Windows 8 will ship when it’s ready, not forced by a schedule!

In an unprecedented move, Microsoft said that Windows 8 will ship when it is ready, they are driven by quality and not by a schedule. The second surprise, to me at least, is that Windows 8 previews will not require activation keys.

I briefly caught up with the keynotes live stream of Microsoft’s Build Windows event today. I saw about 15min of it and these are my favourite take aways:

  • Microsoft’s Steve Sinofsky said that, I quote him, roughly “Windows 8 will ship when it’s ready, Microsoft is focusing on quality and they will not be driven by a schedule”. That’s exactly the kind of language you hear from popular Open Source project leaders, last time I read it was from a Ruby on Rails framework developer (talking at the time, about when  Rails 3.1 would be released)
  • Windows 8 preview releases will not require any activation key
  • And of course, the 8 second boot time (I may not have properly heard that one, but there was an 8 sec boot time demo’ed earlier)
Microsoft  announced that Windows 8 developer preview would be available for download at 3 AM GMT on 14 September. I’m already prepared for a title like “the most downloaded OS preview ever!” or something like that, being announced within a week perhaps. Let me risk a gamble, 2 Mio downloads within 5 days? 😉

Pimping my MacBook Pro late 2008 – Part 3: setting up an SSD as second disk bootable

Putting an SSD as second disk on the MacBook Pro late 2008 is relatively easy. There are just two delicate moments to deal with, the wiring is fragile and requires steady hands, and the last step of the process consists of creating symbolic links (using the Terminal). I am satisfied with the results, 8 GB RAM and a 60 GB SSD as boot disk, OSX Lion: the boot time has more than doubled, and the sleep and wake times even more. The usually sluggish apps such as Mac Mail run faster now. I’ve not got time to benchmark everything, but my MacBook Pro definitely feels like new and it performs much better than it ever did. I think this budget upgrade is well worth it, if you haven’t got the big dosh to buy one of the new MacBook Airs. Keeping the user home folder on the original disk somehow impedes the performance because that path is still in daily uses. But I think that isn’t a huge compromise.

In Part 1 of this blog post, I show how to upgrade the RAM to 8GB. In Part 2 I show how I installed an SSD as a second disk on my MacBook Pro, replacing the DVD drive (SuperDrive if you like). Until now I didn’t have time to talk about the system setting changes that I had to make to get it all working. This post addresses that part. As I began writing this 3rd part, I realised that I didn’t take many screenshots while I was working on this, but luckily it’s still fresh in my memory and I can lookup resources to link in here.

Once I put the last screw in place, I plugged the power chord back on and turned the computer on. After the logon OSX Lion automatically detected the new SSD and launched the Disk Utility. I chose the suggested disk partition mode, which is journalled Mac OS extended. This went so fast that I doubted if I clicked the button or not. Nothing to it.

My MacBook Pro originally shipped with a 320 GB disk and it’s only got 30 GB free space left now, so I can’t clearly fit all my content on a 60 GB SSD. I chose a smaller SSD to keep the cost of this upgrade reasonable, so I have to compromise a little bit. Instead of copying everything over, I decided that I only wanted to copy the system files and the installed applications. That requires less space and I still get the speed boost (most of it, at least) I’m expecting.

A quick google and I downloaded Carbon Copy, a handy tool that iss apparently meant as a backup utility but it does a nice job. In the screenshot below I indicate the files that I’ve selected for copying, I left the rest unchecked. Actually this screenshot is made after I was done. Once the essential system files are selected, chose the destination to be the SSD that must be empty at this stage, then launch it.

Selective carbon copy of my HD to the SSD
Selective carbon copy of my HD to the SSD

This process took a very long time to complete, I think about 3 hrs (I just let it run and tended to other domestic chores and came to check it a short time before going to bed. After Carbon Copy completed I was ready to boot on my brand new SSD! But since I didn’t copy over the users folder, which actually contains all my settings and my personal files, I expected some trouble, so I got Plan B ready before continuing. My Plan B consisted of: 1) creating a second user with Admin rights, and 2) not immediately changing my default boot disk. Now I could reboot my Mac.

