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The free software Plex86 project says it has successfully booted a copy of Windows in the environment.

Plex86 derives from the Bochs project, a free software cross platform x86 emulator, and shares in Kevin Lawton the same technical lead. But Plex aims to 'virtualize' the Windows environment, as opposed to performing an instruction-for-instruction emulation of the underlying processor.

So Plex should be much faster than straightforward emulation, but at the cost of cross-platform compatibility. The challenge it's set itself is more difficult by an order of magnitude.

More or less, anyway. In an interview at linux.com last year, Lawton observed that "In a sense, with virtualization, you have to do less than with pure emulation. Emulation of the necessary I/O devices is there already in Bochs. FreeMWare [as it then was] will not require emulation of the entire CPU, just certain system level pieces."

Mandrake acquired Bochs in March and has helped sponsor the work.

The project has some way to go still to achieve the slickness of the latest commercial VMWare releases, which can suspend a session and give allocated memory back to the host session - a very big deal indeed. But at $299 or $399 VMWare is priced for business users, rather than for light users, enough to prohibit it from being bundled in the majority of desktop distros.

There's a screenshot here and for more details on the subtleties of emulators and virtual environments, Kevin Lawton has a very interesting paper explaining the challenges, and his approach to surmounting them. . Anyone care to remind us what the x86 Ring1 and Ring2 ever did again? ®

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