/ technology

Windows on Mac

Last week, I got all excited about Apple's announcement of BootCamp, their beta software that would allow one to configure a new Intel Macintosh computer as a dual-boot configuration, allowing users to run WindowsXP on their Macs. This is exciting because even though I love Apple and OSX for just abut everything, my daily workflow involves creating 3D architectural models with a little program called AutoCAD, which is Windows-only. There has always been that missing void in my Mac's capability.

When I got my last Powerbook I also purchased VirtualPC which allowed you to install and run Windows in emulation. What this means is that software is translating the instructions meant to be executed on an Intel cpu for the PowerPC cpu that was installed on my old Powerbook. This is an excruciatingly slow process, and as a result, even Notepad crawled along, unusably slow, causing me to re-name the product "Virtually Useless PC".

So naturally when Apple announced that they were coming out with Intel-based Macs, a lot of people jumped to the vision of Windows on Mac. Initially, Apple said they would not support such a setup, then a guy figured out how to do it on his own, and I guess Apple figured if you can't beat 'em join 'em, announcing BootCamp last week.

But BootCamp only supports WindowsXP, and requires you to reboot your computer whenever you want to use the alternate operating system -- it's one or the other. So imagine my delight when late last week I discovered another new product that allows one to install Windows2000 and run it on your Intel Mac alongside of OSX.

I installed the free beta of Parallels Workstation for OSX this weekend, which was extremely simple -- no re-partitioning, no nothing; the biggest pain of the whole process was installing all the patches to Windows 2000 -- and I now have a laptop computer that runs the most elegant operating system in the world, and is also able to run the shittiest operating system in the world, at the same time, for those times when I really need to do that.

Installing Win2K on a Mac!

The speed is pretty good, obviously much better than Virtual PC since there's no emulation overhead. But there is still some overhead associated with the hardware virtualization -- the operating system needs to be fooled into thinking it's the only game in town -- and so the boot process is a little slow. But once up and running, it loads AutoCAD drawings faster than my old Athlon desktop system, which I guess is about to be donated. Simply amazing.

AutoCAD running on an Intel Mac

Unfortunately, it's not perfect, yet. At the moment the virtual Windows computer exists in somewhat of a void. The filesystem cannot access the main filesystem, which means the only way to get files to and from the Windows "hard drive" is via email or CD-ROM. But this is a temporary situation, support for sharing files between the virtual Windows computer and the host system is planned for the full release.

For me, I think Parallels is a better option than BootCamp, and I plan on purchasing a copy when they release it. I've got a month to play with the free beta, and I still sorta can't believe my eyes when I see a Windows2000 boot screen on my Mac.

This is what I've wanted for four and a half years, right after I fell in love with OSX: Windows when I need it. Yeah!!