Uptime: 22 days. And I run Windows XP SP2.

I am not a Mac fan-boy. Been there, done that. And to be truthful, I think I am a little too old for zealotry. The innocent dogmatism of youth has been replaced with that pragmatism to the point of pessimism middle age.

My 15″ MacBook Pro runs MacOS X 10.4.7. The last time I rebooted was the installation of the MacOS X 10.4.7 update. That restart was so long ago, I honestly cannot remember rebooting.


Pop over to a Terminal window, uptime: up 22 days.

Up until May this year I had been a Windows person. Dell this, Windows that. A clean shutdown or restart at least once per week would keep the Dell going. After constantly sleeping/hibernating, things just didn’t feel stable anymore under Windows XP. Maybe it was all the weird VPN networking stuff that I had to run. Or memory not being freed up.

This MacBook Pro gets an equal amount of digital thrashing. It’s turned on and being used at least 14 hours per day. During the day, there are multiple shut-the-laptop lid hibernations, running multiple applications. Installing, launching Mac apps; de-installing (drag-install, drag to trash deinstall). Mad as hatter cats pulling out the magsafe power connector; Dashboard widgets are added, removed and refreshed. PowerPC (Rosetta) applications launching, force-quit Sheepshaver. Wireless network router reconfiguration. The screen in brilliant for spreadsheets – the performance on the Mac and Windows under virtualization are excellent.

During these 22 days I’ve booted Windows XP at least 15 times using Parallels. Most recently to run a TRS-80 emulator, and to take a look at a personal email in an archive .pst file. Even backing up the PC is easy. Drag copy the disk image onto our family file Debian server.

Under Parallels, everything I’ve installed has worked first time. Office 2003, Office 2007 Beta. Adobe Flex 2.0, Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0. Microsoft XML Notepad.

In a smartly organized corporate environment, and some smart configuration created by some smarter infrastructure cookies, a single standard Windows XP image could be created on a server. This could be pulled down when people come into work as their standard “office” suite. Separating the environments for executives could be a mechanism of saving costs.

Without the apple-coloured glasses, there are some deficiencies: the MacBook Pro has an integrated video camera in the lid but there are no device drivers for Parallels; and ACPI is yet to be supported under Parallels: so no Vista Beta/Vista SP1 yet. Not a big gamer thankfully as games performance/Direct3D sucks.

It’s still not a real Windows XP machine. There is no little laser-etched blue OEM badge (the Windows XP Professional installed is a box copy). So 22 days uptime or not, there is something that just doesn’t feel right: running Windows on a Mac is like listening to Country and Western in a Ferrari. You feel, well, dirty.

Still, this MacBook Pro has been the most stable Windows laptop I’ve had the pleasure of using. So, by definition – is the safest way to run Windows XP is under virtualization on MacOS X?

Virtually Emulating First Loves

In an effort to re-ignite my first love whilst on my leave of absence – I’ve been looking for a good TRS-80 emulator to rekindle the flames of technical desire. Also over the last 4 weeks I’ve also had a small “side project” watching the goings on in the desktop virtualization space, especially on the Mac. Parallels has been an excellent investment to get Windows XP running on the MacBook Pro; just waiting for the ACPI/Direct3D (or VMWare for the Mac) version so I can run a build of Windows Vista.

Admission #1: the first computer my dad purchased for me was a TRS-80 Model I. Not the prettiest, nor the most powerful of machines – 1.77Mhz with 16Mb Kilobytes (I even accidently put Mb!) of RAM. Welcome to 1981. That’s right, 1981. 25 years/ a quarter of a century ago.

The best emulator for the TRS-80 is written by Matthew Reed. Found thanks to
Ira Goldklang’s TRS-80 web site. So, I have TRS32 running inside Windows XP in Parallels on MacOS X. Shells within Shells.

Quest for the Key of Night Shade

Admission #2: the TRS-80 we owned stored data onto a cassette, not a floppy disk. Way-back when I was one of those computer-store kids. Thanks to the sales guys at Tandy Electronics/Radio Shack, we’d spend all day sitting on the computers typing in programs and occasionally demonstrating to prospective buyers. As floppy disks were expensive, we didn’t get access to storage – so TRSDOS was not an environment I was ever exposed to. Getting the emulator working involved remembering how to get BASIC working, and learning yet another OS.

Admission #3: I’ve watched zero minutes of Lord of the Rings. Even from DVD. Ever since the school librarian suggested I borrow The Hobbit, attempting to read a single page, and quickly returning the mush – I’ve actively avoided the fantasy genre. World of Warcraft drives me nuts. Sorry Neil and Mark!

Before this dispassion arose, I did get into one fantasy-style game on the TRS-80: “Quest for the Key of Nightshade”. It is strange how you remember names such as these for many years. Last week I found a version of the BASIC program, originally typed all the lines from a computer magazine into Basic and saved to cassette, on Ira’s website. From memory, this was written by a Canadian programmer and won “TRS-80 game of the year 1981” in some US magazine and was reprinted in 1982 by Australian Personal Computer.

The screen dump above is from this game. Ahh, the fond memories of our first loves.