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Connectix previews virtual Windows, Linux even OS/2 tech.

One PC, as many operating systems as you like - and no re-booting

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Emulation specialist Connectix - the company that ran into so much trouble by daring to allow Mac and PC users to run PlayStation games - has released a preview version of its upcoming Virtual PC for Windows software.

An x86 emulator for an x86 platform? No, it didn't seem to make much sense to us either. Virtual PC began life some years back on the Mac to allow users to run Windows apps. It's essentially a virtual machine that fools x86 apps and operating systems into thinking they're running on a native CPU.

But if you are running on an x86 processor, what's the point? According to Connectix, it's all because you want to run multiple operating systems simultaneously without having to reboot from one to another. Virtual PC lets you run an extra x86 OS, which thinks it's running on a PC all of its own; Connectix's code simply relays all the relevant hardware calls directly or via Windows.

"Virtual PC simulates in software an array of hardware devices, including the interrupt controller, DMA controller, IDE/ATA controller, non-volatile RAM, real-time clock, PCI and ISA buses, I/O controller, keyboard controller, memory controller, programmable timers and power management hardware," Connectix says. "Some devices are partially implemented in software, but rely on one or more real hardware components - the keyboard, mouse, video controller, floppy, game port and joystick, Ethernet controller, sound hardware, CD-ROM drive, hard drive, and serial and parallel ports."

Users can install Windows 3.x, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows Millennium Edition, Windows NT, Windows 2000, MS-DOS, Red Hat Linux, TurboLinux, Free BSD, OS/2 Warp, Novell NetWare or others, the developer promises. All this without repartitioning hard drives.

Virtual PC for Windows is set to ship mid-June for around $199. The first preview release will expire on 1 July. Connectix says you can run it on a 266MHz box, but recommends a 500MHz processor. Virtual PC is a quick emulator, but it's still something of a CPU hog, so the more the better. The same goes with RAM, though the specific requirements depend on which 'guest' operating system(s) you're going to run. ®

Related Links

Connectix's Virtual PC Whitepaper can be found here
You can download the Virtual PC technology preview here

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