• Newsletter Issue #346

    July 17th, 2006


    I want to think that we’re not stuck in a rut when a single topic spreads across two shows. But we highlighted even more ways to run Windows software on a Mac during our July 13th episode. The featured players included Jeremy White, President & CEO of CodeWeavers, publishers of the forthcoming CrossOver Mac, and Douglas Nassaur, President & CEO of True North Technology, where you can access all your applications as online services. Both require Apple’s X11 application, an optional installation from your Mac OS X installer, to function on your Mac, so they appear like native applications. We’ll have to see where these individual technologies take us, but they are both quite intriguing.

    For a thought-provoking change of pace, we talked to Bob Parsons, the outspoken CEO of godaddy.com who discussed “domain kiting” and other hot topics. Parsons doesn’t take any prisoners, nor mince words. We hope to have him on again in the near future.

    Then there’s my good friend David Biedny, as we paid yet another thought-provoking visit to “The David Biedny Zone.” This time David addressed some of the hot button issues of the day, including how Microsoft has wasted $7 to $8 billion developing Windows Vista and Office 2007, yet can’t seem to figure out how to get the products out. He also talked about his favorite free and low-cost audio plugins that just happen to work on GarageBand. David posted the list in the show’s message forums for all to see.

    As to our other show, The Paracast, the debate about the infamous Billy Meier UFO contact case has continued to rage in our very active forums on the subject. But we have decided we need a change of pace. So our July 18th episode will feature Imara, who was recognized as one of “The 100 Top Psychics in America” in the best-selling book by Paulette Cooper and Paul Noble. Even if you’re a skeptic, you will be fascinated by Imara’s amazing insights. Yes, Gene and David will ask her for an “instant analysis” of their personalities and potential.


    It’s easy to regard your options to run Windows on a Mac as pretty much of a done deal. On a PowerPC model, the market is dominated by the sleek Microsoft Virtual PC. For Intel-based Macs, almost all the talk these days is focused on Parallels Desktop and Apple’s Boot Camp.

    But these aren’t the only options. If you don’t want to bother with buying, installing and coping with Windows, there are ways to run the software without having to buy and install any operating system. One is the forthcoming CrossOver Mac from CodeWeavers and the other alternative, a subscription-based service, comes from True North Technology.

    That doesn’t mean the days of the traditional emulator or virtual machine, to use the new parlance, is over. Far from it. If you have both a PowerPC and Intel-based Mac, and still want to install Windows, you have to consider buying one application for the former and a different one for the latter.

    But wouldn’t it be nice if you could use the very same application for both? That’ll slightly reduce the pain of having to acquire two copies of Windows, although let’s not forget that it is bundled with certain versions of Microsoft Virtual PC.

    This is a question I hoped to answer with still another virtual machine alternative, iEmulator. For just $23.95, you get an amazingly minimalist application that’s advertised as compatible with any PowerPC based Mac with a G3 or better, or an Intel-based model. The list of supported operating systems even includes the Windows Vista beta, which doesn’t function on Parallels, and can be installed under Boot Camp only with great difficulty.

    I was intrigued and had the folks at iEmulator send me a user license for testing. As you notice, I haven’t provided a product rating just yet, because I’ve run into a some irksome problems must be dealt with first.
    iEmulator has essentially a Mac port of an open source PC virtual machine known as QEMU, with a Mac interface added. The folks at iEmulator have kept the setup process as simple as possible. You create a virtual machine by configuring a few essentials, such as networking, RAM allotment, sound support, the size of your drive image, and optical drive capability. Supported operating systems include various flavors of Windows and Linux.

    You can install from a drive image, or direct from the CD or DVD. You are also supposed to be able to import your Virtual PC 7 disk image, and here’s where I ran into some frustrating difficulties. The first time I tried, on a Power Mac G5 quad, the image wouldn’t boot, even with such variants as Safe Mode. After consulting with the support people at iEmulator, I tried a recovery process that involves using a regular Windows installer CD and going through a few command line steps. This also ended in failure, as did doing the same thing on a 17-inch MacBook Pro.

    Throwing caution to the winds, I deleted the virtual machine disk image on the MacBook Pro and went for the gold: Windows Vista beta 2. I followed iEmulator’s instructions to the letter, including creating an uncompressed hard drive image of at least 13GB and checking a box in the setup screen for to provide support for both Windows 2000 and Windows Vista.

