Unleashing the Wind Revisited: Keyboard

My US English keyboard for the Wind finally arrived. I took it long enough, eh? Sorry, there’s a little of the Canadian keyboard use left over there.  I read through the posts over at the MSIWind.net forums concerning replacing the keyboard and thought the instructions looked good enough. Here’s a link to that post:

MSI Wind Keyboard Replacement

The MSI Wind U100-422CA comes with a standard US Canadian keyboard as shown below:

Canadian Keyboard

Canadian Keyboard

The process was simple enough. The keyboard comes in one piece that is removed all at once.

US Keyboard

US Keyboard

Above the F2, F8, and PrtScr keys are three little black clips as shown below.  These clips need to be pushed up toward the screen of the Wind. I used an unfolded paperclip to do the job, others have used small screwdrivers.

Clips above F2, F8, PrtScr

Clips above F2, F8, PrtScr

Once the clips are pushed up, the keyboard will pop up above the clips.  Tugging gently toward the screen will pull the keyboard loose at the bottom.

Underneath is a ribbon that attaches the keyboard to the main unit.  There is a black plastic clip that needs to be gently flipped up using your fingernail. Once the clip is raised, the ribbon slides out and your laptop will look like this:

Wind Without Keyboard

Wind Without Keyboard

Reverse the process to install the new keyboard.  Slide the ribbon into the slot, press down the black clip. Place the bottom part of the keyboard into the slots on the bottom of the unit.  Snap the top of the keyboard under the three clips you pushed up with the paperclip. Voila! Your keyboard is replaced!

U100-422CA with New US Keyboard

U100-422CA with New US Keyboard

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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!

Unleashing the Wind, part four

I had originally thought this would be my last post in the MSI Wind series, but I’m thinking I’ll do a final wrap up post with links, etc.

The scary part of the process came when I found out I needed to be running OS X 10.5.6 for iWork ’09. The base install from MSIWindOSx86 set me up with 10.5.4 and everything was working just fine.  I’ve worked with computers enough to know that when things are working fine, you probably shouldn’t mess with them.  However, the curious part of my brain prevailed.  I used the following post as a guide for updating to 10.5.5 and then 10.5.6:

MSIWindowsx86.iso to 10.5.6 No problems at all !!! UPDATED

The 10.5.5 update went very smoothly, and I didn’t lose my 1024×600 resolution, but I did lose Photobooth. Updating the video card drivers as listed in the post got Photobooth back up and running like it was before.

The 10.5.6 update had the most headache of the whole process, which was still not very much.  I installed the update and rebooted, and as I was warned in the post had no working keyboard or trackpad.  I plugged in my USB mouse and keyboard and then started running the kext files to get them back.  After I had my keyboard and mouse back it was a simple install of some three video kexts and the video card drivers again.  Everything else appears to be working properly and I have  gotten iWork ’09 up and running.

I’ve been given some suggestions for programs to run, and have been figuring out how to hide the dock, modify Firefox menus, etc to maximize my limited screen real estate.  If anyone else has suggestions for must have software programs to run on the Mac side, please let me know.  Wes Fryer has a great list available here and I will be borrowing greatly from this list.

One final, wrap up post to come about this entire experience.  I think I have a lot to say still and hopefully it’ll be worth reading.

Unleashing the Wind, part one

After following the UPS tracking system all day yesterday and today, my new computer arrived at my doorstep around 1:00 pm this afternoon.  I ordered the MSI Wind U100 for two major reasons:

1) It has a nice 10″ screen but similar size to many of the smaller netbooks

2) It has the most compatability with Mac OS X of any netbook on the market.

This netbook is going to be my first foray into Mac territory. I still have a bad taste in my mouth from the iMac lab that was in our school when I began working there  years ago. My only other experience with Apple computers came during my own schooling, when the Apple IIe was a major staple in our academic endeavors 🙂

Wind Box

Unboxing the Wind from the shipping box, I was initially struck by the small size of the packaging. Having just purchased my wife a new HP laptop with a 15.6″ screen for Christmas, the Wind box was about the same size as her laptop.

Wind Loading XP

I like the size of the Wind. The keyboard does not feel as cramped as the Eee PC and feels a bit larger even than that of the Aspire One. Those were the other two models I seriously considered when looking at netbooks. When closed, the Wind is about the size of a hardback book, with the added bulk of a 6 cell battery.  This was a minor consideration as the battery life jumps from 2 to 3 hours with a 3 cell, to 5.5 to 6 hours with the 6 cell.  Here’s 2 shots of the Wind sitting on my wife’s new laptop for comparison.

Wind on HP 01
Wind on HP 02

My only complaint thus far, about 45 minutes into playing around with the computer is the fact this particular model is a Canadian unit, and therefore has a French-Canadian keyboard.  I keep accidently hitting the “,eh?” key when I type. That gets kind of annoying ,eh?  Seriously though, the enter key is turned and the left shift key is half it’s US size, making typing a bit awkward.  I am seeking out a US keyboard to replace this one, but so far it’s not a huge issue.

Odd Enter Key

Odd Enter Key


Small Left Shift Key

Small Left Shift Key

Next steps:

1) Loading several necessary Windows programs

2) Updating the BIOS

3) Installing an extra gig of RAM

4) Repartitioning the hard drive to split it for my XP and OS X installations

For those interested, here are the specs on this model of the Wind:

Intel Atom processor, 1.6 Ghz

1 Gig RAM preinstalled (upgradable to 2 GB)

160 GB Hard Drive

6 cell battery

Webcam, Bluetooth, 802.11 b/g/n wireless, 3 USB ports, multi SD card reader

1024 x 600 screen resolution

Look for more updates as I continue my voyage into setting this up as the ultimate “I’m a PC…AND a Mac” netbook and consider it’s use in the middle school classroom.