Lets Pretend Its Hardware

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2002-01-21

In 1989, I reviewed Prowares $50 PC-MIX (Multitasking Interactive Executive), which brought astonishing concurrent capability to 8088-based DOS PCs. It created virtual machines that provided even more usable memory than bare-metal DOS on a 386 with memory management software. Thirteen years later, modern utilities finally offer even greater control of both personal and enterprise computing.

Connectixs Virtual PC 5.0 enables concurrent sessions of as many operating systems (including different versions of Windows, OS/2 or Linux) as your hardware can handle—and runs those sessions on a Macintosh. You can drag and drop files between desktops or copy and paste data between Mac and Windows applications. A session that goes bad can be killed, restoring the state of the previous session: Now thats an Undo command.

Some people go over the top about Virtual PC, saying things like "Even a PC is better when it runs on a Mac." Reality check, please: When I ran a CD-based Windows game on a top-end Macintosh laptop, the opening narration was almost incoherent. The Windows version of Adobe Photoshop LE 5.0 runs half as fast in a Win98 session on that 667MHz G4 as it does on a 400MHz AMD K6. Technology is still distinguishable from magic.

But Photoshop LE is at least as reliable in the virtual session: I havent crashed it yet, an all-too-common occurrence on my Presario. If further testing does crash the Win98 session, I can run Windows 2000—on the same Macintosh.

On Wintel hardware, Virtual PC 4.2 for Windows or VMwares Workstation 3.0 likewise enable concurrent sessions with different operating systems. VMware also has heavyweight server products. Sun promises virtualization in Solaris 9—and at Danish ISP Telia Net, IBMs VM operating system runs 1,500 virtual Linux servers on one 12-CPU IBM S/390. Telia Net can deploy a new server in 90 seconds and buy its computing by the ton, instead of in far more costly single-serving containers.

Virtuality is a virtuous proposition.

Tell me what virtues you find in short supply at peter_coffee@ziffdavis.com.

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