    Over the next couple of days, installations were attempted from two Vista DVDs, and even a disk image without success. The installation always halted with a “hard” error, and that was the end of it. iEmulator’s support person suggested said, “I think I may have figured out why you’re having issues with Vista: it seems Microsoft released two versions of beta 2: 5384 as well as 5456. Although MS intended to fix some issues with 5384, they seem to have caused a few others. Even MS admits that 5456 is not a ‘fully tested build.’ As such, please try the original official beta 2 release, build 5384: it should install without any problems.”

    It so happens that I did use the official beta 2 version that I downloaded direct from Microsoft on two separate occasions.

    Finally, I decided to take the traditional route, which was to use a standard Windows XP SP2 installer CD, the very same one that worked successfully with both Boot Camp and Parallels Desktop. The installation on the MacBook Pro, which took less than an hour on these two, proceeded with fits and stops under iEmuator. At one point, during a file copying process, things stopped dead for over 15 minutes, and then continued without any further interruption. In all, I took over two hours for start to the appearance of the standard Windows desktop.

    Although iEmulator is a Universal application, it revealed little of the power of Parallels Desktop. The initial boot process was over twice as long, and performance was lethargic in all respects, not much different than Virtual PC on my Power Mac.

    What’s more, there’s no special support for transitioning from the mouse functions on the virtual machine and your regular Mac. You must click on the iEmulator window to use Windows and its software, and Control-Click to allow your mouse to function normally under Mac OS X, which is somewhat inconvenient, but I suppose not a show-stopper.

    The only real problem I encountered was the sound of silence. Yes, there wasn’t a peep from Windows XP, and none of the emulation options in the setup panel would function. iEmulator’s people suggested I download a driver that they felt would function, but it had been removed from the site they listed for me. Another alternative wouldn’t install, and delivered a prompt that I didn’t have any sound hardware.

    To be sure, iEmulator, despite being at version 1.7.9, is very much a work in progress, and I do hope the company will improve its performance so I can recommend it as a low-cost alternative. For now, I’m remain the fence-sitter. I do understand, however, that others have had success with the application, and I only hope that a solution will soon be found for the problems I encountered.


    The last thing anyone might say about Superman Returns is that it makes a political statement. Yet certain commentators has said that very thing because of one phrase from the script that was widely shown in the trailers for the film, in which Perry White, editor of the Daily Planet, wonders if the man of steel still stands for “truth, justice and all that stuff.”

    Of course, fans of Superman will recall that the original phrase included the words “the American way,” and that’s where a couple of talking heads have jumped into the fray. You see, Warner Brothers and script writers Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris have decreed that Superman is a citizen of the planet and not of any one country. Besides, with today’s political situation, and the fact that overseas returns may mean the difference between profit and loss for this ultra-expensive venture, they decided to take the politically correct approach.

    As a result, these talking heads have suggested that maybe Americans should boycott the film. Superman belongs to us, and not to anyone else, they say. Rather than get into the nitty-gritty of the situation, let me remind one and all that we’re talking about a mere comic book character here. With any Superman movie, you expect over-the-top villains and action, and a fun ride, not political statements.

    To be sure, I had a great time, particularly at the local IMAX, where some segments were edited in post-production to provide a very compelling 3D effect. Performances of the lead players ranged from good to excellent, as double Oscar winner Kevin Spacey truly made Lex Luther his own super bad guy. Newcomer Brandon Routh fills Superman’s tights quite well, particularly after bulking up for the role for several months. As others have suggested, his performance echoes that of the late Christopher Reeve, but his dialog readings are less matter-of-fact and more heartfelt. As the nerdy mild mannered alter-ego, reporter Clark Kent, he’s still the eager bumbler, but he’s toned down the excesses that always disturbed me about Reeve’s portrayal.

    The special effects are about as close to superb as a modern fantasy adventure film can be. The flying scenes have been digitally enhanced, influenced to some degree by Spider-Man. So you’re never quite sure where the actor begins and the CGI character ends. Regardless, the illusion works, at least most of the time.

    Since this is meant as a sequel, rather than a recreation, some dialog was written to deliberately echo 1978’s Superman The Movie, particularly after the spectacular rescue of a plane carrying a space shuttle.

    Now that the franchise has returned, I do hope the next film, which is tentatively slated for 2009, will stake out some new territory, and that means no more Luther. There are lots of super villains to mine from the comics, and we could use a change of pace.


    The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.

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