At boot,  I pressed and held the Option key (the one with a fork looking symbol) – must be done before you hear the chime and keep holding it till the Mac prompts for a boot disk. I selected my SSD disk and about 22 secs later I got the login screen. When I logged in with my normal account I was greeted with a lot of errors, Safari couldn’t find any of my settings, FireFox the same, I kind of expected this to happen and knew what I would do to fix it. What was happening is really simple, when I only had one disk I also only had one Volume which was my boot disk. So the Mac could find everything relative to the root folder of the boot Volume.

Two volumes on my Macbook Pro
Two volumes on my Macbook Pro

By booting on a second volume, the SSD, the path to my user settings was lost: the system is looking for my user folder on “/Volumes/Macintosh SSD”, but it should actually be looking on “/Volumes/Macintosh HD”. This kind of problem is easily solved by creating symbolic links. I created two symbolic links, one for my user home folder and another one for the /Users/Shared folder which I use to Parallels disk images. I logged out and logged back in, everything was now working fine. At this point I was confident that nothing would go wrong, so I changed my default Boot disk: / System Preferences / Startup Disk.

What did I gain now?

Since I still have both disks in place, comparing the performance was just a matter of booting up on one disk, timing that, and repeating the process for the second disk. With my original disk the booting time is 51 secs, with the new SSD my Mac booting time is now 22 secs. The Sleep and Wake times have also now been reduced to less than 5 secs on average, all my applications run much faster than they used to.

Conclusion?

I am satisfied with the results, the boot time has more than doubled, and the sleep and wake times even more. The usually sluggish apps such as Mac Mail, Adobe InDesign and DreamWeaver run faster now. One exception seems to be Omnigraffle Pro, it’s faster but still exhibits some long wait moments thaT I expected would be gone, this may have to do with my home folder still being on the slower hard disk. I did not take time to benchmark everything else, but my MacBook Pro definitely feels like new and it performs much better than it ever did. I think this budget upgrade is well worth it, if you haven’t got the big dosh to buy one of the new MacBook Airs. Keeping the user home folder on the original disk somehow impedes the performance because that path is still in daily uses. But I think that isn’t a huge compromise. I wish I chose a slightly larger disk though, because I’ve now only got 10 GB free space left on the SSD, but I’ve achieved my initial goal.

Pimping my MacBook Pro late 2008 – Part 2, installing a SSD as second disk and boot drive

This is the second last article in my two part posting on “pimping my MacBook Pro, late 2008”. In Part 1 I briefly explained how I upgrade the ram to 8 GB. Installing a second disk as a replacement of the DVD drive is fairly easy to do, if you are handy. Booting on an SSD drive, launching applications, putting the computer to sleep and restoring all became really fast. This is the best way to extend the life of an aging MacBook Pro.

This is the second part in my posting on “pimping my MacBook Pro, late 2008”. In Part 1 I briefly explained how I upgrade the ram to 8 GB.

I’ve finally found a couple of hours to write something up about this experience, it was fun (reminded me the old days when I liked this sort of tinkering with hardware). If you’re not afraid of taking apart your laptop, and that you can keep steady hands in the process, then you can install an SSD on your MacBook Pro and enjoy the gain in speed.

Before I go any further, I must warn you that this little operation can risk damaging your computer, there are lots of warnings about electrostatic hazards. There is also a risk of tearing the fragile wiring that link your DVD drive to the motherboard, because although fragile they are tightly clipped to their connectors. If you really want to give it a go, be sure that you are comfortable doing this. Otherwise I advise that you get an expert’s help. I hope to have warned you enough, DIY’s are always at your own risk.

If I didn’t scare you enough then read on.

I researched a bit more about SSD options, I’ve seen many reviews and all sorts of postings on the subject, in the end I covered the last miles myself and that is why  I thought it worth writing this down. I chose to buy a 60 GB disk as that was just at the sort of price point that I considered reasonable, it cost €76 at Mycom.nl. I thought if I were to buy a larger disk that would be much more expensive then there would be no point in keeping both disks. The first hurdle was to find the bracket for installing the disk in the bay reserved for the DVD drive – Apple call it the SuperDrive, in case you didn’t know that. I could buy it in the US for $79 dollars and pay the taxes here when it arrived. So I ordered again via Amazon US, they have it in their marketplace but the dealer is actually OWC themselves. The package was delivered 14 days later (the site originally suggested 8-10 days delivery from the US), and the Dutch customs charged me €22.57 (ouch!).

