I think I might be switching !

After having my trusty PowerBook for 18 months, and using it mainly to test web pages in Safari I decided to set myself a little challenge…. As an ASP/SQL developer could I actually make a Mac my primary machine.

well…. it was kinda painful, but… the struggle seems to have paid off.

First of all, obviously, you need a way to run IIS and SQL… that has to be VirtualPC. Currently running on my machine is Windows 2000 Professional as a Guest OS within VPC6.1 (planning an update to VPC7 in a few days – more on that later)

Once you’ve got that set up you need to do some tweaking….

For performance reasons in the Windows OS turn off everything that you don’t need. Remember, every CPU cycle is being emulated so every one you can free up is a bonus. No themes, no fax service, no remote registry updates… you know the drill.

Then get IIS and SQL running … if you’ve done it on a Wintel set up…. it’s easy. I found it was easier if I plugged in a proper two-button mouse (but I’m getting used to only having one button !) or make sure you set up the VPC key mappings to suit your needs.

Now comes the tricky bit… are you using Ethernet or Airport (Extreme) to connect to the world? If you answered Ethernet… you’re fine. If you don’t have a network setup or are wireless you have a small problem… because WiFi adapters are not promiscuous OSX won’t be able to ‘see’ into the VPC network unless you get into some clever tricker… and that involves an ethernet loopback adapter slotted into the right hole. It’s only a 5 minute job to make one (assuming you have a connector, some wire and a crimping tool… oh, and a wiring diagram… if you don’t, most friendly PC stores can make you one for next to nothing). Set VPC to use Ethernet for networking and fire everything up….

Use Safari to connect to the IP address that DHCP has allocated to your guest OS (in Windows 2000 in a command prompt type “ipconfig” and see what it gives you… it’ll be something like 169.???.???.??? if you’ve got a loopback in, or a more useful address if you’re on ethernet.

Are you editing your source in OSX or Windows ? If Windows… you’re ready to go. If in OSX (I want to use skEdit to replace my Windows favourite Notetab Pro) there are a couple more things to do…. First turn on Windows sharing (in Preferences, under Sharing) so the guest OS can see the OSX drive(s). One thing I found here was that if your OSX and Windows users match (name and password) then the connection works a whole lot better. Back in Windows you should now be able to see the host Mac in the ‘computers near me’ in Network Neighbourhood… so in IIS go and set the home directory to that network path (note: Do not use the VPC ‘shared folders’ for this… although I was able to see .htm pages, I had no luck getting .asp pages to work.). Oh, and if you find that IIS is showing old versions of ASP pages make sure you turn off ISAPI Caching and restart IIS to always get the latest version

So, the next challenge is to order a 1GB Ram upgrade for my PowerBook (as VPC is a memory monster… after all, you are running an entire Windows OS in there as well as the host OS) – sadly this means I’ll have to find a good home for the 512Mb that’s currently in there as (for some reason known to Apple) the base 128Mb isn’t upgradablešŸ˜¦

Then, when the machine is all Ram’d-up it’ll be time for VPC7 (as part of a migration of Office 2004 Professional) … it’s rumoured to be 10-15% quicker which will be good, and I like the idea of migrating to WinXP Pro sp2 (although I’m not sure if that will negate the speed improvements of version 7)… stay tuned !

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