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issue: 01/15/2000

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vCity 1.0
by Dr. Adam L. Gruen

20 days in the life of a 21st century virtual city simulation.

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Virtual PC 3.0

Virtual PC 3.0
for Macintosh
reviewed by Valerie Bock


I was a woman with a dream. As a freelance consultant type, I have a client who provides me with the nifty equipment they want me to teach their people to use. This year, they replaced the very nice Powerbook 3400, which was pretty much on a par with my trusty Toshiba 133mhz pentium laptop, with a zippy Powerbook G3 400 mhz machine, which left the Toshiba in the dust.

So I wondered...might it be possible to migrate all of my toys onto the new Mac, and retire the Toshiba from daily use? The preponderance of my clients are PC-based, and even the generous G3 provider also pays me to maintain their website with Microsoft Frontpage. So I need to be able to run Win 9x. I'd heard of Virtual PC, the software PC emulator, and wondered whether it would be robust enough to serve my PC needs full time.

The answer to this question, I'm pleased to report, is a slightly qualified, primarily enthusiastic, YES!

Connectix' Virtual PC 3.0 installed easily and straightforwardly onto my Powerbook, which has 128 mb of memory and a 10 gig hard drive. By default, it sets up a 1 gig drive C:, but it also offers the option of installing a second 2 gig virtual drive D:. I need all the space I can get, so went for the full enchilada. Virtual PC recommends 50 mb of RAM. I found I can run comfortably (I usually have Microsoft Office 2000, Pegasus Mail, and at least one browser going) with 75 mb allotted to VPC, though I have to chop that down if I want to be running Adobe Photoshop on the Mac at the same time.

The VPC folks have done a terrific job of making the Windows 98 OS speak directly to the Mac hardware. The only thing I can't access from my Windows desktop is the USB port, but I'm told that will change when I upgrade the MAC OS to 9 from 8.6.

The default VPC installation sets the Windows virtual machine to share the IP Settings of the Mac. This way, when I fire up Pegasus on the Windows machine, the Mac Remote access dials up my ISP and I'm off to the races, free to access the Internet from either Mac clients or Windows ones.

When I need to be able to plug into Windows-based LAN's, I run DAVE and change the Virtual Machine's preference panel to have a separate IP address (and name!) from the MAC. In this configuration, my Network Neighborhood shows three machines...the server (or in my case, the toshiba running a peer-to-peer connection through Windows 95), the Mac Machine, and the Virtual Windows Machine. Macs won't run a LAN connection and dialup simultaneously, unless you outfit them with IPNRouter from Sustainable Softworks. I haven't felt the need to do this, though, because I can use dialup networking on the Windows box to get a 'net connection to the virtual machine when I'm hooked into the home LAN. On a client site, where the Net connection is the LAN, there is no problem at all.

The one nut I haven't cracked yet is backup. I have a perfectly good Sony StorStation tape drive connected to the Toshiba using Seagate's Backup Exec, which will happily accept 10 gig tapes. Theoretically, I should be able to run a backup over the network through the Toshiba onto the tape, but in reality, it craps out with a file error time and time again. It's either a timing issue with the tape drive connection, or more likely, the 2 gig file-size limitation on the Mac under OS 8.6. I'm just not willing to backup 6 gigs of information to dozens of 120 mb Superdisks or to dozens of zip disks, so I'll be fooling with this issue for a while longer. For now, I'm backing up crucial data files to the D: drive on the Toshiba, and then shipping them over to the tape from the toshiba, but the holy grail for me is automatic, unattended backup, at a reasonable price.

Overall, I'm really pleased with the Virtual PC solution. I've had a few crashes, but none were inexplicable...I have a bad habit of running ram-hoggy software without thinking about what other ram-hoggy stuff has been running or how many things I've opened and closed lately. VPC is as stable as any other platform I work with. I expect that the OS 9 upgrade will fix the USB issue, and it might take care of my backup problem as well. If you need capability on both MAC and PC, and you have a reasonably powerful Mac or are thinking about upgrading, Virtual PC 3.0, at $179.00, is a cheap way to add a whole new machine to your machine.

Valerie Bock welcomes your comments on this review.

   

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