August 21, 2006

Boot Camp of the future...

At the non-non-disclosed WWDC keynote this year, Steve Jobs said Boot Camp will ship as part of Leopard, and it'll be friendlier. Apple has also publicly said in the past that it won't be selling Window pre-bundled on its machines. So, how can they make Boot Camp friendlier, if they won't just, say, do all the work for you, ahead of time?

The friendliest way I can think of is, while you're running Boot Camp and still inside Mac OS X, it should ask you to pop in your Windows CD and Boot Camp installs Windows for you. Then, you reboot, and voila: Windows. (Which is kind of like saying: "Voila: Shit sandwich!")

Is this possible? Well, yes, I think so.

Right now Boot Camp allows you to sort-of repartition your boot drive while you are using it without losing any data, which is really cool and is something us PowerPC types have wanted for years (and still want, hint hint, Bertrand). I say "sort-of" because the partition it creates isn't formatted and isn't formattable by Disk Utility, either (you can select the partition but all the buttons are grayed out). I reckon this is because of EFI mumble mumble blah blah I honestly have no idea.

But here's what I think:I think it's possible to just go ahead and format that partition as a real Windows (FAT) volume from within Mac OS X. I'm pretty darn sure of this because, well, you can format floppies or CDs or external USB or Firewire drives in Window format(s). FAT's a pretty known science by now.

So, imagine Boot Camp formats that new partition in a nice, Windows-friendly way, then unpacks the relevant files from your Windows CD onto this new partition, and then copies its special drivers into their known locations, all from the comfort of Mac OS X. Voila! Bootable Windows! With no stupid hassles!

Now, this actually may be a bit more complicated for Apple than I make it out to be, because it may be that the unpacking of all that Windows crud is actually pretty involved. Apple could cheat a little since they know the exact configuration of the machine that WIndows is going on, but, it still might be hard. Honestly, I know little to dick-all about how Windows installation works. I'm happy in this ignorance, the way some people are happy believing that global warming is a giant hoax put on by greedy environmentalists who stand to profit by... uh... wait, environmentalists don't really make a lot of money, do they? I mean, not compared to, say, oil companies... but I digress...

Anyhow, even if actually installing windows is too complicated, there's a slightly-less-cool solution -- Boot Camp could just copy the Windows install CD verbatim onto a subdirectory in the new partition it makes (into, say, c:\windows install\), and then do the same with the custom drivers, and then reboot that partition and have it install onto itself. This is an old trick we used to do all the time on Windows machines when I was a wee lad, because Windows always used to keep its extra drivers only on the CD, so every time you'd plug in a new mouse Windows would ask you to dig up the Windows CD so it could find a driver (even if it already had one installed), but if you'd installed from a copy of the CD you'd made that was still on your disk, it'd look there first, so you wouldn't have to keep those damn disks around all the time.

One problem with all this is that Mac OS 10.4 can't write to NTFS volumes, only to FAT volumes, and NTFS is the wave of the future for Windows filesystems (and needed for volumes over 32GB). But, Apple should add full NTFS support to Leopard anyways, because interoperability is just a damn good thing to have. Well all need that crap. I need to be able to download my game patches and shit under Mac OS X and then just drag them onto my Windows partition -- don't make me use IE to download Firefox or something, and then have to download some wack-ass decompression programs for Windows (7z?) and then virus protection because I touched the internet and then basically I'm in a living hell just because I want to play me some Elder Scrolls: Oblivion this year instead of two years from now and twice as slowly.

No, I say. Make it easy for me to make tiny, stupid little Windows installs on my MacBook, so I can burn them off-handedly, like matches, and as each one's tiny, stupid little immune system flutters and finally flickers out under such heavy viral loads, I'll simply wipe them clean and burn them again, with a single click in my future perfect Boot Camp.

And I will laugh. Because we have totally pwned Windows.

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Blogger Paul Davidson said...

I suspect you're right about NTFS and improved file-sharing with your Windows partition.

I think your other suppositions are unlikely, though.

1. Apple isn't going to make its own Windows installation. That would require far too much arcane knowledge of Windows installation, and stuff will change (breaking Apple's installer) every time Microsoft updates its installation CDs with new patches and service packs.

2. Apple isn't in the business of fixing Windows' driver and installer shortcomings by doing all that CD-copying stuff. It's a lot of work for no pay-off to Apple, and again can break with future updates or Vista.

August 21, 2006 2:57 AM

Blogger Sören 'chucker' Kuklau said...

"[NTFS is] needed for volumes over 32GB"

Not entirely true. Windows XP ships with a formatting utility that, strangely, limits FAT32 to 32 GB. Windows 2000 shipped with one that doesn't have that limitation.

I believe OS X's formatting utility doesn't have the limitation either.

