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VirtualRiscPC sneaked onto Mac OS X

By Mark Stephens. Published: 20th Apr 2006, 13:42:59 | Permalink | Printable

The benefits of Apple's Macinteltosh switch

VRPC running on an Intel MacBeing able to run RISC OS on Mac OS X would probably be the highlight of 2006 for many of the users who have picked up a Mac to sit alongside their RISC OS machines. When VirtualRiscPC for Mac OS X will arrive is best left to VirtualAcorn, although what we've discovered here might be the next best thing. Riding the coat tails of Apple's switch to using Intel processors, it's now possible to run Microsoft Windows applications on the shiny Mac OS X desktop - and this includes VirtualRiscPC.

When Apple announced that the next generation of their Mac computer would use an Intel x86 chip inside, there was a lot of speculation about whether or not it will allow users to run Microsoft Windows alongside Mac OS X. Windows emulators have not been very successful on PowerPC processor Macs so far because of the need to emulate the Intel chip in software - rather like VirtualRiscPC does for the ARM chip. Unless the processor doing the emulation is much faster than the emulated system, the emulated machine will obviously run at a snail's pace. Having an Intel chip inside the new Macs, and a very fast one at that, means that this is no longer necessary.

Like buses, we have waited with baited breath for a solution to allow Macs to run Windows and now four different solutions have come along at once. One of them is Apple's official BootCamp solution, but this involves an awkward dual-booting process. However, the most interesting approach is a promising new package called Parallels, which not only allows the new Intel Macs to boot up as either a Windows or a Mac machine, but also allows Windows, and indeed lots of operating systems, to run as an application within the Mac desktop; either inside a window or in full screen mode - which is faster. It looks and acts like a proper WinXP box complete with sound, networking, viruses, and so on. Sound familiar to some other software?

So having installed WinXP onto my new Mac with an Intel chip, the next question is whether it will run VirtualAcorn's VirtualRiscPC emulator, followed by the burning question of how fast will it all be. Thanks to lots of help from VA's Aaron Timbrell, I think the screenshots below should answer those questions. The amount of memory and resources allocated to the Parallels software can be configured, and VRPC can be run in full screen mode to hide away WinXP all together.

Parallels is still officially a beta product, which will cost 23 quid - a purchase which is a bit of a no brainer having spent nearly two grand on the fastest, most elegant laptop in town. It turns the Mac into a very powerful multi-platform machine and you can finally run a decent text editor on it. We'll leave the choice of StrongEd or Zap to you.


Update at 17:54 22/4/2006
Don't speak too soon about Mac OS X.


More about Parallels VirtualRiscPC website

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Well its rather a round the houses solution, but it works so that something.

But we still want a version of VirtualAcorn that runs natively Mac OSX and Linux, as we dont want to put any more money in Bill Gate's pockets.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 20/4/06 1:56PM
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I don't understand VirtualAcorn's reluctance to release OSX and/or Linux versions of VRPC. It was at last year's Wakefield show that we saw VRPC running on Mac OS X (natively on PowerPC) and I think it was the Guildford show the year before (if not earlier) that had VRPC running on Linux. All together now: Why are we waiting, oh why are we waiting... :-(

 is a RISC OS Userhelpful on 20/4/06 2:24PM
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To be fair, I can understand not wanting to release on Linux, given the wide range of destination systems out there (and I speak as a Linux user myself!). However, they ought to set against that the fact that Linux users are undoubtedly towards the capable-geek end of the spectrum, which would lower the support burden. Let's be honest, they'd probably sell quite a few even if it was released "with no support beyond installation".

However, the MacOSX version really ought to be a priority, especially with the new Macs now out. Provided, of course, that they can get a Universal Binary built...

My only route to running RISC OS on my main PC now is VA under wine, which works but isn't quick. Wiring up the RPC takes a while so rarely gets done :-(

 is a RISC OS Userjohnpettigrew on 20/4/06 4:14PM
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Long time reader, first time (?) poster...

I really must take issue with the statement "you can finally run a decent text editor on it.", as a long time RISCOS and MacOS user (there is an A9Home on the desk next to me, and a Core Duo iMac on my desk, so I can compare the two side by side), I know the editors on both platforms very well. If you have ever used TextWrangler (free!), BBEdit, TextMate, Xcode, or almost any other text editor or IDE on the Mac, you will find them to be in a totally different class to StrongEd and Zap in every way, unicode support, code completion, folding, CVS/Subversion support is only the beginning. Xcode isn't even intended to be a standalone editor, but it's superior to anything on RISC OS (or Windows, for that matter).

I hate to rant on about this, but the longer us RISCOS users kid ourselves that certain software is comparable to Mac/Windows offerings, the worse the software situation will become. I could start banging on about Artworks Vs Illustrator/Freehand/Fireworks, but that's a discussion for another day...

 is a RISC OS Usermugent on 20/4/06 4:44PM
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I think the !Zap v. !StrongEd was intended as a 'slightly light-hearted' end note....

But, I think comparing them with IDEs is a little unfair. If you want code completion, version control and code folding, you want a proper IDE (and both IDEA and Eclipse are much better than Xcode or TextWrangler as editors for a large number of languages). Neither would claim to offer these. I would not call these features of a text editor (rather you are looking for a decent hex display, intelligent highlighting for known filetype, powerful edit capabities and so on).

