Thoughts and opinions of a technology enthusiast.

Mac vs. PC :: Will my next computer be a Mac?

macwinIt’s been about two and a half years since I made the switch from being a dedicated Windows user to buying my first Mac. I have really enjoyed my MacBook and wanted to take a few moments to discuss some of the differences and similarities I’ve found with the Mac ownership experience, compared to my earlier (and ongoing) experiences with the Windows platform.

Marketing and Markets
Both Windows and Mac enthusiasts love to evangelize about their platform of choice.  It’s human nature, we all want people to know how smart we are for choosing the best of what’s available.

socialpiechartAs is often the case with most of these “holy wars” the smaller market tends to be more vocal, and more likely to point out all the flaws in its larger competitor.  This is certainly the case with the Apple community.  From the endless stream of “Get a Mac” ads and their YouTube parody counterparts to news releases and security firms touting the reduced target area of not running Windows, those who have and love Macs are always there to tell you that the solution to every problem with MS Windows is to simply get a mac.

And it’s not like Microsoft hasn’t provided a great deal of ammo for the pundits to use in their PR-muskets.  From the troubled launch of Windows Vista to the sad state of what is the Zune to the rather pathetic I’m a PC ad campaign Apple has certainly made up ground on the Redmond-based software giant.  Since 2001, Apple has nearly tripled their market share.  That’s a very significant jump for any company.  But let’s be realistic about what that really means.  The Mac maker has raised its market share from about 3.5% to somewhere around the 10% mark.  Even with Apple’s huge growth over the past 8 years, nine out of every 10 computers sold is running a version of Microsoft Windows.

telus-blackberry-8330-smAs a result, Microsoft for their part shrugs off the attacks of the all things “i” maker, often ignoring the marketing onslaught and focusing on its target market: the Enterprise.  Does anyone remember when Apple launched the 3G iPhone, App Store and support for Enterprise features on the iPhone?  Apple certainly hasn’t made great strides into the corporate handheld market, which is something the Microsoft does better, but that Research In Motion’s BlackBerry does extremely well — but that’s a topic for another post.  Microsoft and Apple both make products which can be used in the business markets.  But time after time, companies are continuing to choose the Microsoft platform over that of Apple, a huge percentage of the 90% that Microsoft controls in the operating systems space is thanks to the purchases of large companies.  If one were to examine only consumer purchases of computers, Apple would fare much better, probably somewhere around the 20% mark in parts of the world.

The consumer market is without question Apple’s strongest.  By developing a series of technologies and services that all work well together, it’s quite possible to change over your entire home to run on Apple technology.  From beautifully designed iMacs that can sit proudly in your living room, to powerful Mac Pros that can serve content for the entire household, to AppleTV which can sit atop your HD digital cable box and serve as an all-in-one media centre, to the AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule backup consoles to manage your network and keep everything interconnected.  appletaxAdd to that Apple’s iTunes and Mobile Me services and you’ve got an entire suite of hardware and software that talks to each other almost flawlessly, and really does make your day-to-day computing experience much smoother.  There’s only one catch, the Apple Tax.

The Apple Tax is what those outside the Apple community call the difference between the price of a Mac, and the price of the most closely aligned (in hardware specs at least) PC.  Often times the difference between a Mac and a PC comes in between 20% and 40%, with the Macs invariably being the more expensive machines.  PC enthusiasts will shame people for wasting their money on “pretty hardware” while the Mac community talks about security, ease of use and bundled software.  Over the past three years or so I’ve come to realize that the reason this debate won’t die is that they’re all right.

My Mac Experience

mac_leoWhen I first picked up my Macbook one of the things that excited me about the experience was the new-ness of it.  This was a computing platform that I wasn’t particularly familiar with, and since I considered myself to be something of a technology afficionado I figured I should jump in and see what all the fuss was really about.

Within hours I had posted my first blog post and was happily exploring the features of OS X Tiger.  There were a few quirks of the Mac OS that drove (drive) me nuts but overall it was a pretty good experience.  Much more polished than other Windows alternatives (RedHat, Ubuntu, Fedora) that I’d looked at in the past.  One of the strongest points in the Mac’s favour early on was the Unix-style BSD-based terminal.  This is where, for me at least, some of the magic of OS X came into play.

