Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Installing Vista on a Mac Mini

Having been bitten by the Mac bug earlier in the year, when I forsook 20 years of building and running Windows-based PCs for the shininess of a MacBook Pro, I've been looking at the possibility of using the diminutive Intel-base Mac Mini as a replacement for the smaller of my two Home Theatre PCs (the more powerful one has a Blu-Ray drive and runs the HD projector in the games room home theatre downstairs). The advantages of the Mini are:
  • size - it's about 20% of the size of the PC it's replacing;
  • noise - I went to a lot of trouble with designing the PC for low noise, but the Mini is silent;
  • power - the Mini mainly uses laptop components, and isn't readily expandable, so the power supply only goes up to 110W.
I've been running Windows XP Media Centre 2005 on the PC for the past three or so years, and thought it was time to upgrade to Vista Premium Media Centre, which is also running on the downstairs HTPC. So my challenge was to get Windows Vista on to a Mac Mini. The Mini came from Ebay with OS X 10.4 (Tiger) on it, and I expended a lot of effort trying to get Vista on, to no avail. It seems only OS X 10.5 (Leopard) had the wherewithals to make this work, so I borrowed the install disc that came with my MacBook Pro, and fired up the install routine. It promptly informed me that I couldn't use my MBP install disk on a Mini, which was OK, because what I really wanted was the Disk Utility program, accessible from the menu bar at the top of the screen. This allowed me to delete the existing OS X partition, and to set Master Boot Record (very important, if you want to boot a Windows OS), and then create a new partition. The utility doesn't allow you to create NTFS partitions, so FAT it was. I then rebooted, and held down the F12 key on my Windows keyboard to eject the OS X disc. I then inserted a full version of Windows Vista Premium (the general consensus on the web is that upgrade versions won't work), and hey presto, it detected the disc and launched the installation routine. Vista complained that it didn't want to be installed on to a FAT partition, but then gave me the option to format it as NTFS, so that was OK. So at this point in time, it's whirring away, extracting files in the hour long snooze-fest that is a Vista install. I'll let you know how it goes. btw: when I was looking for some help on Australian Media Centre Community, someone pointed me in the direction of Plex, which is a port of the XBox Media Centre project to OS X. It looks rather good running on my MacBook Pro, but I'm mindful of it's beta status (I got it to crash within five minutes of loading it). In fact, it looks incredibly pretty, and I would be interested to see it running on an HDTV. It currently only runs on OS X 10.5 (Leopard), but these days I'm not particularly married to any one operating system, so there's definitely a place for it in my home, if they can sort out the stability.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Flickr and iPhoto

While having a wander around iPhoto, I found a rather nice little feature - subscribing to photo feeds. iPhoto can subscribe to RSS feeds, such as those provided by Flickr, allowing you to see your friends' latest photos in one place. Just grab the RSS URL from near the bottom of a contact's site (this can be for the whole site, or just a set or collection), and in iPhoto, select File | Subscribe to Photo Feed, and paste in the URL. iPhoto will grab the most recent photos from their site (it looks like 20 is the default). The only problem that I can see is that double-clicking on a thumbnail doesn't take you to the hi-res version, instead magnifying the default lo-res version, so it's not perfect, but it's a good way of keeping an eye on what your friends have been up to.