Also, you *can* format a partition that results from GPT live-resizing. It's a little buggy still in 10.4.7, but possible.

August 21, 2006 3:10 AM

Anonymous bm3x said...

Not going to the extent of fixing the very broken install process of Windows, Apple could simply provide a pre-configured unattended install script, tailored for each Mac.

So no need to do the installer job, just tell it what to do precisely. Most of the config information (network, printers etc) could be exported directly from the Mac OS X config, so you'll be a single button press away from a fully configured Windows XP boot.

August 21, 2006 3:18 AM

Blogger Carl Johnson said...

I've heard that will Parallels you can just create and copy disk images of working installs, thus eliminating the need to keep your partition virus free , but obviously since it's Parallels, this isn't ideal for games.

August 21, 2006 3:28 AM

Anonymous telos said...

Apple can probably clean up and port ntfs-3g, a fast, reliable GPL'd read/write driver.

August 21, 2006 3:32 AM

Anonymous adam said...

This might just work with Vista. Aparently, all of the files in the VISTA cd/installer are system independent. The install is 'image' based, and is just copying files. (as opposed to XP). Apple could quite simply prep the drive, copy the files off the cd, update the 'special' drivers and reboot.

August 21, 2006 4:25 AM

Blogger hopkapi said...

It's not a huge thing, but it would be rather cool if instead of having to close everything and restart (for someone who has around 15 apps open at idle, that's a pain in the ass), OS X could just smoosh itself down into the OS X partition in a Safe Sleep operation, then trigger the boot of windows, which could also be hibernated and thus launch pretty damn quickly.

August 21, 2006 4:44 AM

Anonymous Wes said...

7zip is actually pretty cool. It's open source for a start, which means it's readily portable to other platforms and it generally does better compression than zip.

August 21, 2006 5:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hopkapi: I like that. I like that a lot. I use Parallels for work-related Windows stuff during the day, and then inevitably have to boot XPness with Boot Camp to play games in the evening. It sucks to have to lose all of my OS X state just to get to my games. Hibernating each OS in turn should be relatively straightforward, as long as there is enough disk to dump the RAM state. And when there's not? Dunno... maybe disable that feature.

August 21, 2006 6:06 AM

Blogger John Gustafsson said...

Installing windows is one thing, but you touched upon something more interesting, the interoperability part. We have removable devices (cell phones, external harddisks, USB memories, etc, etc, etc) and we have shares (hello SMB, why can't you understand everything a "normal" mac filesystem does?).

Why do we have to live with the lowest common denominator (a.k.a. FAT32...) if we want to move this magical external disk from let's say a Mac to a PC and then back? What happens to extended meta data, ACLs, etc?

What is needed is a common open filesystem that all OSes can read and write, and that still contains enough features to satisfy basic needs (which includes ACLs, extended meta data etc).

Could actually help with installing other OSes as well. OS X could just format the disk in the common format and copy the files (be it Linux, *BSD, Windows, etc).

Something funny just struck me. I'm personally trying to get away from Windows, not install it:)

August 21, 2006 7:12 AM

Blogger Abhi Beckert said...

Apple can probably clean up and port ntfs-3g, a fast, reliable GPL'd read/write driver.

The keyword here is "GPL'd". Apple won't touch GPL'd software with a 10 foot pole.

August 21, 2006 7:23 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah! A universal file system that works on every operating system! I heard that's shipping with the new universal operating system that works with every program and architecture.

August 21, 2006 8:06 AM

Blogger Ryos said...

[quote]Anonymous said...
Oh, yeah! A universal file system that works on every operating system! I heard that's shipping with the new universal operating system that works with every program and architecture.[/quote]

They did it for CD's (ISO-9660-something-or-other). All that's needed is an open standard that everyone decides to support, and you're there.

August 21, 2006 9:20 AM

Anonymous kusmi said...

It seems "they" are working on NTFS read/write on MacOSX:

August 21, 2006 9:28 AM

Blogger Marijke Buys said...

I can understand why some people have a need for windows... It's just not my thing. I do understand why they didn't put Wnidows into the package and that reason is called Bill Gates. They need to make a deal with that guy to get that option and he's getting scared


August 21, 2006 9:37 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Big melon as usual.

August 21, 2006 11:06 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

With regard to a new universal file-system, there already is one: UDF. It's the format used by DVD-R and friends, and Linux, Windows and Mac OS X support it outside the box. It still doesn't have support for ACLs etc., but neither is it encumbered by patents nor likely to fragment.

August 21, 2006 1:18 PM

Blogger William said...

It's worth noting that HP already does something like this with Linux where you boot up a livecd, it copies the stuff to a FAT32 partition, restarts the windows install and windows itself automagically makes it into NTFS.

August 21, 2006 1:41 PM

Anonymous Brendan said...