I’ve always been a command-line geek.  There’s no question in my mind that computers function at their best when they don’t need to worry about drawing a “pretty picture” for us lazy humans.  Command-line applications (and for that matter services/daemons) run better, and more often than not, more reliably than applications with elegant user-interfaces.  Being able to explore the world of the UNIX/Linux command line on my shiny new Mac was indeed a revelation for me.  It even led to me porting the wget application to run on Mac OS X.  This wasn’t something that I’d ever consider trying to do for Windows, though it probably isn’t much more difficult.

mpkgAs time moved forward I really enjoyed my MacBook. Adding new applications to the computer was as simple as downloading them from the Internet and in most cases dragging the application to the Applications folder.  In other cases I would need to double-click an .mpkg file to run the installer.

But I noticed after a while that all the software I’d been downloading for my Mac Lab Rat segments for the old version of the podcast had really cluttered up my system.  Thankfully OS X allows you to clean up all of that mess from the installations with just the drag of a mouse.  Yep, that’s right. To uninstall an application from OS X, you just need to drag it to the trash can.  That’s much simpler than un-installing programs on Windows, right?  Well, that’s not really the whole truth.

First off, you need to understand how a Mac stores applications.  Each application is stored in a package ending with a .app extension.  This is, in reality, just a folder that contains the majority of the files that the application uses.  Dragging “the application” to the trash is really just a way of deleting the application folder.  But with many applications this doesn’t delete the entire application footprint.

There are two folders where applications store the majority of their extra files and these are the /Library and the /Users/<username>/Library folders.  Apple’s own recording application GarageBand stores over 1.5GB of files in these library folders, removing the application using the Drag-and-Drop method will leave those files on your computer.

Malware & Baddies
toxic-wasteThere’s no question that anyone who buys a Mac today, or has bought one in the past 10 years has experienced but a fraction of a percentage of the malware, spyware, viruses and badness that Windows owners have to deal with on a regular basis.  Apple touts this fact when they promote their Macs as one would expect, and as they should. The lack of these problems on a Mac is a great reason to use the system.  Mac fanboys would have you believe that the Mac Operating System is fundamentally designed to be more secure. They talk about the fact that because you’re less likely to be infected by problems on a Mac, the Mac OS is orders of magnitude more secure than Windows.  But notice nowhere does it say that there are fewer vulnerabilities in OS X than in Windows.

The reality is that with Windows’ huge market share (remember the 90% number we talked about earlier?) they are the 10,000lb gorilla.  When your next biggest competitor makes up less than 10% of the market, it’s clear who will be the target. (For those in the business of building gorilla killin’ helicopters (malware), the real target is King Kong not Nim Chimpsky.)

If you’re writing malware of any kind, you’re typically doing it in one of two ways:

  1. Target companies
  2. Target the highest number of people possible

The majority of malware authors choose to go with option #2: cast a wide net and see how many fish you can catch.  If your net is set to catch Windows machines, the sheer math of it will get you more infected machines than if you were to target the much smaller Mac market.  That said, with success comes difficulty.  Mac users are starting to see pockets of activity targeting OS X.  Consider the Pwn to Own competitions that security companies have run for the past few years. Invariably, OS X has been compromised at each of them, and in most cases extremely quickly. Modern operating systems are all susceptible to exploits and security holes. Even linux systems are vulnerable to attacks, they simply have the benefit of a large number of people to quickly patch holes and a user community generally less susceptible to getting themselves infected.  OS X is not an invulnerable operating system.

Software – Included and Excluded

macappsIt’s often touted that the software included on Mac Systems helps to justify the increased price tag of purchasing these machines. It does help, to be sure. The quality of the included software is quite high, and allows you to manage photos, music & email, make videos, burn movies, and record audio.  What Apple doesn’t want you to know is that there are lots of applications out there for Windows too, some of which may even be bundled with your system when you buy it.  Consistency is Apple’s strongest point. They can use phrases like “iLife comes with every new Mac”.

I’ve used every application that comes with iLife at least once.  The most frequently used applications being iPhoto and GarageBand; unfortunately I’ve not been overly satisfied with either and the only reason I stuck with them is that they were for all intents and purposes free applications.  iPhoto in particular lacked a number of features, the most obvious of which is the ability to organize images into folder hierarchies.  This has been fixed in the latest version, but I don’t feel like paying $69 for something that free apps like Picasa can do for free.

GarageBand has worked out quite well for the most part, but does leave a few things to be desired.  The interface is excellent, making creating podcasts and other recorded audio quick and fairly intuitive.  It becomes obvious fairly quickly though that this product too is targeted at a consumer audience as there are a number of audio manipulation features missing including fine grain control over cutting and pasting audio, and the application crashes with my podcast files once it gets over an hour in length.

