Mac violated by Windows XP

The competition to persuade Windows XP to boot on an Intel-based Mac, something Apple hasn't expressly disabled but certainly has not made easy, has been won by a pair of anonymous Californians.

Ever since Apple launched the Intel-based Macs, there has been a number of attempts to persuade Intel-based OSes such as Windows XP to boot on them, an effort boosted by Mac-loving Texas-based Colin Nederkoorn's offer made in January this year of a prize for the first to do so before 30 March 2006.

The requirements were that the user must be able to boot either OS X or Windows XP -- not Vista or other versions -- at startup, without using virtualization. Nederkoorn's motivation was practical: he wanted to be able to use one machine for both purposes -- although he didn't specify that the two OSes be able to communicate with each other in real time, which would have been even more useful.

Nederkoorn expands in his blog: "A bunch of people have been asking 'Why dual boot?'. The answer is pretty simple. When I came up with the contest, I wanted to have a goal that even the enthusiast could achieve. Most of the other alternatives prior to the Intel Mac- VMWare, Virtual PC are all using virtualization. There has been a lot of talk about the duo core being able to do virtualization at near native speed. I think it is unrealistic for an individual to write this software.

"I agree that running Windows XP virtually in Mac OS X at near native speed is the ideal way to accomplish the task of working on both operating systems. So given that virtualization is out and with the early success of people getting into the EFI BIOS, I thought I would focus the contest on incentivizing these people to expand their work. Furthermore my understanding of the functionality of GRUB 2.0 and ELILO was that it should be possible to get those to load as the boot manager on the Intel Mac."

The prize, worth US$14,000, has been won despite the difficulties including the very different methods the Mac's OS X and XP use to boot. XP uses the BIOS, while OS X uses Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI), a newer, more sophisticated technique.

Unfortunately, the main site where Nederkoorn set up the contest and which shows more details is currently down, due possibly to weight of traffic, but there is an alternative up here.

As a technical exercise, this is more of a curiosity than anything else, since virtualization allows both OSes to run simultaneously and be able to inter-communicate at the very least using methods such as copy and paste.

But then, someone had to do it first.

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Manek Dubash
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