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A Late-Summer Afternoon With Boot Camp

Despite having done so much work on my new computer

late this morning I found myself inventing more things for myself to do. I started looking over the 79 gigabytes of data (400,000 items) I had transferred from DVD to hard drive and considered immediately organizing it. I decided that putting final order on all that data would have been too much given that last night I finished the week-long process of filling a 2-terabyte drive with four year’s worth of screenshots (a different DVD-to-magnetic media task).

On Labor Day 2009, I installed Windows XP on an NTFS-formatted partition as a full-fledged OS citizen. I’d been running Windows in a virtual machine using VMWare’s Fusion, but I knew that in order to explore, for example, Turtle Rock Studio’s Left 4 Dead that I would need better performance than could be obtained using virtualization software such as Fusion.

The process of installing Windows using Apple’s Boot Camp was considerably less painful than customizing a fresh Mac OS X install for daily use, though I admit that’s a high bar to measure the difficulty of a software install. (I have lots of specialized and custom software I cannot work without.) What confused me the most during the Windows XP install process was the fact that I needed to insert the OS X installation disc while booted in Windows in order to install drivers for chatterbox’s video cards, network cards, input devices, and other peripherals.

With the OS install complete, the next difficult part of getting Left 4 Dead running was figuring out how to make my Belkin Nostromo SpeedPad n52 work properly. The software interface for the n52 is split between two pieces of software on Windows, whereas in Mac OS X the software is consolidated in a System Preference module.

Also much more difficult than installing Windows XP was getting a

a custom icon onto the Windows partition that Mac OS X could see. With the advent of Snow Leopard, some of the old techniques for customizing NTFS icons in OS X no longer work. There are some sophisticated (if creaky) tools to facilitate Mac OS X’s writing to NTFS partition, and NTFS-3G was the only solution that worked for me. In my testing, Candybar is right out.

While I am thrilled for the ability to run something like Boot Camp and am astonished at the effort and forethought Apple has put into enabling a Macintosh to boot into Windows, I think the conversation between OS X and NTFS should receive in-house support. Even given these rough spots, Boot Camp really is some gee-whiz technology.

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