July 23, 2004

Virtual PC is Too Cool

I've been using a Macintosh Powerbook as my main home computer for a year and a few months now, and I couldn't be happier. In fact, when my work PC came due for replacement I replaced it with yet another Powerbook. And it works great. However, just recently I ran into a problem.

Our project is producing a large software system. And when you've got a large software system you need to have a large Operator's Manual. And MS Word is, quite frankly, a lousy tool for creating large Operator's Manuals; it's the only program I ever managed to crash on Windows 2000, and that was because I loaded a draft of one of our previous manuals into it. Consequently, we've been using FrameMaker for our manuals for the last release or so.

Now, I have a copy of FrameMaker for MS Windows. I do not have a copy of FrameMaker for Mac OS X. And I'm not going to have a copy of FrameMaker for Mac OS X, because a few months ago Adobe pulled the plug on FrameMaker; they don't sell it anymore. Oh, I could probably scrounge up a copy somewhere on my own, but I tried going through official channels and the official channels ran dry. What to do?

So a few days ago I ordered a copy of Virtual PC, which is a really cool piece of software. It emulates a PC's hardware, processor and all, in software, on your Mac. And you can install pretty much any PC operating system you like into it. The version I got came with Windows 2000 pre-installed, that being what I needed. I dragged the application from the CD to my desktop, double-clicked it, and in moments I had a window on my screen in which I could see the familiar Windows 2000 boot screen. I had to run through the usual set up malarkey, which required a restart of Windows 2000; then I installed FrameMaker from the original CD, which required yet another restart of Windows 2000; and then I tried running it, and for a big mondo application, it's really pretty zippy.

And the neatest part is that although the installation process took three full boots of Windows 2000, I didn't have to reboot OS X even once.

I think this might be the best of all possible worlds--I've now got an installation of Windows that goes away when I don't need it, which is most of the time.

Posted by Will Duquette at July 23, 2004 07:26 PM