Now it’s a Mac. Now it’s a PC

Mac isn't a PC“Now that Macs have PC chips in them, they can run PC software.” Obvious, isn’t it. Except that someone recently managed to make the new Intel-based Mac run PC software, and it’s a big, big surprise, and it’s something many said would never happen.

The difference between a PC and a Mac used to be the processor. PCs had Intel chips, Macs had Power PC chips; nothing like each other. The new Macs have Intel chips in them, which is why most people assumed that they are, really, “just PCs.”

They aren’t. What they are, are Extensible Firmware Interface Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) machines. PCs, by contrast, are BIOS machines. They have a completely different way of starting up, and as recently as January, many well informed experts were quite sure the two systems couldn’t both exist on the same machine.

Others thought it must be possible.

Mac isn't a PCSo Colin Nederkoorn announced a competition, back in January, to see if you could run both forms of software on the same machine. Techweb, quoting Nederkoorn: “When the Intel Macs were announced, I expected Apple would have the foresight to make it easy to dual boot,” said Nederkoorn. “But then I found out that Apple was using EFI rather than a BIOS. One group said it should still be possible, while a whole other camp said it was impossible.”

To make it interesting, he put up cash; he put $100 into the kitty,and called for volunteers to put up more. With over $5,000 as a prize, the trick was tackled, and it’s been done.

According to Associated Press reporter May Wong, the prize was given to two San Francisco Bay Area software developers last week. Jesus Lopez, 33, of Alameda, was one; and Eric Wasserman, 41, of Berkeley was the other; apparently Lopez “did most of the technical work — spending late nights and weekends on the challenge — while Wasserman, a devoted Mac user, introduced him to the contest in February and supported him in the process.”

The software to do it is downloadable from the Windows XP on an Intel Mac Project. Don’t rush over there to download it, even if you actually have an Intel Mac, because (as you can see from the How To) it’s not for beginners.

Why do it? Mainly, because it’s a more elegant way of running both families of software – Windows and Mac – without having to buy two machines, and without having to load a huge “virtualisation” engine plus emulators, to manage it.

No doubt, Linux users will write in to explain politely that if we all used Linux we’d be able to use EFI anyway…