ISSUE 597: Zisman- April 3 2001
The high-tech office
Mac fans can easily utilize most Windows programs
Being a Mac user in an overwhelmingly PC
universe can be like trying to swim upstream. Even in mostly PC
businesses, there will often remain pockets of Macs, whether for the
graphics, layout or Web designers. Or there could be a die-hard Mac
user who just refuses to let go.
As a result, there's a market for products aiming to
help Mac-users fight the current. There are a few new ones from Connectix
Doubletalk (about $150) is designed for Mac users with
no knowledge of the sometimes dark art of Windows networking and no
interest in being forced to learn these mystic skills to share printers
and files with their PC-using colleagues.
And, to a large extent, it succeeds in making the
Windows network appear to be another basic Mac service.
Doubletalk installation walks the user through a few
basic questions, then searches out and connects to existing Windows
networks. When it's done, the Windows network, with any shared drives
and Postscript printers, appear in the Mac Chooser, just like standard
Mac Appletalk network resources. As a result, Mac users can print to
the PC network's printers and read and save files to shared drives and
folders. And Mac files saved on a networked PC's drives appear as Mac
files, not as foreign PC files. Users can even install and run Mac
applications across the network, totally ignoring that the network is
actually on a PC.
However, while Doubletalk lets the Macs use PC-based
resources, there's no way for the PCs to access files on the Mac. For
that, and other functions, users willing to put up with a somewhat more
complex installation might be better off with the more expensive (about
$250) Thursby Software product, Dave (www.thursby.com).
Connectix's Virtual PC has been around for several
years and has now been updated to version 4.0. As the name suggests, it
installs an actual (well, virtual) PC residing on your Mac's hard
drive. Double-click on an icon and watch as it appears as though a PC
is booting up, checking the memory, loading files and starting up the
operating system of your choice. VPC comes in versions with DOS,
Windows 98 or 2000, or Red Hat Linux, all at different prices
reflecting the cost of the different operating systems.
Once your PC operating system is up and running, you
can install and run standard PC applications, access the Internet or a
Windows network and, in fact, do pretty much anything you would on a
Except VPC is slower. VPC is emulating a physical PC,
translating instructions intended for an Intel-style processor
into a language the Mac's PowerPC processor can understand. Modern Macs
are fast and powerful enough that for a lot of everyday computing, the
results are bearable. While you won't want to use it to play PC games
on a Mac, it's a viable way to keep your Mac while still running some
must-have business applications that only come in PC versions.
The new version of VPC lets users allocate more RAM
(up to 512 MB) to their bogus PC and supports resizeable drive images
that expand as needed, but only take up as much room on the Mac as the
As well, it supports multiple PC operating systems. I
have both Windows 98 and Linux installed under Virtual PC on my Mac and
can easily switch between them.
Connectix claims that the new version includes support
for G4 processors and can run up to twice as fast as its predecessors.
I didn't see any performance improvements, however, on my system, a
two-year-old 266-MHz iMac.
If Macs can act as PCs, can PCs act as Macs? It's
harder to do, but it can be done. I'm playing with Softmac 2000 on my
PC right now (www.emulators.com). With some limitations, it
works surprisingly well.