How do I setup my new Mac to run Linux and Windows applications too?
November 12, 2005 5:37 PM   Subscribe

I'm about to get a brand new PowerBook and would like to be able to run OSX, Linux, and run Windows applications. VPC is one option, but isn't there a Linux version that will run Windows applications? If so, what is it, how well does it work, and how best should I setup the computer to use it? Dual boot? Boot from within OSX? Multiple partitions, one for each OS? Since this laptop will be brand new, I'd like to take the opportunity to get everything setup right. Oh yeah, I'd also like to give OpenOffice a try (on the OSX install), any words of wisdom for me there?
posted by pwb503 to Computers & Internet (16 answers total)
Linux only runs Windows applications through WINE, which requires an Intel-based system.

PowerBooks are — for now — based upon PPC chipsets.

You might consider waiting until March 2006 for an Intel-based PowerBook laptop. Rumors suggest Apple may include a variation of WINE that integrates Windows applications directly within the OS X windowing system.

In the meantime, you can run many PPC-based versions of Linux on your PowerBook, although the benefit is not entirely clear since you can run all the same UNIX command-line utilities and tools within OS X's Terminal application. There are also versions of OpenOffice that run under PPC; it's an X11 application, no different than running it under Linux.

If you need to run Windows applications, my advice is to wait for the Intel-based Macs ("Mactel" models).
posted by Rothko at 5:43 PM on November 12, 2005

I'd suggest buying VPC and running Windows and Linux inside it.

OpenOffice is solid; I used it for months. The main advantage of Microsoft Office is better compatibility with complex document formatting and fancy features like Excel PivotTables. MS Office also has a sleeker interface and tends to be faster. But there's nothing that OpenOffice won't do fine for.

Windows emulation on Linux-PPC (Linux for a Mac) is sketchy. There are options for Linux computers on non-Mac boxes (WINE (which includes CrossOver Office), VMWare) but not for Mac boxes. There's a program called Bochs that aspires to be a VPC clone but it's nowhere near working in the foreseeable future.

If you're super crazy, getting a bottom-of-the-barrel Windows box for $100-200 and accessing it via remote desktop might be worth a thought.
posted by twoto2tootutu at 6:04 PM on November 12, 2005

You can partition your drive and have OS.X on one and Linux on the other. I would suggest Yellow Dog Linux. It is designed for PPC. I would second twoto2's suggestion of r-desking if you want to do windows right, none of the emulators work properly (for long).

[Brr... seeing the windows desktop on my mac always gives me a chill.]
posted by Mr T at 6:33 PM on November 12, 2005

I can't wait for the mactels so I can finally get a mac at work (and still access certain key windows apps).

One note: OpenOffice uses X11 instead of the regular os x gui. This means keyboard shortcuts, pasteboard, save dialogs etc. all work differently than the rest of your apps, which can really drive you to distraction. In its place, I highly recommend neoOffice, which has wrapped OO in a much more native interface.
(although they don't yet support for the OO2.0 opendoc file format)
posted by Popular Ethics at 6:48 PM on November 12, 2005

VPC on my 1.33 PB/768 MB RAM is bloody slow...painfully so much of the time.

Somehow I doubt extra MegaHertz makes a difference, but extra RAM might. Others can comment on that.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 7:23 PM on November 12, 2005

You might consider waiting until March 2006 for an Intel-based PowerBook laptop.

Note that this date is complete speculation. The first Intel machines will be coming next year, but nothing has been officially announced, and nobody really knows what's going to be released and when.
posted by xil at 7:27 PM on November 12, 2005

It is speculation, but informed from a mostly accurate source.
posted by Rothko at 7:44 PM on November 12, 2005

I agree about sticking with OSX over linux. There just isn't any reason to run it. OSX will run just about every linux app you can find.
posted by meta87 at 8:05 PM on November 12, 2005

Windows XP under Virtual PC is too slow on my dual 2.0GHz PowerMac with 2.5gb RAM, so don't expect much of it on a G4 PowerBook with (up to) 2gb.