While the iLife suite is touted as being partial justification of the increased cost of the Macs, in many cases I’ve abandoned these applications in favour of free applications that I was able to download from the Internet.  I’m in the midst of replacing iPhoto with Picasa and GarageBand with Audacity (which admittedly is missing a bunch of features too, so I’ll probably have to use both).

Coming from a Windows world, I was accustomed to being able to find software online that did what I needed my computer to do, and the vast majority of the time not having to pay for it — and let me be clear, I’m talking SourceForge, not PirateBay.  What I found in coming to the Mac world is that commercial ISVs (independent software vendors) were far more common for home-use applications on the Mac than for Windows.  Translation: If you want it, be prepared to pay for it.  Third-party developers have done a great job of writing software that has a Mac look & feel.  Apple and Microsoft both publish guidelines on best practices for developing software for their respective platforms.  The ISVs that publish software for the Mac do a great job of creating a quality product the only catch of course being that you need to buy the apps.  There is open-source software available on the Mac, but as with the malware developers. the open-source community prefers to stick to platforms where they can get the most eyeballs on their product.

Getting Things Done
checkmarkThis is far and away the most subjective category in my review.  There is no question that I’ve been extremely productive with my MacBook over the past three years.  I’ve written hundreds of blog posts, contributed to my online forums, remotely managed software on my websites, handled email, instant messaging, twitter, virtualization and managed my online life.  The thing is, most of the time I’m not using a Mac specific application to do those tasks.  All of my Internet activity is done using FireFox rather than Apple’s own Safari browser.  The main reason for that is that I find Safari to be a bit clumsy to use, and above all else, I miss the ability to download tons of free plugins and extensions for the browser that make my online life better.

One task where the Mac has a leg up on Windows, conceptually at least, is the fact that it’s built-in command-line interface is based on BSD.  This means that all of the default tools for handling command-line operations in a Unix environment are already present, and the most important of those for me is SSH.  Native command-line support of SSH makes administering my web servers a more seamless task, and despite the fact that it’s command-line in nature, that may be the most Mac-like feature of my Macbook.  I can get this done on windows without much effort as well, but with the Mac, this truly was built-in from the get-go.

Re-Staging Systems
I’m hard on my computers.  I always have been.  Every system I’ve ever owned prior to my MacBook has been re-staged or re-imaged about once per year.  Sometimes this was for OS upgrades, sometimes because it had become slow and unusable, and sometimes because I wanted to try a major configuration change to make the computer more useful to me.  Something that really appealed to me about the Mac from those I’d spoken to prior to purchasing it was the idea that all of this would be gone once I got a mac.  Never would I need to do the dreaded “wipe and reload” operation that I’d become used to in Windows.  The reality is, I’ve re-staged my Macbook about the same number of times (if not more) than I had originally done on Windows.

  1. Bought a new Mac
  2. Over the course of the first 6-8 months, downloaded every piece of Mac software I could find. Un-installing them left me with a clutter of junk in the “Library folder” for the dozens and dozens of apps I had removed. To clear this up permanently, I re-staged the computer.
  3. About 6 months later, I wanted to try out the pre-release version of Boot-Camp that came with OS X 10.4.  Unfortunately after the previous re-installation I had chosen a “case-sensitive” file system — this doesn’t work well with Boot Camp.  I re-staged the computer.
  4. When OS X 10.5 came out, I felt somewhat duty-bound to pick up the new release on it’s first day of RTM.  To put this on, I followed my policy with all OS updates (and the advice I had found online) which is to always start clean. I re-staged the computer.
  5. I decided a few months later that I wanted to try dual-booting my computer with Windows and OS X 10.5, unfortunately I had filled up my 80 GB hard drive so much that the OS X couldn’t create a decent boot partition.  I re-staged the computer.
  6. Several months later I bought a new 320 GB hard drive and promptly proceeded to load it into my Mac.  Since the Boot-camp thing wasn’t really working out anyway I decided this would be a great time to get a fresh start.  I re-staged the computer.

Over the 32 months since I’ve owned the Macbook, I’ve re-staged the machine five times.  That’s about once every 6 months give-or-take.  That’s a bit more often than my Windows machines annual re-load, but I figure two of them were due to my unfamiliarity with the Mac OS.  So three times in three years, I call that a draw.

Conclusion – Will my next computer be a Mac?
After looking at my Mac experience objectively for a couple of months as I’ve written this article on and off, I’ve come to two undeniable truths about how the Mac fits in to my life.