But as text editors, both RISCOS tools are very strong and support a very wide range of filetypes.

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 20/4/06 7:14PM
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In reply to druck:

I agree that we (I) want a version of VirtualRPC to run on Mac OS, but my reasoning is slightly different. Yes, I object to putting money in Bill Gates' pocket, but I object even more to having a computer that runs an unstable, insecure, user-unfriendly operating system in my house - even if it only runs that os in emulation mode.

My daughter starts university in October. Having used both Windows and Mac OS she has made it clear that she wants a Mac OS laptop to take with her. If VirtualRPC for Mac OS isn't available soon she, and many like her, will be lost to our platform for ever.

 is a RISC OS Usercables on 21/4/06 11:17AM
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To helpful:

Perhaps VA aren't being reluctant - perhaps they're working their butts off to get something out in time for Wakefield? I'm sure they must be aware that there are a lot of people with money ready to buy the Mac version of VirtualRiscPC - me, for example. So, in the lead-up to what is usually the biggest event in the RISC OS calendar, I wouldn't blame them for pulling some all-nighters.

 is a RISC OS Userkrisa on 21/4/06 11:20AM
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krisa: The reluctance is about porting it to Linux, not Mac, and I'm sure any delays to the Mac release aren't down to reluctance.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 21/4/06 11:52AM
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cables> are you suggesting that Windows XP is "unstable, insecure, user-unfriendly"?

Why do people insist on banging this drum? I just don't think it's true any more. Yes, RISC OS is more user-friendly but I doubt it's more stable and more secure (other than via obscurity).

 is a RISC OS Userjonix on 21/4/06 2:39PM
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In reply to John pettgrew:

My only route to running RISC OS on my main PC now is VA under wine, which works but isn't quick.

Would that be VA5000, Red Squirrel or VARPC ? Does a step by step guide to do it exist ?

 is a RISC OS Userjustice on 21/4/06 9:56PM
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In reply to jonix:

Yes, that is exactly what I am suggesting. But not through bias - through painful experience. I bought an XP laptop so I could use VirtualRPC but I found I was spending more time removing adware and spyware than I was doing anything productive. I tried to remove the dreadful software I had bought that was supposed to prevent such things and it refused to go. I eventually gave the laptop to my wife and bought an Apple iMac as the family's second computer.

I suppose that, given the problems I've recently been having with my Iyonix freezing, it's a bit unfair for me to criticize other platforms for being unstable. But Risc Os continues to be secure and user friendly despite the appalling instability I am currently suffering.

 is a RISC OS Usercables on 22/4/06 8:48AM
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It's a great shame that, even now, VirtualRPC is still only sold for Windows. Imagine that! Most of us have very good reason to avoid Windows whenever possible, so why is a Linux and Mac OS X version still missing?

I can understand the Linux argument, but they could improvise - eg. set up a voluntary support mailing list or only support certain distro's under specific configurations. I'm sure people would understand and just be happy they aren't running it under Windows. Besides that, I second what johnpettigrew said about it. Many Linux users seem pretty confident and capable to work out problems. As for Mac OS X, the only reason I can think of it not being available, is that VA is building a Universal Binary version. Surely VA could support an OS X version at least as well as the Windows version?

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 22/4/06 10:10AM
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Re. Windows XP - I run Windows XP both at work and at home and have had very few problems. I don't seem to need to spend forever removing spyware/adware, and both systems are generally very stable.

I can quite imagine why VA don't want to touch Linux, it would just be a support headache. While most linux users may well know what they're doing more and more are seeing the free price tag, downloading a CD and trying it. If they supplied GUI doesn't do what they need then they're stuck. (This isn't a critisim of them - a lot of people don't have the inclination or time to learn what command line magic they need to do things they need). A mailing list of forum is okay for free software, but if you've paid over £100 for something that doesn't run on your PC, I think you'd expect some form of proper support.

As to the Mac, I'd guess they're waiting until they can get an Intel Mac version out - if the Intel Macs are the claim speed up from the PPC, I'd be targetting those over the PPC versions.

 is a RISC OS Usercmj on 24/4/06 4:16PM
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cmj: If the GUI that comes with a linux distro (which would be Gnome or KDE) doesn't do what the user needs, they can't do what they need in Windows either! The days are long gone when Linux desktops were less capable than Windows; they're now fully as user-friendly but retain their vast superiority in configurability. But, as has been said, I think we all understand that the variables involved in supporting VA on Linux would be many, and that this reduces the chances that we'll ever see VA on Linux.

Let's just hope that we see VA on MacOS soon :)

 is a RISC OS Userjohnpettigrew on 24/4/06 6:49PM
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[4th image] Shouldn't the processor speed read in MHz not Mhz? I think I'm right... no, I know I'm right!

 is a RISC OS Userharmsy on 25/4/06 1:50PM
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Next thing you'll be saying Hostfs should be HostFS and the third image should have MIPS and FPS rather than mips and fps. ;-)

 is a RISC OS Userxyzzy on 26/4/06 11:51AM
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