Macs aren't (currently) designed to run Windows applications natively, so I'd hesitate to put money down on one in the hope that it will. If you're switching, you'll probably find after 4 weeks that you've found (superior) alternatives for applications you used in Windows, for OS X.
posted by armoured-ant at 8:42 PM on November 12, 2005

To third or forth or whatever... Unless you have a very specific application that you know you need Linux for, try to stick with the OS X ports. I've had no problems whatsoever running Unix applications on OS X.

As far as I can tell, the only reason to install Linux on a modern Mac is because you can. Which is cool, no denying. But I don't think it buys you much extra functionality.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:32 PM on November 12, 2005

I don't know anything about about Macs, but I can tell you that the new version of Wine, while still severely flawed and still very much beta, is pretty cool... You can, for example, compartmentalize installations and run multiple concurrent versions of IE that don't mess with eachother. It might not seem like much but it's really handy for developers and virtually impossible to do with Windows proper. If you need functionality with complex apps or things that use a lot of proprietary layers like directx you'll be waiting a while for a *nix solution, but if you just need general emulation and don't have major dependencies on things that wont' work for the forseeable future (c'mon Photoshop, Reaktor) wine and winex/cedega have their moments.
I also recently downloaded OO.o 2.0. Functionally, it's impressive and mostly on par with commercial office suites. It has as kind of general sloppiness that comes from having innumerable contributors with no unified design goals, but by and large it gets the job done. Look to be unimpressed but generally satisified.
posted by moift at 11:54 PM on November 12, 2005

Personally, I'd dual boot OSX and Windows proper. With OSX' *nix core and Cygwin on XP you can have all the Linux anyone could ever really want and not have to trifle with severely limited efforts in Windows emulation. Linux is still a better political statement than it is a practical solution for any problem I've encountered.
posted by moift at 11:57 PM on November 12, 2005

Others have said it, but it may not be clear:

Wine, Crossover Office (based on Wine, but commercial), and VMWare will all run Windows apps on Linux, with decent success (listed in least to most capable order here).

All three of them are completely unworkable on Mac OS X. When the Intel Macs are released, Wine will probably work (in a very non-Mac fashion) pretty quickly on them. Crossover and VMWare may work, but they will need to be ported by their respective vendors, and there's is really no telling if or when that will happen.
posted by teece at 12:37 AM on November 13, 2005

Make sure you get the powerbook with the largest secondary cpu cache possible if you are going to run VPC.
posted by mecran01 at 7:02 AM on November 13, 2005

vpc is largely a waste of hard disk space imho. i've used it on both powerbooks and a g5 and found it tired and cumbersome for anything other than short term use. open office will deal with most any ms office filetypes that you throw at it. also, most windows apps (other than games) often have an open source equivelant on linux (yeah, okay, i'll go back to slashdot in a minute)

for dual booting linux i'd recomend going with the ppc version of ubuntu rather than yellowdog. ubuntu is one of the best maintained linux distros, has an incredible friendly and helpful community and is relativelly easy to set up and install on partitiion on a powerbook. with a bit of work you can also run maconlinux so you don't have to reboot to switch partitions.
posted by tnai at 9:28 AM on November 13, 2005

I've had VPC running on a DP G5 and a 800MHz G4 Powerbook w/1 GB of RAM. I have it to run a program to access a central database on the internet. I have no way around this. Everything else I need has OS X compatiblity -- no problem -- even when sharing with others using PC's.

When I was learning to use the PC program on some PC boxes the program ran as slow as it did then as it does on my Powerbok. The sluggishness of the database/connection/interface far oputpaced (underpaced?) the slowness of VPC. (Saving the PC state is the best thing I do to improve usablity of VPC. It does take a forever-long time to start-up.)
posted by Dick Paris at 11:55 AM on November 13, 2005

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