Windows Server 2012 on a Macbook

Server Manager, Windows Server 2012After the failure of an old computer running Windows Server 2003, I setup Windows Server 2012 on a Macbook.

Years ago, I set up a Sony Vaio PCG-Z505HS running Windows Server 2003 at home so I could keep up with Macs and Active Directory. When I recently experienced problems with DHCP and DNS, I discovered that the Vaio had died. There was no LED power indication. My troubleshooting consisted of jiggling the power connector and checking the power supply voltage. When I measured voltage from the AC adaptor, I gave up, using the rationale that it had lived its useful life. The Vaio, with a Pentium 3, 500 MHz CPU, was introduced in January 2000.

Coincidentally, I had a hardware failure in my Macbook (late 2006), so I decided to repurpose it as a domain server using an evaluation version of Windows Server 2012.

The Windows Server 2012 installation was simple using the Server with a GUI mode installation. The Server Manager and configuration tools greatly simplify the setup. With Windows Server 2012 on a Macbook running silicon introduced in 2006 – an Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor T7200 that has Intel® Virtualization Technology (VT-x), the next step is to try virtualization. As a Macbook running OS X, I successfully ran VMware Fusion VMs running Ubuntu and Windows 2000, though I forsee the 3 GB of RAM in the current system will be a limiting factor.

The best part about running an Active Directory domain at home is joining computeres to the domain. The welcome message says, “Welcome to the lower_slobbovia domain.

Macbook in a Mini-ITX Case

Macbook (late 2006), disassembled

My Macbook (Late 2006) has gone through many modifications and operating systems. Recently, it decided to stop responding to keyboard or trackpad input. Instead of trying to replace the trackpad/keyboard cable (which I’ve done once already), I decided to put logic board of the Macbook in a Mini-ITX case and try an evaluation version of Windows Server 2012.

ifixit’s MacBook Core 2 Duo Logic Board Replacement guide was helpful with the disassembly. After removing the logic board, I stripped the bottom case of the remaining parts (SSD, hard disk, speakers, display, etc). The MacBook logic board was short enough to fit in the case with the ports and connectors lining up with the opening for the Mini-ITX backplane.

Macbook in a Mini-ITX Case

I thought using the Macbook bottom case would be the best way to mount the system board because the case helps to align the MagSafe connector and the fan/heatsink assembly. I also wouldn’t have to mount other stand-offs in the Mini-ITX case. I used Dremel cut-off wheels to cut down the case bottom. To mount the logic board in the Mini-ITX case, I used double-sided foam tape.

The wiring for the ancillary devices – Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and speakers – were routed around the inside of the new case. The Mini-ITX case came with a bracket to mount 3.5″ hard drives internally but with non-standard headers on the logic board, I abandoned that idea. There was also a power supply, which I removed. I wired the power switch on the front of the case to the trackpad/keyboard connector on the logic board.

I had already removed the DVD drive when it stopped working in the summer of 2011 and replaced it with an SSD. I used double-sided tape to mount the SSD and the second hard drive to a bracket mounted above the logic board. Eventually, the short cable for the second hard disk failed and when I replaced it, the connector on the logic board failed from too many insertions.

When I first powered it on, it actually worked. The Mini-ITX case is slightly larger than a Mac mini (200 x 225 x 56mm vs 197 x 197 x 36mm) and slightly less attractive but it works. My only regret was breaking the circuit board for the system LED when I was disassembling the case.

Windows 8 on a Macbook

Microsoft Windows 8 Release Preview on Apple Macbook (Late 2006)

I installed the Microsoft Windows 8 Release Preview (x64) on my Apple Macbook (Late 2006). Over the years I’ve upgraded my Macbook’s hardware – it now has 3 GB RAM, a 120 GB OCZ Agility 3 SSD and a 320 GB Western Digital WD3200BEKT hard disk. I use rEFIt as the boot manager for the two main operating systems that I use, Windows 7 and OS X Lion.

I ran the Windows 8 setup program from an external DVD drive while booted to Windows 7 and the installation took about 25 minutes. Everything worked pretty well except the audio. I could see by the red glow coming from the audio jack that it had to defaulted to the SPDIF (digital) output. I installed the Bootcamp 4.0 IDT Sigmatel audio drivers and the analog sound output started working.

Thanks to Paul Thurrott for the instructions on setting up Windows Media Center, I was able to get the TV tuner working after I installed the Silicon Dust HDHomeRun TV tuner Windows drivers.

Once I got the dual monitor setup working and installed Google Chrome, I realized that Windows 8 is pretty much like Windows 7, except for the Metro interface. It seems that Microsoft’s goal with Windows 8 is to simplify Windows with Metro. The side effect of this is hiding everything that is of use to the power user – which made the learning curve going from Windows 7 to 8 slightly steeper. Fortunately, switching between Metro and the desktop interface is simple. The main problem with the Metro interface for me (besides that you can only see one running app at a time) is that I would never use the apps that are tiled on the main screen.

When I realized it would take me a week to install everything else to get to the equivalent of the working system I had on Windows 7, I did an image restore back to Windows 7.

I’m not so down on Windows 8 now that I’ve used it for a while. Microsoft has made improvements in Windows 8 that are helpful to the power user – Windows Explorer – now called File Explorer – is much more robust, for example. Windows 8 even runs fairly quickly on my 5.5 year old hardware and it only took about 30 seconds to boot. So while it looks like Windows 8 will run well on this legacy system, unfortunately Apple won’t be supporting my MacBook (Late 2006) with it’s next OS, Mountain Lion.

5 Year Old Macbook vs the Latest Macbook Air

Apple Macbook (late 2006) Geekbench scoreI recently noticed that my Apple MacBook, (late 2006), doesn’t seem to be slowing down. I’d think that an almost five year-old computer would start to be sluggish.

I don’t use that many processor intensive applications, but with Mac OS X Snow Leopard (10.6.7), I am able to run SETI@Home, VMWare Fusion running Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat, Remote Desktop Connection, Photoshop, iTunes, Transmit, Chrome (with 10 tabs open) and Firefox, all at the same time without bogging down. When I boot my Macbook to Windows 7, the performance is similar.

My Macbook has an Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor T7200 (4M Cache, 2.00 GHz, 667 MHz FSB). The only hardware upgrades I’ve done on it were to increase the RAM to 3GB and install a 320GB 7200 rpm hard disk. I have three paritions on the disk: a 100GB Mac OS Extended for OSX, a 75GB NTFS for Windows 7 and a 140 GB NTFS for data.

While browsing for the specs for my computer, I noticed that the Geekbench score of the latest Apple MacBook Air (late 2010) – 2698 – wasn’t that much higher than my Macbook – 2603. The current Macbook Air uses an Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor SL9400 (6MB Cache, 1.86 GHz, 1066 MHz FSB). I would think that the MBA, with a larger L2 cache, faster FSB and SSD would at least be a lot faster than my Macbook. In fact, when I run Geekbench on my Macbook, it scores 2706.

Of course the Macbook Air is 2.3 lbs (1.04 kg) lighter and has a much greater cool factor than my Macbook, but I’m strong enough to handle 5.2 lbs (2.36 kg). When my Macbook starts to feel slow, I’ll probably go to an SSD and replace the DVD drive with my current hard disk in a MCE OptiBay.

The latest 13″ Macbook Pro, with an Intel® Core™ i7-2620M Processor, has a Geekbench score that 6796. That would probably be OK for another couple of years.