have even given many Windows-based presentations on the computer, running Windows Vista in the Boot Camp partition.
If you’re not quite ready to jump off the Windows bandwagon just yet, there’s another alternative. (Although it is an alternative, I’m assuming you’re not keen on running Windows 7 beta version as your main desktop operating system, for now!) Windows Server 2008 incorporates many of the nice features of Vista, without the bad ones. In my experience, it runs swiftly, installs easily, and makes a great client operating system. (Beware that buying a retail copy of Windows Server 2008 to run as a client operating system doesn’t make any sense-I’m assuming that many readers are MSDN subscribers, and can use one of the licenses from that subscription on a client machine.)
Assuming that you’ve found a license for Windows Server 2008 that you’re willing to sacrifice for your desktop operating system, you’ll need to take some extra steps to “tune” it as a desktop operating system. By default, it’s set up to run as a server, and so gives preference to background operations, doesn’t include many desktop features, doesn’t start up client services, and so on.
For information on using Windows Server 2008 as a workstation, start here; http://www.win2008workstation.com/wordpress/. This comprehensive site lists for you the many issues you’ll need to consider when using a server operating system on a workstation. You can follow all the instructions manually, or you can “cheat” and use a utility to do the work for you. You’ll find that utility here: http://www.win2008workstation.com/wordpress/2008/07/17/windows-server-2008-workstation-converter/. I’ve tried this technique both in a virtual machine on the Mac, and on a Windows laptop, and in both cases, I’ve been very happy. Windows Server 2008 doesn’t feel as sluggish as Windows Vista, and doesn’t include all the user-interface features. (I suppose some end users find those features fun. I just turn them all off when running Windows Vista.)
If you’re tired of Windows Vista, give one or both of these suggestions a try: Mac OS X is a great, stable, mature operating system, but does require specialized hardware. Windows Server 2008 is an expensive option unless it comes to you as part of MSDN, but if you have it, it can be a really nice desktop operating system for developers.
Finally, before I sign off, I’d like to thank all of you for supporting this column, in its prominent position, for the past five and a half years. I’ve had the privilege of spouting off about whatever I felt like, for a good long while. The editors of CoDe Magazine gave me complete control over what appeared here, and not once, no matter how silly the column, did they require me to change the topic. You survived my stories of finding blueberries at Costco, pulling doors off airplane lavatories, measuring friends’ thigh girth with dental floss, flying cross-country with cats (twice in one year), moving from coast to coast (twice in one year), and lots of code tossed around in some sort of correlation to the stories. After all this time, I really believe it’s time to cede the space to someone else. Thanks for all your support, comments, and e-mails: I know that many readers turn to this back page first, when they receive their copy of CoDe Magazine, and I’ll severely miss being there for you. I treated this column as a sort of personal therapy, pouring out my inner thoughts, hoping that someone might care.
When I started a similar column for a now-defunct programming magazine ten years ago, my good friend Dan Haught told me, “You can’t do that. You’re not funny!” (He was just joking, really.) Apparently, he’s right. It’s time to move on, again. And, to channel that great television show, “The Sopranos” in its final moments, let me end by saying that there’s one final thing I need to say. Through all the years, I’ve wanted to tell you that