  1. The Mac is an outstanding computer, that does nearly everything that I’ve ever needed it to.
  2. For me, it isn’t worth the 30-40% premium over a comparable Windows-based notebook.

I really do love my Macbook, and I’m going to find a way to keep it running and in active service until it simply becomes too expensive to maintain (read: need to replace the battery, or a system component out of warranty).  But I also know that my next machine, which will be a replacement for the desktops in my basement will most likely be an off-the-shelf PC.  The vast majority of what I do on my computer is done on the Internet.  The applications I use on my Mac every single day are Firefox, Thunderbird, MSN, TweetDeck, TextPad and the CLI SSH client.  All of those applications are available on every single computer that I’ve ever used.  So when I buy the next system, the only decision for me as far as operating systems go, will be whether I buy Windows, or install the latest LTS edition of Ubuntu.

Thoughts on a New Podcast

Podcasting :: Deliver personally driven messages to anyone who's interested. Develop your own "pod culture."

Over the past year or so I’ve been kicking around the idea of starting up a podcast of my own to go along with the efforts that I’ve put in with Dave and Cait on the Aussie Geek Podcast. I love doing the AGP and it helps to stimulate a large portion of the geek side of my personality… but not all of it. The one piece that it leaves off is the developer piece.

I’ve tried to stimulate this in a few different ways in the past, writing blog posts around pieces of code; trying to kick off a standalone open-source project and writing my two plugins for WordPress (Admin Links Widget, Random Image Selector). Though these were all items that I enjoyed they lacked a certain interactivity.

When Jeff offered to let me co-host WordPress Weekly to provide a developer’s perspective it gave me the unique opportunity of mixing my interest in software development with an interaction with a community. I only did a handful of shows at the end of last year, but it helped to reinforce that I really enjoyed putting my skills to use providing information for other people.

There are a great number of development-focused podcasts which discuss wider abstract concepts, and complex topics but precious few which dive into the nuts and bolts of specific software development topics.  Examples of a couple that I’ve really enjoyed listening to lately are the .NET Rocks! podcast (Carl Franklin, Richard Campbell) and the Stack Overflow podcast (Jeff Atwood, Joel Spolsky).

Realistically, this new show idea won’t come to pass until later this year, probably in the April-May timeframe as I have several weeks of school to get through before I explain to my lovely wife why I’m spending yet more time in front of the computer.

So there it is, out in the open: I hope to be releasing a development-focused show sometime later this year.

FREE Software :: CrossOver Free Today Only!

If you’re a fan of being able to run Windows applications on your Mac, listen up! CodeWeavers Windows-to-Mac application CrossOver is being offered for FREE today only.

If you’re interested in the offer, visit the CodeWeavers website to sign up.

If you want to read more about the background of this story, check out Michael Rose’s post on TUAW.

The long and the short of it: You have George W. Bush to thank (sorta) for your opportunity to buy free software.

BarCamp Vancouver 2008 Party

I just got back from the BarCamp Vancouver 2008 networking party.  This is the meet & greet prior to the actual unconference which takes place tomorrow down at Granville Island.

It was great to see a few familiar faces like Rebecca and Raul.

I also got to meet some of the folks who I’d only known online.  Duane, John, John & Andy.  Looking forward to meeting lots of other great people tomorrow.

I did forget one thing tonight: Business Cards.  However, I did manage to find a few spare sheets of my Avery business card blanks tonight.  I also discovered (somewhat to my surprise) that Google Docs supports Avery business card templates.

sample business card from google docs

sample business card from google docs

The implementation isn’t quite as slick as MS-Word, but it will more than do in a pinch.  I managed to whip up this snazzy little number in a matter of minutes.  Now I feel more prepared for tomorrow.  Hopefully Dave doesn’t mind that I borrowed the show logo, I promise I’ll promote the show:)

Podcast Post-Production :: Aussie Geek Podcast #003

I’ve taken a crack at producing some small bits of audio content in the past, my segments for the GGP, and more recently some promo material for the Aussie Geek Podcast.  But never have I undertaken producing an entire episode without the proverbial net.

This week due to some issues beyond his control, Dave is without is usual podcasting rig, including the computer and all of his audio editing tools.  So in an effort to make sure that the AGP #003 gets out as close to on-time as possible, I’ll be doing the editing and post-production for this week’s episode.