I thought the operation would be quick, but it wasn’t all that quick, the partial cloning of my hard disk took almost 3 hours to shift over 35 GB of files.

The first pictures of the SSD installation process.

[captiongroup columns=”3″]

Picture of OWC Data Doubler was delivery package
How the OWC Data Doubler was delivered to me
Pictures of the screwdrivers that shipped with the OWC
Screwdrivers that shipped with the OWC
Picture of the SSD taken out of the bulky package
The SSD taken out of the bulky package
The SSD and the OWC Data Doubler bracket ready to use
The SSD and the OWC Data Doubler bracket ready to use
The OWC Data Doubler installation manual
The OWC Data Doubler comes with a detailed installation manual
The SSD mounted on the bracket, ready to be installed on the Mac
The SSD mounted on the bracket, ready to be installed on the Mac

[/captiongroup]

When the preparation was done, it was time to replace the DVD drive with my new disk.

[captiongroup columns=”3″]

My MacBook Pro opened, battery removed cover still on
My MacBook Pro opened, battery removed cover still on
The two fragile cables that must be disconnected from the SuperDrive
The two fragile cables that must be disconnected from the SuperDrive

 

Performing a sensitive disconnection
Performing a sensitive disconnection

[/captiongroup]

If no mistakes was made so far, you really didn’t break those wires (I’m glad I didn’t), then you should end up with something like this.

[captiongroup columns=”3″]

SSD fully mounted
SSD fully mounted
The SuperDrive, no longer useful for me
The SuperDrive, no longer useful for me

[/captiongroup]

Putting back the lid of the MacBook Pro is straightforward. Time to boot up the machine.

I’ve run out of time today, I will post the last part of this experience next time, it will be a short one focused on the tuning I had to do to get things working properly.

A/B Split testing a major platform: Windows re-imagined

Windows 8, what’s not in the name is that the traditional desktop OS will not be loaded by default. In a Microsoft Windows world most features were “opt-out sometimes”, but with Windows 8 it seems that even the OS becomes “opt-in always”. Coming from Microsoft, this is the most significant sign that talks of post-PC aren’t exaggerated at all.

This is the most significant sign yet that the IT industry is admitting we are heading to a post-PC era, Microsoft’s last drop makes this quite clear. In this blog of Sinofsky (yes, it’s a Steve’s World), Microsoft is saying that Windows 8 may run without even loading Windows OS. The new OS is definitely positioned as a post-Windows OS, Windows+ perhaps? Once marketing settles on a name, I think it may not even include the word “Windows”.

This is Microsoft on the offensive, big time. Such a bold move must be aimed at taking the wind out of the sails of Google and Apple. HP’s stutterings indicates that they are no longer in this game, certainly not focused enough to be a contender in a post-PC market.

As I read it, Metro platform (and not just the UI) will be the default boot experience for Windows 8, this will surely not allow any traditional Windows applications to run. That should relegate the traditional Windows OS experience to a secondary role (if you really insist in having it, you can have it but we’re not pushing). It doesn’t take a pundit to imagine what that means: this is how Internet Explorer trounced Netscape, it was the default browser on the PC. Microsoft could not possibly be doing this lightly.

Where is the A/B split testing then? Well, it’s a two phase testing as I see it. By announcing the decision so early in a blog posting, Microsoft is asking the community to comment. If there is any significant outcry, then Microsoft would be vindicated that the masses badly wants to stick to the Windows experience. If not then the new OS may launch with Metro as its default experience, at that point a second split testing kicks in. If Metro UI is a runaway success, it’s game on in the new era. Microsoft stands to win whatever the outcome.

The only group that may have some hesitation here would be the partner ecosystem, folks who have invested their soul into the traditional Windows OS experience might be nervous. But I suppose there is not much choice here, the industry is no longer ruled by the laws that prevailed when vendors decided what users would be getting.

