Friday, March 10, 2006

No easy Vista booting on Intel Mac

No Vista on Mac's horizon | CNET
I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.
-Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars As news that Windows Vista won't natively or easily boot on Intel Macs has spread I can only imagine that millions of technology enthusiats like myself that had A New Hope of using one piece of hardware, a Mac, to run both OS X and Windows and in turn their applications have cried out in anger and frustration at this turn of events. Why won't Vista run on Mactels? Simple really. Apple in designing their hardware decided to use the modern pre-OS hardware initilization environment, Intel's Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI), instead of the 20-year old BIOS standard that Windows-based hardware uses. Apple also did not include any backward compatibility junk in their EFI implementation. This is all quite sensible for Apple, new hardware platform, start with the best stuff you can get now, avoid all the old stuff that has caused PC manufacturers and users so much trouble over the years (aka BIOS). It was widely expected that Windows Vista would support booting on 32-bit processors using EFI. Just like replacing PCI with AGP, or Serial ports with USB, replacing BIOS with EFI was long overdue. However, that feature has now been dropped, essentially relegating Windows hardware to continued use of BIOS forever. The Microsoft explanation for not supporting EFI is questionable. You could of course create benign explanations for this (Vista is way late so dropping any features helps, there is no hardware besides Macs to test on, Apple is not a Windows licensee) but the conspiracy theories are flying fast and furious. I am just disappointed. I am disappointed that Apple doesn't realize they could sell a ton of Macs if there was Windows support. I am disappointed in MS that they had the opportunity to drive EFI adoption, even if Apple wasn't i n the picture, and they choose to stay legacy. Dual-booting Windows and OS X was always a last resort option anyway. When I switched from the Win 9x line to NT 4.0 back in the day (96-97), I dual-booting for the occasional game or app that only ran on the 9x codebase, but it was so much hassle I just eventually started choosing games that supported NT. But this "fallback" for Intel Macs has not "officially" been closed. There is always hope that hackers will figure out a way, but its going to be time-consuming and painful, which means I probably won't bother. So what hope is left for easily running Windows application on Mactels? You are pretty much left with emulation or Darwine. Darwine 0.9.9 was released on March 6, 2006. The nearly mythical 1.0 release may just be around the corner, but no word that I can find right now on compatibility or how this release works on Mactels. As for emulation, has a good summary of the current state of emulators that have Mactel support. All of the emulators are current PPC-based products that have been or are being ported to Intel Macs with a big change in the the code, they will no longer emulate the CPU and have to do CPU instruction set translation. This should be a huge performance boost, how much is yet to be seen. But its not going to be native speed, think of running Windows in VMWare on a Windows machine, its passable depending on the speed of your CPU and how much RAM you have. It may be enough, but it is gong to take more time to get this sorted out. Still no word on if VMWare is going to port to OS X Intel, but it makes to much sense for them not to.