Unleashing the Wind, final post

This post is to serve as a final overview of setting up the MSI Wind for dual booting and a few pointers about purchasing a Wind if you decide to do so. I’m also including a few programs that are great for netbooks at the end. This post is kind of all over, so hang on for the ride!

The forums over at msiwind.net have been having some trouble the past couple of days (January 2009), so I apologize if some of the links I try and give you aren’t currently working.

Models/Hardware

The Wind I used for my Hackintosh was a U100-422CA. This is a Canadian model of the Wind that has a English/Canadian keyboard.  The rest of the hardware sets up perfectly for the MSIWindOSx86 installation.  There are many different hardware configurations for the U100 model.  The obvious differences are:

  • Hard Drive: Some models have a standard hard disk drive while others have a Flash-based Solid State Drive. The SSDs are smaller but provide faster performance, lower power consumption,  less moving parts, and are lighter.  For those considering dual-booting, a standard hard drive is required (install files would leave you with no remaining space on your drive).
  • Battery: The battery life on netbooks is a serious debate. To keep the computer as light as possible most contain 3 cell batteries that give 2.5 to 3 hours of light duty performance. A six cell battery will set you back some additional cash, but at the added benefit of about 4.5 to 5 hours of running time. There are rumors of even greater run time under Windows 7, but I have not tested that OS yet.
  • RAM:  Some models come standard with 512 MB of RAM while others pack 1 GB. The 422CA is upgradeable to 2GB and this is a simple process, which despite having to break through the warrenty sticker DOES NOT void the warrenty.

Some less obvious differences are in the following equipment:

  • Wireless Card: There are two versions, one from Realtek and one from Ralink. The wireless card used to have to be replaced to get Wifi access under OS X, but now there are drivers for both models.
  • Webcam: There are 1.3 Megapixel and 0.3 Megapixel models in different models of the U-100. Additionally, there are webcams from two different providers: BisonCam and Microdia.  To make matters worse, the BisonCam may be running firmware version 0.2 or 0.3.  On the surface this shouldn’t be a major issue. However, the BisonCam running firmware 0.3 does not currently work with Skype and Photobooth under OS X.
  • Trackpad: The Wind uses Trackpads from two different companies: Sentillec and Synaptic.  The Synaptic is more common now, but the Sentillec may still be available if you buy an older or used model. The main difference is the scrolling function built in to the Sentellic.  The Synaptic pad has an optional driver that allows two finger scrolling in OS X.

Things You Need to Dual-Boot XP and OS X

  • MSI Wind…duh!
  • Official Copy of OS X…let’s be legal guys!
  • USB DVD drive – this will make your life much easier than having to load everything on a flash drive
  • GParted Live CD – available here
  • MSIWindOSx86.iso burned to DVD – available at your favorite “cove” of “swashbucklers”
  • 10.5.5 update from apple.com burned to CD
  • 10.5.6 update from apple.com burned to CD
  • Upgrade files for 10.5.6 from msiwind.net
  • USB keyboard and mouse – you will lose function of the trackpad and keyboard during the upgrade to 10.5.6. The upgrade files above contain .kext files that will return them to correct function, but to load the kexts you’ll need a USB keyboard and mouse.

Useful and Relevant Links

Educational Uses

This machine is perfect for the K-8 classroom and beyond. The ability to switch between operating systems means you can work with applications in both realms that students might eventually work in after graduation. The ability to compare different operating systems and software for each should help students discriminate between the types of software that will allow them to perform the tasks they need to complete on a computer.

The downsides to using this model running OS X are primarily driver issues that are being worked on by some really great folks over at the MSIWind.net forums. First, is the fact the internal microphone does not work under OS X. This problem is easily remedied using a USB microphone, which gets better quality anyway. Additionally, the VGA out to a projector is not working at present, although VGA to an external monitor does work. You can even run an extended desktop using the Wind’s screen to run some programs while running others on the external monitor.

The size of the screen is fine for general work, but the 1024 x 600 resolution does play havoc with some programs. There are workarounds available for many, but they often involve scrunching the program into the available space, distorting some of the user interface.

Netbook Applications

  • RocketDock (Windows) – OS X-style dock for Windows helps save screen real estate
  • Launchy (Windows) – Pressing Alt+Space brings up a program launcher that indexes all your programs, making everything available within a few keystrokes. Also allows searching Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia, Amazon, etc from the desktop.
  • Firefox (Windows/Mac) – Open source web browser that has extensible functionality to add many great features.
  • Google Chrome (Windows…Mac early 2009?) – Very lightweight browser from Google, no extensions, but each tab is a separate process allowing you to close non-responsive tabs without losing all the rest of your tabs
  • Fox-it Reader (Windows) – Lightweight PDF reader, fast, FREE!
  • Evernote (Windows/Mac) – Notetaking program that allows you to search through saved websites, typed notes, scanned documents, handwriting, etc. Includes web-based access to your files and an iPhone/iPod Touch application.
  • Open Office (Windows/Mac…NeoOffice) – Open source productivity suite, compatible with Microsoft Office
  • VLC (Windows/Mac) – Video player that supports a wide range of formats
  • Adium (Mac) – Multi-protocal chat program
  • Skype (Windows/Mac) – make PC to PC phone calls with video capability. Functionality on the Wind in OS X depends on your webcam model.
  • Portable Apps (Windows) – collection of applications designed to be run from a flash drive or smaller hard drive.
  • FreeSMUG Portable Apps (Mac) – collection of applications designed to be run from a flash drive for Macs.

Thanks to all of you for letting me get all this out of my system. Hopefully you’ve taken something away from these posts and are considering purchasing a Wind of your own. Best of luck in your decision to dual-boot! The Wind is impressive in it’s own right and when people watch you boot it into OS X they become seriously amazed. Well worth the price for this little wonder!

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