PearPC: As Good As The Real Thing?

PearPC is an open-source, multi-OS emulator for PCs and Linux machines. It's promising, but can it stand the rigors of OS X?

Mike DeMaria, Contributor

November 23, 2004

1 Min Read

Hardware emulators are among the greatest software ever designed. I regularly use Microsoft VirtualPC to emulate an Intel machine on my Apple Macintosh--this lets me keep the Mac as my primary machine yet still access Windows occasionally without using a separate computer.

A new open-source PowerPC emulator promises to bring similar functionality to the Windows/Linux environment. Dubbed PearPC, it will let you run Linux for PPC, Darwin, OpenBSD, NetBSD, Mac OS X 10.3 and, eventually, IBM AIX on the same machine. The emulator can operate at 1/15 or 1/500 the speed of the host platform.

PearPC will face challenges, as Mac emulation is a tricky niche to fill. Most Mac-specific applications require hefty horsepower to do video editing, graphic manipulation and desktop publishing. While the Mac OS X's use of advanced graphical functions to display the GUI isn't a problem for modern PPC chips, it can be rough on emulators.

Many Mac users have shown a clear need for emulators. VirtualPC is sufficient to run simple Win32 custom applications, Internet Explorer and Web services at respectable speeds.

PearPC could be handy for software developers doing quick and dirty Mac testing and compiling, with a full QA done later. But if you need to do real Mac work, buy a cheap, used Apple G3 desktop, first-generation iMac or laptop capable of running OS X.

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