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Review: Virtual PC with Red Hat Linux

By Brent Hecht

Manufacturer: Connectix
System Requirements: 350MHz or faster G3 or G4, Mac OS 8.6 or newer, 1.1GB of hard disk space, 96MB of RAM, CD-ROM drive
Retail Price: $99.00
Availability: Out Now

These days, all I need to do is mention the word "Linux" and…

Hey, stop…

What? No I don’t have stock options to give you!

Please go away. Of course I don’t need any venture capital money, I am just a writer. Geez.

If that interaction is any clue… and it is… Linux fever is EVERYWHERE. Unfortunately, Mac users have remained old, sickly beasts in the wild Linux stampede because Macs are incompatible with the more popular PC Linux distributions and, therefore, cannot run the most sought-after Linux software. Luckily, there is hope for the Mac faithful. Connectix, armed with its Intel emulation software, Virtual PC, has allied with Red Hat, the developer of the most popular PC Linux distribution, to produce the creatively titled Virtual PC with Red Hat Linux. But does this software effectively provide Mac users with access to the PC Linux environment or is it simply eye-candy for geeks?

The installation and setup procedure of Virtual PC with Red Hat Linux is by far the software’s best attribute. Since Red Hat Linux comes preloaded, the only installing that needs to be done can be completed entirely in the Mac environment. This allows users to skip the intensely complex Linux installation process. For anyone who has attempted to install Linux (and for those who haven’t) this is truly a fantastic feature. Furthermore, the software utilizes IP sharing, so Red Hat is Internet-enabled from the first startup and the Internet is accessible to both OSs at the same time.

Actually using Virtual PC with Red Hat Linux, however, is a much different story, or should I say epic. Immediately upon launching the program, its molasses-like speed shows itself with sloth-like grandeur. Although the Red Hat Linux OS runs flawlessly, and all Linux software tested functioned similarly, the speed of emulation, or lack thereof, makes using the Linux environment thoroughly frustrating. A window with several items in it takes 6.5 seconds to open, Netscape Communicator launches in 23s, and the included PIM launches in 19s*. If simply using Linux on Virtual PC is annoyingly slow, utilizing the software to operate a server, Linux’s main purpose, is just plain stupid. To make matters worse, the software was tested on a G4/350 MHz Mac with 128MB of RAM; anything less will result in even slower speeds.

Connectix has implemented several shortcuts to make using VPC with Red Hat a bit faster, the most notable of which is a feature that allows users to save the Linux OS state, thus skipping the startup process the next time VPC is launched. However, whatever time is saved skipping the startup process, is quickly used up waiting for a program to launch or windows to close. Other timesaving features include minimal "Applescriptablility" and easy configuration of emulated hardware settings.

Based on VPC with Red Hat Linux’s lack of celerity, the only practical use of the software is as an easily reparable Linux learning environment. If you want to embark on any other Linux endeavor, skip over VPC and buy a PowerPC-native Linux distribution such as LinuxPPC. The native distribution will be MUCH more difficult to install and repair, but it will be cheaper, quicker, and more importantly, useful for real Linux-based tasks. Basically, this software, with the exception of a few high-protein spots, is some of the sweetest candy my eyes have ever seen.

* All testing done on a Power Macintosh G4 350MHz "Yikes" with 128MB of RAM, virtual memory off, and VPC in full screen mode. Minimum memory allocated was 66515K and preferred memory was 97235K.

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November 29, 2015

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