In a previous installment of “Toolbox,” I discussed Apple's move to open its new Intel-powered Macs to Microsoft Windows as well as OS X. Recently, I had the opportunity to use Boot Camp to install Microsoft Windows XP Home edition on a new 13.3" widescreen MacBook.

According to Apple, the new MacBook is the replacement for both the iBook and the ultra-portable 12" PowerBook G4 (a model that was very near and dear to my heart). It has an Intel Core Duo 2.0 processor that is basically two processors in one chip. It features a glossy 13.3" widescreen display (glossy screens have been around on PC laptops for a while, but this is Apple's first). The MacBook comes with an 80GB internal hard drive, a slot loading DVD-burning SuperDrive, and 512MB of RAM installed. You'll definitely want to install more RAM though, as the MacBook uses an Intel GMA (Graphics Media Accelerator) 950 shared graphics processor, which borrows from the system RAM. It uses a minimum of 64MB and can borrow more depending on the needs of the OS. It is also the first non-pro laptop from Apple that supports external video via “Extended Desktop” of up to 1920×1200 pixels in addition to mirroring (having a second screen displaying alternate information, such as a Keynote presentation or DVD video). It has a built-in iSight camera for video chatting and built-in gigabit Ethernet, as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0.

After setting up the MacBook with OS X, I proceeded to run Boot Camp and partition the hard drive. The installation of Windows actually went very smoothly. The Boot Camp installer automatically burned a CD containing all the necessary Windows drivers to ensure that the Mac would function properly in the Windows environment. I installed the universal binary version of Apple's Final Cut Studio onto the MacBook, and it worked very well. Even though Apple used a lower-end graphics processor on the MacBook, the software was snappy and responsive. Of course, Apple's official word is that the software will work, but is not officially supported. That being said, I had no problems running any of the software in Final Cut Studio, including Motion. I was also happy to see that Dataton's Watchout 3 installed and ran on the machine when booted in Windows XP.

While we are on the subject of Watchout, I should point out that version 3.1.1 for Windows is now available and brings a slew of improvements over previous versions 2.x and 3.x. The most significant new feature is most likely ability to warp imagery to appear correct on curved screens. This type of geometric correction enables you to compensate for any optical distortion caused by off-axis projection onto a curved surface. In addition, thanks to DirectX (which is Windows-only software, the reason the Mac version of Watchout was discontinued), Watchout 3 allows the programmer to see complete videos and animations in the preview window rather than just single frame previews. This means that you can get a much better sense of what is happening on screen if you need to program off-site and don't have access to a networked display computer.

So now that my MacBook was ready for programming, I dove into the world of show control. A new device has recently come to my attention as the latest (and possibly most affordable) way to make Watchout communicate with a lighting board. Rosco's Keystroke is a software/hardware combination product that works with Windows XP to simulate a keyboard shortcut when triggered by DMX. It is pretty simple to set up: the Keystroke hardware waits for the assigned DMX signal on the assigned channel, and once it is received, it commands the computer it is connected to via USB to execute a keyboard shortcut.

Keystroke works with any application on a PC that uses shortcuts, including PowerPoint. It is programmable, so you can define what keyboard shortcut you'd like it to execute. This means it can control the computer's DVD player, Windows Media Player, or sound design software. The device itself is relatively small and draws its power from the USB port. Keystroke retails for $399.00. I'm told that the Mac version of the software is coming out by the fall, just in time for LDI.

Got a problem that you need solved? Found a cool trick that you'd like to share? Looking for a recommendation on a piece of hardware or software? Comments? Drop me a line at Zachary@Borovay.com.

RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS COLUMN:

Apple MacBook: www.apple.com/macbook/macbook.html

Apple Final Cut Studio: www.apple.com/finalcutstudio/

Dataton Watchout 3: www.dataton.com

Rosco: www.rosco.com/us/software/keystroke.asp