I’ve been learning some new skills, mostly thanks to Dave and with some input from the Interwebs.  So if you haven’t subscribed to the Aussie Geek Podcast yet, I suggest you do so right now and listen to last week’s show and this, and see if I did an OK job.  :)

Cloudless Computing :: Things To Do When You’re Without Your Interwebs

So here I am without access to the Internet.  So what have I done?  I’ve found a way to do my computing without the cloud!  Here are some projects that you can do the next time you find yourself without access to the cloud.

Organize your Photos
This is a relatively time consuming task that I rarely take the time to do.  A “net-outage” is a great time to pour through the photos in your computer and group or rename the files.  If you use a photo organizing program like iPhoto or Aperture on the Mac, or Google’s very popular Picasa on Windows you can use these programs to do much of the tedious file management for you.

Blog Something
I find that one of my biggest impediments to getting a bunch of blogging done is my rather short attention span.  When I’m online researching a story for an article I tend to get lost surfing the Internet looking for new and exciting things.  Being offline for a few hours, or  even a couple of days, can provide you extra time to focus on getting that article written, or in some cases provide inspiration for a whole new article (or two).  I managed to a get a couple of good articles out of my unexpected “grey mode” period.

Write a Letter
We’ve all said it at one time or another, often when frustrated or annoyed, “I’m going to write a letter!”  Well, here’s your chance.  Bring up your favourite word processor, or text editor and bang out some phrases that are sure to convince your audience that you’re right (and that you should get a free case of coke the next time you shop there).  Letters to politicians or other elected officials are also great candidates.

Play a Game
Assuming you have games on your computer which aren’t of the MMO variety playing them can be a great way to kill some time.  A couple of games that I’ve purchased over the last couple of years are Escape Velocity: Nova (EV:Nova) and WingNuts 2.  Both of these games are sci-fi shooters, with EV:Nova extending the genre with trading and other somewhat less violent activities.  EV:Nova also supports a wide ranging plugin architecture that will allow you to download (prior to the network outage, of course) plugins from other players to extend the game or cheat the system.

So there you have it.  A few ways to get your geek on without access to the cloud.  So the next time you find yourself in a coffee shop and don’t feel like paying exorbitant fees to check your email.  Try out a cloud-free activity.  Hey you might even find yourself more productive!

Waxing Poetic on the DNS Incident

For those of you who haven’t been following recent security news, there’s been a major defect found in the DNS protocol which has led to a series of patches for all forms of DNS servers.  Though the issue doesn’t affect most peoples’ home computers, it does affect pretty much every ISP on the planet as it makes older versions of DNS vulnerable to a DNS Cache Poisoning attack.

With a vulnerability so wide-reaching, security researchers decided it would be wise to keep the exact nature of the vulnerability something of a secret until the patches were ready.  They did however announce that a vulnerability had been found.

This announcement was all it took for security-savvy netizens (the ones who know just enough to be dangerous) to start speculating and researching the nature of the DNS defect.  The good thing?  They figured it out.  The bad thing?  They publicized it.

As a keen observer of the whole mess, security expert and blogger Chris Hoff decided to dedicate a poem to the DNS Debacle.  I’ve included a short excerpt:

A bunch of big egos
called Dan on a bluff
said his vuln was a copy
of 10 year old stuff

So Dan swore them on handshakes
and details were provided
and those same cocky claims
soon all but subsided

Go and check the poem out.  It’s extremely creative, and as far as I can tell factually accurate to the events that took place.  My hat’s off to Chris Hoff for providing the prose, now we’ll all cross our fingers and see how it goes…  😉

The Gmail Effect

The Gmail EffectWell it’s not quite as staggering as the Digg Effect that can take down web servers in a single afternoon, but I experienced my own little spike in traffic this week.  When Gmail went through their little bout of difficulty last week I let you know about the post-mortem entry on the Official Gmail blog.

I saw a rather significant spike in traffic as millions of Gmail users checked out the blog, and a few hundred of them clicked through on the trackback which showed up as a result of the post.  Go figure.

I’m a Webaholic

Photo Credit: Nataliej on FlickrThis weekend I find myself, quite unintentionally, without any access to the Internet.  Despite the fact that my wife and I have left the big city for the weekend to head off for a nice quiet weekend away, we had intended to take along a laptop with a CDMA Air-Card which would provide some Internet access via the cell-phone network.  We did remember the laptop, and the Air-Card unfortunately I completely neglected to pack a power-supply for the laptop.

Crud.  Now what?  I have my MacBook with me which is where this post is originating, but I don’t have a PCMCIA slot in the MacBook to accommodate the AirCard.  I will probably be able to pick up a wi-fi hotspot from one of the neighbours, but that’s going to involve getting in the car and parking, rather suspiciously, on the street outside someone’s house to get access to the internets.  Am I that desperate?  Can I truly not live for three days without my Internets??

