Shiny, Shiny… See, It Excites.

I have a little project at the moment. One of the research groups has ordered two brand new iMacs (21″ screen, i5 processors and oodles of ram).  They are actually going to be using them in laboratory experiments, testing subjects using a piece of software which is Windows specific.

At this point, you may be wondering, as I did, why purchase Macs to run Windows software. The only explanation is that the group supervisor is a Mac-ophile, and nothing else would do.

Initially the plan was to purchase and install Parallels, but for reasons that no-one (not even the Apple Sales Rep) can fathom, Parallels isn’t listed as an item for sale through the Cambridge specific version of the Apple store. While I was trying to get this sorted out I floated the idea of using BootCamp and configuring the Macs with dual-boot. This seemed to be a popular idea, so I am now trying to get the Macs set up this way.

The Macs themselves arrived at the beginning of the week, and I got the copy of Windows to install yesterday. So I unpacked one of the machines ready to carry out the install.

Being new Macs they are the slimline models. And of course that means that they come without a built-in DVD drive. This isn’t the first time I have hit this issue of a Mac without a DVD drive. The first time it was a researcher who arrived with a MacBook Air and an installation disc for Microsoft Office. It was then that I discovered that Apple expect users either to shell out for an external drive or to have a second computer that you can use  either to host the installation media. Obviously this isn’t a huge problem in that I do have a desk full of computers, but I can imagine it being a real ball-ache in the real world!

Anyway, I am now using my desktop machine to generate an ISO file of the installation disc which is being written to a USB stick (fortunately I have suitably large USB sticks on hand). I am doing this, obviously, on my Linux desktop, but I know that the Disc Utility in Mac should be able to do this, and I assume that there are tools in Windows too.

The command to generate an ISO file and write in to the disc in my case is:

dd if=/dev/disk/by-label/UDF\\x20Volume of=/media/KINGSTON/winstall.iso

The command takes a while to run, but can be left chugging away in the background. Then, when it is complete you can un-mount the USB stick and return to the Mac.

BootCamp Assistant is shipped with all modern Macs, and will take the ISO that you have just created and turn it into an installation disc. To do this I transferred the ISO from the USB stick to the desktop, then gave the USB stick as the target for the disc creation process and the ISO as the source. At this point the software unpacks the installer onto the USB stick, then downloads appropriate drivers for the hardware and then partitions the hard drive (it gives the option to adjust the partition sizes). Then the software completes the partitioning process and reboots the computer, beginning the Windows 7 installation process.

The Windows installation is familiar territory. Choosing options was a little laborious as the Apple Magic mouse wasn’t working, so there was lots of tabbing between options. And when I was presented with the options for which disc partition to install to, it wasn’t obvious, especially as all of them were marked as not being suitable. A quick check online, and it was apparent that the correct option was the partition marked ‘bootcamp’, but that you have to format it before use (to format the disc as NTFS).

In the classic Windows style, installation features numerous reboots (at the first reboot you have to unplug the USB stick to prevent the installation starting again). When installation was complete the resolution was shot and the wireless, mouse etc still didn’t work. Plugging the USB stick back in I found a folder which included Mac extras, basically the drivers for the hardware. Double clicking the setup and allowing the installation fixed all the hardware issues.

One last reboot, followed by installing MacAfee anti-virus (the University has a site license), Google Chrome for browsing and then the 103 ‘important’ updates. This is going to take a while, and will probably require more restarts! But I’m getting there. Time for lunch before my afternoon meeting.




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