OpenOSX Virtualization for OS X

    March 22, 2006

OpenOSX is a port of QEMU for OS X. It’s a universal binary, so it works on the Intel Macs without translation.

The price is a mere $25.00 (downloaded version), which makes it hard to have any complaint if it works at all. It does work, though I’ll still complain, albeit more about minor packaging details than the product itself.

The first problem was ordering. OpenOSX offers downloadable versions (that’s the $25.00 option) or shipped CD’s for more money. I didn’t want to wait for CD’s, so I chose the download. They have PayPal as a payment option, which is always appreciated for small orders like this. I got an immediate acknowledgement of my payment from PayPal, and was returned to a splash page.

Um, hello – what now? Nothing on the splash page told me where to go to download the product, so I assumed another email would arrive with those instructions. Well, eventually it did, but that was five hours later. The email gave me a url and a login/password for that. From there, I downloaded the OpenOSX Wintel product and a bunch of disk images (packed as .sitx files).

You can’t open the OpenSX download without a password because it’s encrypted. Notice this is not the password they sent to gain access to the directory for the download. To get this password, you need to send them back an email which effectively confirms that you have downloaded the product. Several hours later, you get the encryption password and can actually install the emulator.

Seems like a heck of a lot of protection for a $25.00 product, doesn’t it?

OK, I had the product. The web site says:

Our WinTel product includes the following separate disk images with
10 different popular open source x86 operating systems pre-installed

Well, that’s a bit of puffery. You do get the images (assuming you downloaded the .sitx files), but they are older versions and they aren’t exactly “pre-installed”. Unpacking the software does give you a couple of images that just need to be double-clicked, but for the rest, you need the .sitx files.

Stuffit Expander is what you need to unpack the .sitx files. On my Mac, I hadn’t yet installed that, so the files downloaded as .sitx.txt fles. You can open those with Stuffit (control click and choose “Open With”) but it’s easier if you rename them as .sitx first. Either way, Stuffit is quite amusing on the larger files: it says things like it will take some 22,000 hours to unpack, and the number keeps getting larger! Obviously some overflow or a sign mismatch due to Intel vs. PPC.

You end up with package files which you can double click and that action will stick the actual disk image in the Disk Images folder of your OpenOSX in Applications. Great fun, but I guess it could be worse.

But wait: there’s still more to do! What you get from this is commpressed tar files that need to be copied from the very inconvenient place the package installer put them (because it’s hard to get at them from Finder) and uncompressed and untarred. Will this ever end? Well, yeah, it ends here. Finally, you have .ddimg files usable with OpenOSX Wintel.

Once you have an image, you can fire up OpenOSX Wintel, and tell it to boot that image as the C: drive. Bingo, there you are, running Dos, Linux or BSD under your OS X. Cool, fun, and very handy.

I’d like to try Windows as soon as I can find a legal copy – I have several here somewhere, but can’t put my hands on them. I’d hate to have to go buy a copy when I know I have at least two unencumbered (that is, they were not bought as upgrades or with an OEM PC) sets buried here.. but it may come to that.

At $25.00, I don’t expect miracles. I’ll be more than happy if I can read man pages, run a few shell scripts, and I don’t expect or need much more. For me, this is just convenience when I want to check syntax across different OSes or compare older versions – that’s all I need. If it can do more, I’ll be ecstatic.

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A.P. Lawrence provides SCO Unix and Linux consulting services