Pimping my MacBook Pro late 2008 – Part 1, install 8 GB Ram

If you’ve got an oldish (mine is late 2008) MacBook Pro, and you don’t have say €2000 to spend, there is a way to give it a new lease of life. Upgrade two essential components that play a vital role on the machine’s performance: the memory and the boot drive (hard disk). It’s very easy to upgrade the RAM of your MacBook Pro late 2008 edition. In this post I explain how I installed 8 GB Ram on mine.

If you’ve got an oldish (mine is late 2008) MacBook Pro, and you don’t have say €2000 to spend, there is a way to give it a new lease of life if you do have say 10% of that amount of money, which is €200. Upgrade two essential components that play a vital role on the machine’s performance: the memory and the boot drive (hard disk).

Sure the latest processor will help if you run video editing software or some computation intensive software. But for most common usages, performance bottleneck starts with memory access. If your computer has enough memory to run everything you need, you are unlikely to see performance problems. If it must access the disk at some stage, then that is a second tier of performance bottleneck that you need to address. Most of the time, once you’re past the initial application load time, having decent memory will give you a nice performance boost.

So starting with the memory upgrade, I looked for sources and found the following items from Amazon €65,8:

I ordered both items from Amazon UK, they took 3 days to arrive. I shut down my laptop, waited about 10 min for it to cool down, opened it up, removed the modules that were already there and replaced them with the new modules from Kingston. The instructions for upgrading memory on your MacBook Pro from Apple Support page are very straightforward.

The whole operation lasted for about 15 min, including time to dust my machine. It was a child play, and it made a difference already. I now scarcely have to wait for something to complete. And the result can be seen in the third picture on this post, above.

I have ordered a bracket for installing a second hard drive in the machine. I expect it to arrive in the coming days. I’ll publish Part II of this post once I get the kit.

MacBookPro late 2008 running OSX Lion, is the best computer setup I’ve ever had

I’ve yet to have any issue with my MBP late 2008 edition running OSX Lion. This is the best computer setup I’ve ever had, if only I could get SSD on it (reseller’s crappy order management fault) it would just be awesome. If no MBP ships in September then I think I’ll get the latest MacBook Air, shift most of my virtual machines to cloud providers, then I’ll be all set for the best productive work and pleasurable computing experience.

I’ve yet to have any issue with my MBP late 2008 edition running OSX Lion. This is the best computer setup I’ve ever had. If only I could get SSD on it (due to reseller’s shoddy order management) it would just be awesome. If no MBP ships in September then I think I’ll get the latest MacBook Air, move all my virtual machines to various cloud providers,  then I’ll be all set for the best productive work and pleasurable computing experience.

Everything about my setup is pleasing, from the way it behaves every day to the way it looks. I like the way everything looks and feels, every button, every control. One particularly nice feature is the way the windows lost the bulky chrome, they now only show useful content. Making scrollbars disappear when you’re not scrolling is cool. No more clutter. The windows displayed on my screen feel as if they were real-life thin silver plates up in the air for serving content. It’s just posh. I didn’t expect the level of polish that I’m enjoying now, so that’s a really nice surprise.

The polish of OSX Lion along with the way I tend to run lots of things simultaneously really show the age of my hardware, 4GB RAM and 3 years old. This is why I want to see how it performs if the boot drive is an SSD. But clearly for my daily use, an Intel i7 and 8 GB RAM with SSD is the way to go.

Ars Technica virtually treats the same topic as me, one day apart

Microsoft’s vision of Windows everywhere, an article by Ars Tecnica, they go deep into the subject that I’ve treated, only a day later.

Today I read the article below by Ars, and I couldn’t help but notice how similar it’s theme is to my post of a couple of days earlier. Funny coincidence: Ask Ars: Windows everywhere, or Windows nowhere? What is Microsoft’s “single ecosystem”?

Obviously I was just expressing some thoughts, no research done to back it up. But they are professionals, if you are interested in this subject then you may find more information on Ars Technica’s web site.

 

 

 

 

 

OSX Lion experience suggests that a single unified iOS is the next version

Mac OSX Lion feels like a hybrid OS, it’s iOS and OSX at the same time. With Apple leading the charge, the unified OS model supported by the AppStore distribution model looks to be the future. If functionality can be streamed directly to where it is needed, that revolutionises the prevalent distribution and support model. In the long run, the IT organisation structure as we know it today will become obsolete.

