The following is a Plus Edition article, written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. This is Part #1 of a two-part series.
NOTE: The following article assumes the reader has some technical expertise but is not necessarily a computer expert. If you are comfortable with installing programs on your present computer, you probably will fully understand and appreciate this article. However, if you are new to computers and do not often install new programs or troubleshoot problems, you might want to skip this article.
In an earlier article, I wrote: "Yes, I really do run TMG, a Windows [genealogy] program, on two Macintosh systems. The process is rather simple and works well. I'll write about that in a future article."
This is the article I promised.
Virtualization is becoming a "hot topic" these days. Simply put, this is a way of using one computer to run more than one operating system, thereby allowing that computer to run any programs that work on any of the operating systems installed on it. For example, a Windows Vista computer can run a “virtual” copy of Windows 2000 (or an older version of Windows or even another operating system) that can launch any applications that don’t run on Vista. Similarly, a Macintosh computer can run a “virtual” copy of any Windows system, letting the user install and launch Windows programs alongside their Mac programs. The combinations are many, and the “virtual” programs can work side by side with the base computer’s programs – no restarting required.
Those who run large data centers all know about virtualization; by running more operating systems and more applications on a given number of computers, commercial data centers can get more power and more usage out of less hardware by using virtualization. The cost savings can be significant.
Virtualization has been common in data centers for several years. In the past year or two, virtualization has started to "trickle down" to home and office users. Such software can now be installed on desktop and laptop computers, extending their capabilities and allowing them to be used for more purposes than ever before. Again, the cost savings may be significant. Why purchase two computers with different operating systems when virtualization will allow one computer to do both jobs?
Creating a multi-operating system computer requires "virtualization" software. Popular virtualization products are available from several software producers. All these products are designed to be installed by non-experts on typical Windows, Macintosh, and Linux systems. I will describe each. Specialized virtualization software, such as Xen, is also available from other producers. However, these specialized products are usually complex and are not designed for installation by the typical home user. I will ignore the more exotic products and will focus solely on the commodity products.
Using the processes described in this article, you can run TMG or RootsMagic or Legacy Family Tree or Family Tree Maker or AncestralQuest or most any other Windows or MS-DOS genealogy program on a modern Windows, Macintosh, or Linux system. In fact, even an old software program that doesn't work with your new VISTA or Windows 7 computer can now be made to work on that system if you also install virtualization software and an earlier version of Windows. In addition, you probably can run all your favorite old Windows computer games, word processors, spreadsheet programs, needlepoint programs, tax programs, and more on any modern Windows, Macintosh, or Linux computer. Those old programs will run nearly as fast on a new system as they did in the past on the old system.
Macintosh owners especially will appreciate virtualization. It allows Mac users to run almost all the available Windows and Linux programs.
In fact, today's technology makes it rather easy to run two or even more operating systems simultaneously on one computer. Anyone can run Windows 7 and Windows XP simultaneously on the same PC or even on the same Macintosh or Linux system. Macs can run their native OS X operating system simultaneously with any version of Microsoft Windows and can even add in Linux or UNIX or OS/2 or even the very old-fashioned MS-DOS operating system. Yes, you can run Windows or MS-DOS or OS/2 or other operating systems on a Mac at the same time you are running the Macintosh OS X. Linux systems can simultaneously run multiple versions of Linux and Windows and MS-DOS and other operating systems.
In short, most of the newer computers are operating system-agnostic. While they typically ship from the factory with one operating system installed, you will find it easy to add additional operating systems.
Of course, we have had dual-boot systems for years where you select which operating system you wanted to run at boot time. You then run that one operating system alone until you shut down and re-boot. However, today's technology is completely different: we can now run two or more operating systems simultaneously!
If you have some powerful hardware, you can even run three or four operating systems at the same time. Yes, newer Macintosh systems can run Macintosh and Windows XP and Linux and OS/2 all at the same time. For instance, I run three operating systems (Macintosh OS X.6.2 and Windows XP and Ubuntu Linux) simultaneously on my new iMac and it doesn't seem to slow down at all. I am sure I could add even more simultaneous operating systems to the Mac, if I wished to. A new Windows 7 system can run Windows 7 and Windows XP and OS/2 and Linux at the same time. You will need some computer power to run four operating systems at once, but many computers sold today have that power.
If your computer is two or three years old, you may have to settle for running only two different operating systems at once. You could have more than two installed and resident on the same hard drive, but you probably want to run only two at once and leave the others dormant. Should you wish to run a third operating system, shut down the second one before launching the third. As long as you only run two operating systems at once, that two or three year old computer probably will work just fine. Of course, adding more memory speeds everything significantly.
In some cases, we can even copy-and-paste information from one window in one operating system to another window in a different operating system. All the operating systems that are running at one time in one computer typically share network connections, printers, and even USB ports. All operating systems that are running at once can surf the web simultaneously, all can print to the same printer, and all can share scanners, jump drives, and other devices that plug into USB ports. You can run your old genealogy program on one operating system and the newest computer game in the other operating system at the same time, all on one computer.
What is the purpose of all this? Well, there are many:
If you purchase a brand-new PC with Windows 7 on it, only to find that one or more of your important Windows programs don't run on this latest operating system, you can also install Windows XP or Windows 98 on the same computer and then run both operating systems simultaneously. Install that older program on an earlier version of Windows where it will perform happily, even on the new hardware. You don't need to clutter up the desk with two computers, two monitors, two keyboards, and two mice. You also don't need to consume double the electricity. Your one computer is capable of doing it all at once and with less power consumption.
You may have an old MS-DOS program that doesn't work properly on the newer Windows systems. You can purchase a new Macintosh or Linux system or Windows system, install the software I am about to describe, then install MS-DOS, and finally install the old program. It should run perfectly in the MS-DOS environment, even though that environment is wholly contained inside a Windows or Macintosh or Linux computer.
You perhaps use Windows as your primary operating system but have always wanted to experiment with Linux. You can now do so by running both systems simultaneously on one computer.
You may have purchased a new Macintosh to replace your old Windows computer because you wanted the increased power and reliability. However, you still have several Windows programs that you want to use, possibly including that Windows genealogy program you have used for years. You can do that by running both the Macintosh OS X operating system and a Windows operating system simultaneously on the same computer.
Maybe you have already moved to Linux and love the power. However, you miss all the Windows programs that you used to use, including genealogy programs and some of the games. You can now run Linux and Windows and even other operating systems simultaneously on one computer.
You can even run two copies of the same operating system on one computer. Why would you want to do that? Mostly if you need to customize one copy for certain reasons. For instance, I know one family with a Windows PC that is shared by all family members. One member of the family has major vision problems. The family runs virtualization software and two simultaneous copies of Windows XP. One version is the normal XP installation while the second installation has all the Microsoft enhancements added for low vision users. The second version of Windows XP has been configured to use larger fonts, and all the accessibility options have been set for people who have difficulty seeing things on the screen. Now any member of the family can sit at the computer and quickly use whichever configuration he or she wishes. There is no need to boot down, change something, and then boot up a different version.
Running multiple operating systems is surprisingly easy to do. You can probably add a second operating system to your present computer within two hours or so, should you wish to do so. Plan on a half hour to read this article, followed by an hour and a half to install the new software required.
I won't say that adding more operating systems is cheap although the costs do vary. Assuming you already own a moderately powerful Windows, Macintosh, or Linux computer, the additional expense may vary from zero to perhaps $200 or $300, depending upon the options you select and what you may already have in your possession. That's cheaper than buying an additional computer!
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