I'd be a bit worried about having a windows instal on my machine that could write to any other partition...

August 21, 2006 5:47 PM

Blogger John Gustafsson said...

[quote]Anonymous said...
Oh, yeah! A universal file system that works on every operating system! I heard that's shipping with the new universal operating system that works with every program and architecture.[/quote]

Bad sarcasm aside, I wasn't suggesting a "fits everything filesystem". What I would like to see is an open and free replacement for FAT (16/32) for storage devices that can move between computers. Basically it should have these features (apart from obvious ones):

* Journaling
* Support for large disks / files
* Support for extended meta data

That would be a huge step up from what we have today, and we don't have to care for some stupid patents on FAT32...

August 22, 2006 12:53 AM

Anonymous Pete Shaw said...

Just as a FYI you can dynamically resize non-destructively (As of OS X 10.4.6) on GPT patitioned volumes only.

As noted on the ever good AFP548

August 22, 2006 3:23 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

VMWare already does something similar to the "tiny little copies of Windows" you want with their VMWare virtualization software. It allows you to make multiple different installs of Windows in separate virtual machine images. And have them all running at once under Windows, or Linux, and I guess OSX pretty soon. It is a nice way to run complete different systems that don't mess with each other. Great for testing and development, or server setups where you don't want one vendors product screwing up anothers install. A nice thing would be to get a fresh install of say the latest Half-Life release running with all the patches and drivers you need, and then save that virtual image as a file that you can restore if your drive crashes or it becomes corrupted. No need to re-install everything, re-patch everything, etc.

And NTFS support is available as a Linux module, so I don't see why OSX can't do it.

August 22, 2006 6:59 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can imagine the following exchange at an Apple Store Genius bar, repeated over and over:

Customer:"What does Boot Camp do?"
Genius: "Well sir, basically it cuts the crusts off of a shit sandwich."


August 22, 2006 11:16 PM

Anonymous Chad said...

It is odd how WinXP creates the artificial limit of 32GB for FAT32, whereas the theoretical limitation of FAT32 is 2 TB/TiB. LaCie recommends that if you need to format a large external hard disk to be used between Windows and Macs, your best option is to format the drive as FAT (MS-DOS) under the Mac OS Disk Utility. Then both Windows and Macs will be able to make use of the entire disk.

Currently, Mac OS X can only read NTFS partitions/disks, however I've read that earlier versions of OS X had some rudimentary support of writing to NTFS, but that might have been removed. But even the current read capabilities can be flawed. I had a large external disk and OS X could only see up to 116GB of the data, and it was missing some of the files. Odd.

August 23, 2006 9:16 AM

Anonymous Tutor said...

A Hypervisor below any OS, then we start OS X and Windows or whatever and haven them running at the same time with full native speed. Something to put all those cores to some use.

August 24, 2006 3:16 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to hate Microsoft as much as the next guy... back in the Windows 95/98 days when their software actually was shit. These days it's pretty rare that Microsoft release something I don't like.

I own a fucking expensive Mac (with OS X) and a PC (with XP) and can honestly say I don't have any preference either way. They're both good operating systems and they're both good computers, but since I'm a C# programmer by profession, I use Windows a lot more.

If you have a specific gripe with Windows, say what it is and someone might be willing to help you. Unqualified rants just make you sound like a moron. A bit like Richard Stallman, in fact.

August 24, 2006 4:33 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Environmentalists make their money by shaking down the productive members of society. For instance, Greenpeace has recently issued a report giving Apple poor marks on the environemnt. I wonder how much GreenMail Apple is going to have to pay GreenPeace to get them off their back. You think Steve Jobs is more a liberal hippy environmentalist type, or a greedy explotative polluter? And still he is being shaken down by greenpeace.

Global warming is a hoax-- over the last 7 years average temperatures have been declining. So recent history disagrees with the theory. L ooking at longer time horizons you see the temperature going up and down....

I am an envoronmentalist, but virtually every "environmentalist" I meet knows nothing about science and is really just a shill for socialism.

August 25, 2006 3:22 PM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

Seriously, you should see "An Inconvenient Truth" and then argue with the facts (if you can), instead of, like, making stuff up.

Greenpeace isn't exactly rolling in greenbacks. These guys don't drive Lexuses. They work their asses off for next-to-nothing because they believe in the planet.

I'm not saying Greenpeace is always right, but implying they "profit" is patently ridiculous. If you find me one oil executive who'll trade his salary for the salary of anyone at Greenpeace, anyone at all, then I'll give you the point.

August 25, 2006 3:26 PM

Anonymous Trausti Thor Johannsson said...

Ohh, I just have to post here. I am icelandic, and Greenpeace is just a terrorist organization that fakes their data. They have tried again and again to attack the Icelandic economy, it is easy to try to bully a nation of 300.000. Showing a video tape of some hunters clubbing a seal in front of the mother and more outrageous stuff, which has all been proven to be fakes, and done by greenpiece them selves.