My experience with the upgrade and running OSX Lion is very positive so far. It feels stable, confident and trustworthy. The only surprise was that Java runtime wasn’t available right after the reboot. I had to google for a link to a separate download, I feel that was a little obnoxious of them. Other than that, I have a stable and fast OS. Since I removed Flash plugin, upgraded Skype, and now only rely on Google Chrome for flash functionality, I have a very good setup indeed. The fact that my esoteric collection of software runs so far without a glitch, without me having to tweak anything, suggests that OSX Lion builds on a solid and a stable API, most probably enabled by Snow Leopard.

It’s hard to imagine Apple maintaining OSX Desktop line and iOS in parallel, I reckon only iOS will ship in the future and the device where you run it will determine its runtime persona: mobile, desktop, server. For companies that cannot port their products to the new unified model, OSX Lion would become their Rosetta.

I’ve read a post on Windows 8 which indicated that Microsoft is already moving in that direction, a single unified OS for all platforms.

The implications of this change in the industry, lead by Apple, is that the AppStore model will become prevalent. When we reach that point, organisations with large IT teams dedicated to platform support will start looking derelict. Those would still remain the largest number, but they may find it really hard to remain competitive.

Why is it that Apple is seemingly succeeding with a vision that once was actually Microsoft’s pioneering idea: one platform for all your computing needs? They surely didn’t have more money or available potential talent than Microsoft.

Looking a little further, adding Facebook and Google to this mix, the battle for control of the consumer mindshare and purse (indirectly corporate mindshare and purse) is truly exciting. I think most of the mainstream press would have us believe in a zero sum game, which I think is just the same game really: seeking control of the mindshare. Analysing the full spectrum of all the tech titan battle grounds is beyond this posting. I’m only looking at the front where Apple is causing a storm in at the moment.

With all this going on, I have hard time engaging in debates about the definition of things like architecture, enterprise, business, any combination of those. I’m not sure what problem such debates will solve, especially when denial is ingrained in many contributions. I think the only viable debate to be had is the one about “the future of computing“, and that gets my attention.

I want an iChromeBook

The ideal software geek’s personal computer would be something that combines Google Chrome OS vision, your data is in the clouds, and a powerful device that can run heavy duty software. Such device doesn’t exist, but Apple’s iCloud vision comes close.

As I think about what my ideal next computer could be like, something dawn on me: it’s Google’s Chrome OS core tenet (your work automatically saved to the cloud) combined with a powerful and versatile device that I can also run software development projects on. That’s what I need, and I don’t want to be bothered about lugging around an USB drive, having to explicitly move files around. So what are the options?

I’ve said this a few times, Chrome OS just won’t cut it for me. The ideal device has got to be more capable than running a web browser, this leads me to the tablets. But the iPad still doesn’t look like it’d be something for me. The videos of HP TouchPab I saw today impressed me, it seems that that thing has some serious guts inside. If I were to buy a tablet though, I’d need an external keyboard most of the time, so why not upgrade and get a laptop then? I could do that, but then I’m back where I am right now.

All of this vaguely reminds me something else, Microsoft’s Longhorn vision. I dumped my last gigabytes of Longhorn material last year, so I can’t fully recall what it said about storage – no use digging that up anyway, that’d be hypothetical.

As I sit there undecided, I suddenly realise that I’ve already seen the beginning of a solution without making the connections. Apple’s just announced iCloud, now I see what they’re trying to do and I see that it’s clever marketing – I watched bits of the keynote and didn’t really think too much of it, until now. iCloud also looks to be limited to files produced with Apple’s software, what about my design and development work created with non-Apple software? Not supported, I suppose. Stuck. Bummer.

There’s another option, use Dropbox as a live storage drive. It’s tempting, though I’d be nervous doing that, it might just fall apart or cost me too much. What then?

Actually, there isn’t much choice. The magical GDrive never materialised. One’s got to go for the next best thing, and that is simple: stay with a laptop, and maybe use Cloud development platforms and Emacs on the client, stay with Dropbox.