I’m sad to report that the answer is yes.  My name is Keith, and I’m a Webaholic.  And it’s not just me, both my wife and I felt a mild sense of panic when we realized that our access to the Internet was going to be seriously curtailed this weekend, if not eliminated altogether.

  1. I was going to work on some Flickr reorganization.
  2. She was going to watch the olympics via CBC.ca’s on-line Olympic coverage.
  3. I was going to use my VPN to connect up to work and get a few things straightened out for a couple of projects I’m working on.
  4. She was going to connect to the iTunes store and download the new iPod Touch software and play around with some applications.
  5. I was going to work on a revised version of the blog template (yes, the same revision I blogged about months ago).
  6. I was going to get the next post in my Hardy for the Home series written (and use SSH into the server back home to do it).

Suffice to say the plans have been revised somewhat.  We were both quite happy to do other things, we brought books to read, we walked on the beach, we spent some tourist time in a nearby village shopping in the local mom & pop shops.  It was just a shift from what we had originally planned.  Despite the fact that we traveled out of the Lower Mainland for nearly 6 hours to get where we are, we had still intended a rather Internet-focused long weekend.  I managed to find a HotSpot (read: parked on the side of an unlit road stealing unsecured wi-fi) to check email, but the connection was a bit too unreliable to try using WordPress.

Well there’s my story of net addiction.  What’s yours?

Photo Credit: Nataliej on Flickr

How To Slipstream Windows XP SP3

I’ve decided to go with Windows XP for my dual-boot environment on the MacBook.  Partly due to familiarity, but mostly due to the lower resource requirement.

In setting up this new environment, I needed to decide how to cope with my Windows XP disc being an original, pre SP1 disc.  The solution: Slipstream.

Slipstreaming allows you to create a Windows XP CD that has updates like the most current Service Packs.  In this case, I’ll be adding Service Pack 3.

There are lots of guides on how to do the Slipstream process, including these two on HowToHeaven and Invisibill.  These are great step-by-step tutorials that show you everything involved in the process.  But they’re also very manual.

The tool I’ve chosen to go with is nLite.  This slick little application provides the ability to not only Service Pack your XP installation, but apply lots of other custom features as well.  Here are the steps I went through for my Slipstreaming adventure.  (There is also a step-by-step guide on the nLite Website)

Installation Screen ShotStep 1: When running nLite is to show it where the Windows installation is located.  After that, you’ll need to specify a location for nLite to perform it’s magic.  I chose C:slipstream.

Windows Slipstream ScreenshotStep 2: The next phase is to select the options for your installation.  I’m a whole-hog kinda guy, so I elected to go with every option if for no other reason than to browse the options and screens.

Windows Slipstream Screenshot

Step 3: Pick your Service Pack.  Once you’ve selected a service pack and applied it, nLite will perform the Slipstream operation and integrate the service pack.

Windows Slipstream ScreenshotStep 4: Updates & Hotfixes.  The more that you can download and apply here, the fewer there will be to apply once the windows installation is completed.

Windows Slipstream ScreenshotStep 5: Select components to remove.  nLite gives you the opportunity to eliminate components from the final installation.  This can lighten not only the ISO, but also the final installation.  Beware removing too many options.  By eliminating support for hardware or drivers the usage of the installation will become more limited.  However, if you have a specific application in mind it can help to streamline the process.

Step 6: Unattended Install. The next screen provides the ability to streamline the installation for a smooth unattended install.  If you want to use this option, you’ll need your Windows XP CD key at this stage.

Step 7: Installer Options. This screen allows you to customize some of the behaviours of the installation process including boot-time messages and BIOS backup retention.  If you don’t understand an option, take the default.

Windows Slipstream ScreenshotStep 8: Tweaks. Wow.  This section has dozens upon dozens of options to tweak and adjust virtually every major setting in Windows.  And a whole bunch that aren’t so major.  Take your time with this and make sure to read the little captions for each option.  There are so many possibilities.

Step 9: Integrate all the changes.  nLite will begin to create the installation image, merging together all the changes you’ve selected.  This process will take quite a while.  On my machine it took about 10 minutes.

Windows Slipstream ScreenshotStep 10: Burn the ISO.  Set any last settings you want for the ISO, and click the Create ISO button to start writing the image.  Once the image is written, it can be installed to a VM (VMWare/VirtualServer) or burned to a disk for installation at a later time.