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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 (

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 standard PC.

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 actual contents.

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 ( With some limitations, it works surprisingly well.


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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan