Integrate Macs and Windows with Apple Boot Camp

Apple's Boot Camp allows you to run Macs as Windows machines, providing never-before-seen benefits to your customers and making it simpler for you to integrate operating systems in heterogeneous shops.

For the first time ever there is an Apple product to integrate Mac OS into a heterogeneous shop. Apple's Boot Camp is a supported product, though still in development as a beta version, that allows Intel-based Mac running OS X 10.4 or higher to fully run Windows XP. That means the Mac can be seen by networks as a Windows client and run Windows programs. A VAR or consultant can use this tool to integrate a Mac into a small or medium-sized...

business (SMB) or enterprise, keeping both the creative professionals and the suits happy.

But here are some constraints. The Mac has to have enough free disk space to run a new partition with Windows on it, for example. To use the Boot Camp Assistant for the installation, the disk to be partitioned must be a single partition, formatted as OSX Extended with journaling on. Also Boot Camp Assistant will only work on an internal disk, not an external one. You must use a full install version of Windows XP (with SP2), not an upgrade version.

Boot Camp installs drivers that map the Mac hardware to the Windows API hooks. The drivers include:

  • graphics
  • networking
  • audio
  • AirPort wireless connectivity
  • Bluetooth
  • iSight camera
  • Apple keyboards
  • brightness control for built-in displays
  • Startup disk control panel for Windows

Apple is still tweaking these drivers, which may not 100% fulfill what is expected of them, at least not yet. There may be specific cases where they fail under load (think the Windows Logo test). In that situation the support you can offer to users will be extremely limited. Apple holds the reins on these drivers.

Boot Camp is not a contextual switching program. You must boot into Windows (or OS X) during startup. Once selected the OS is active until the next shut down and reboot. However, the default OS to boot may be selected by the Startup Disk panel in both OS X and Windows. So in the event of a crash the Mac will start up in the desired OS.

The hardware is mapped to provide PC-necessary functions. Some of them are easy to find, but not obvious. For instance, to right-click on a Mac with a trackpad, you place two fingers on the trackpad and push the trackpad button with your thumb -- easy to do. Scrolling vertically can also be done just by placing two fingers on the trackpad.

However, some specific PC commands are only supported on the Apple External Keyboard, not the built-in keyboard found on portables. Page Break (F16), Print Screen (F14), Scroll/Lock (F15) and Insert are such commands.

Networking should comply with the usual protocols since Windows is directing the action and Apple is just mapping to the local hardware, which has its own MAC address built in.

Boot Camp is an elegant way to use a Mac as a Windows machine when it needs to be, making it part of the Windows infrastructure already present in the enterprise.

About the author: Larry Loeb has been online since the world revolved around {!decvax}. He's been in many of last century's dead tree magazines about computers, having been a consulting editor to the late, lamented BYTE magazine, among other things. You can reach him at larryloeb@larryloeb.com.

This was first published in November 2006

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