Running another operating system on a Mac

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Since Apple switched to using Intel processors for certain Macintosh models, I’ve been excited by the possibility of running Windows on a Mac. Some say its sacrilege. I say it’s sensible. I love the Apple hardware, but am not a fan of the software, which (in my opinion) is proprietary and expensive. I also know Windows very well (including how to keep it secure). Ideally, I’d have a Mac Mini, dual-booting a major Linux distribution and Windows XP.

There have been various reports of people who have managed to write an EFI boot loader for Windows on a “MacIntel”, as well as reports of those who have turned their systems into an unbootable and unsupported heap of PC components in the process; but Apple provided me with a nice birthday present earlier this month by announcing Boot Camp – software to allow dual-booting of OS X and Windows XP, including driver support.

I’m not quite ready to switch yet – Boot Camp is still a beta and the final release will be included in the next version of OS X (meaning I’ll have to shell out another wad of cash to upgrade to OS X Leopard before I can use a release version of the Boot Camp technology). I’m also wary of first generation MacIntel hardware and would like to see support for Windows XP Media Center Edition, so guess I’ll be watching this space for a little longer.

In the meantime, these links provide really useful information on the progress of Windows on a Mac:

For Mac users who fancy using Linux, there are some PowerPC Linux distros (like Yellow Dog Linux) and if you’re not convinced as to why you might want to use them (after all, isn’t OS X just another Unix operating system anyway?) I recommend Giles Turnbull’s article entitled why install Linux on your Mac? Then there’s the Mactel-Linux project to adapt Linux to MacIntel hardware as well as reports that Red Hat plan to include Intel-based Mac support in Fedora and a variety of sites claiming to have other distros working too. Whilst it sounds a bit of a mess (chain-loading LILO via NTLDR), there’s also a triple-boot solution (OS X/XP/Linux) using Boot Camp (from the OnMac guys).

Finally, for those who want to play this the other way around and run OS X on a PC, there’s the OSx86 project.

5 thoughts on “Running another operating system on a Mac

  1. Oh… the door’s open… I see you were expecting me :)

    I looked up the word proprietary because from the context I took it to mean that you felt Apple was in some was acting unfairly with their operating system. I wanted to ensure I understood the precise nature of your complaint so that I could sarcastically refer to Microsoft’s various antitrust suits. However, I found that it simply means the company owns their software. Which of course they do. I don’t see how that’s different from Microsoft owning Windows, or Fujitsu (to pick a brand at random) owning their hardware.

    Sorry, I’ve just re-read your post and I now realise that I should have read it as, you are not a fan of the software, even though it is proprietary and expensive, which you obviously consider are good points. I figure it must mean that as you then go on to say you’d run Windows even though it’s more than double the price of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger.

    Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing what Leopard has to offer when it’s previewed in August and if it’s worth it, I’ll have no problem shelling out a “wad of cash” for it, given that OS X tends to go on sale for around £100. I’m sorry, that’s not as much as Windows Vista will be — when’s it due for release, by the way? — but I’m not sure what Vista will offer that I don’t already have, anyway.

    I’d be interested to know why you’re wary of first generation Intel Macs, although I do understand that new technology can be scary. However, given that you want to ditch the operating system and run Linux and Windows — preferably MCE — I can’t think of a single reason to go down the Mac route. Yes, Apple hardware is very attractive, but it sounds as though you don’t want a Mac Mini, you want a PC that looks like a Mac Mini.

  2. I’m surprised it took you so long Alex.

    Nothing wrong with proprietary software, except that in this case, because it’s also niche, I have to pay for most of it (unlike applications for Windows or Linux, where there are plenty of low cost alternatives). No doubt you’ll tell me about a plethora of freeware for OS X… I suppose there should be as after all it’s just a proprietary operating system built on top of BSD Unix.

    Anyway, you know that what I really mean is I find OS X unfamiliar and difficult to learn (unlike some other Windows alternatives); and every time I dare to criticise it some Mac zealot flames me.

    On your pricing point – OS X is £89 every time they release a point release (I believe that Tiger to Leopard is 10.4 to 10.5). Sure, Microsoft’s versioning is screwed up too (as Windows XP is Windows v5.1 not v6.0), but a single Google search just turned up an OEM version for £97.51 (no-one in their right mind pays retail prices), and I only need to upgrade every 4 years or so as service packs (which all too often include new features that should be in a separate feature pack) are free. (Yes, I know Vista is late – I was living in Australia when XP was launched and I’m well aware how long ago that was.)

    Finally, yes I do just want a PC that looks like a Mac Mini. That would be a Mac Mini then. Macs are PCs. Now that they use pretty much the same components as everybody else’s PCs, it’s only Apple’s design qualities that make them stand out from the crowd. You can build a PC that runs OS X for $200. Apple should be proud that people are happy to pay nearly £600 for an overpriced PC that looks good.

  3. I understand your concern about software availability. In fact, that was one of the reasons why I didn’t upgrade to a Mac before now. I hadn’t realised that the reason I never seemed to come across any open source/freeware for Macs was because I was only looking for Windows apps :) As you predicted, I could tell you about many excellent freeware or open source products, but I won’t because all the free apps in the world won’t convince you to switch.

    I am surprised you found OS X difficult to learn. To be honest, I didn’t know you’d tried to learn it. I guess I had the advantage in that I had to learn it at work, so there was no throwing in the towel. I understand that you would find it very unfamiliar though. Many flavours of Linux share a look and feel with Windows, such as the task bar, Start button and cascading menus. As someone with a foot in both camps (yes, I still use my two Windows machines) I have found Mac OS to be much more intuitive.

    Everyone ignores criticism from bunny-boiling Mac zealots, except other bunny-boiling Mac zealots. These people seem to have turned the Mac into a religion which, in my opinion, is just an excuse for persecution, threats and violence. That sort of person will always find a cause because they enjoy confrontation. I’ve seen people’s families and homes threatened because they said something negative about Macs. It’s just an excuse.

    Don’t be blinded by the version numbers. It may look like a point release when you’re thinking 10.4 to 10.5, but the feature list adds up to much more than the addition of a Security control panel ;)

    I can’t believe you resorted to the “Mac is a PC” pedantry. I was using the terms as a distinction rather than implying accurate nomenclature. Sorry. If you want a little, CD-sized box with an on/off button on the front and rounded corners, but you don’t want the Mac OS, why not buy that AOpen PC?

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