The people in charge of Greenpeace, they rake in more money than you do Wil.

Try to adopt a whale, or some other bull that Greenpeace has tried to come up with (all you get is a picture of the same whale every other sucker gets).

They are not for anything good, they don't have any data, any understanding of science or data, and are radical anti government group that promotes violence, and those are not just my words, the co-founder of Greenpeace says this.

Just watch Penn and Teller : Bullshit : Enviormentalists. You can see it google video.

August 27, 2006 11:33 AM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

I'm Icelandic, too, and although I'll admit that Greenpeace MIGHT fake data, I have to state categorically that simply stating such a thing without any concrete proof does not make it true.

I have, in my posts, urged people over and over to see Al Gore's movie precisely because it contains reams and reams of actual, hard, scientific data, which you can argue about or not.

The depressing thing is not one person has argued the data directly. Everyone has said, "Well, I found some scientician at the University of Buttfuck who says that Greenhouse gases are caused by greenhouses."

NOT ONE PERSON has said, "I saw the movie and I disagree with the studies done on polar ice indicating which show that the temperature has risen far beyond any normal fluctuation in the last twenty years."

So, give me a break. Penn & Teller can prove that some group of environmentalists are idiots, that does not prove that the environment doesn't need help. It just proves that sheep sometimes follow good movements as well as bad ones. Thank god!

August 27, 2006 12:24 PM

Anonymous Trausti Thor Johannsson said...

Thank you for answering Wil.

I said nothing about Al Gores video, but from what I have seen and read, I have nothing against it, I do believe that some of the best scientists in the world are not wrong, and most people who say otherwise want us to teach creationism :)

I am just against Greenpeace. There are other orgs out there with real data and understanding of that data. Greenpeace is not one of them.

August 27, 2006 12:32 PM

Anonymous Mark Stultz said...

Yay, I just moved and I can use the light rail to travel to work in downtown Dallas.

No more emissions from my car :)

As far as Boot Camp / Parallels / etc is concerned:

I hate Windows Activation. I really, really do not want to call Microsoft just because I changed a configuration in my Windows installation.

August 28, 2006 12:58 PM

Blogger Apt said...

Then don't... if you know you've bought Windows XP, I personally would feel entitled to break the activation. It might not be alright with microsoft or the law, but sometimes it's alright to disagree :)

How about Gore/Shipley 2008? :) I'd vote for you! (Well, if I could vote in the US that is).

August 31, 2006 9:12 AM

Blogger Sören 'chucker' Kuklau said...

"Basically it should have these features (apart from obvious ones):

* Journaling
* Support for large disks / files
* Support for extended meta data

That would be a huge step up from what we have today"

Oh, would it now? Let's see.

ACLs? Got it, since 10.4 (April 2005).
Journaling? Got it, since 10.2.2 (December 2002).
Support for large disks / files? Well, HFS+, introduced with 8.1 (February 1998), supports 16 EiB files and disks. Last I checked, such humongous disks weren't common, especially in the typical Mac markets. So, got it.
Support for extended meta data? HFS+ has it, 10.4 implements it.

What's the argument for a new file system again?

Here's a few things that would be nice in HFS+:
1) faster handling of many small files. HFS+ wasn't optimized for this, and anecdotal evidence suggests it needs to be improved in this area, perhaps through more aggressive caching.
2) snapshot support.
3) better yet, binary diffs support. Have multiple versions of the same file that hardly differ from each other only take up the disk space of the differences, yet have them transparently appear as multiple files to the Finder any any Unix tool.
4) Transparent encryption and compression. NTFS has it.

None of these, however, are pressing issues. All of them would be nice-to-haves, and nothing more than that. ZFS is not the be-all-end-all, nor is any other system, and HFS+ is pretty damn good.

September 01, 2006 9:31 AM

Anonymous Angelo said...

refering to the FAT harddrive issue... I recently loaded a stripped down copy of windows 2003 server, which should work all the same. I have to say... it runs like a scalded dog. i've NEVER had any of my programs run this fast. there's a torrent out there for it. go look.

...where was i... Oh yeah. I formatted 40 Gb of my drive as FAT32. no sweat. and you know what? when i rebooted to OSX, THERE IT WAS ON MY DESKTOP! loaded it like a separate drive, no hassle, no shit. i dropped my drivers right onto my windows desktop folder straight from my MAC.

Love the mac. That's it. loooooooove it.

September 24, 2006 7:37 AM

Blogger Miguel Andrés said...

Hey, Wil, I have replied to this post (a little late) on my blog, you can find it here,

Miguel Andrés

January 01, 2007 5:40 PM


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