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Tech Notes
Hardware Platform Independence/Desktop Search Engines

By J. Anthony Vittal


How many of us have secretly wished we could run any application on any computer, regardless of the operating system controlling that computer or the chip set on which it is based? We aren’t there yet, but new computer emulation software is bringing that wish closer to reality.

Macintosh on a Windows PC

According to press reports, a Hawaiian company, Maui X-Stream, announced earlier this month that it has developed a $50 software emulator, B CherryOS, available as a 7 MB download that allows a Windows PC running Windows XP to run Apple Computer’s Mac OS X. In essence, CherryOS runs on a Windows PC and mimics the hardware of a G4 Mac processor. It includes the G4’s Velocity Engine (to boost multimedia performance) and features support for USB, FireWire, and Ethernet connections. CherryOS automatically detects hardware and network connections. With CherryOS installed on your PC, you then can install Mac OS X (MSRP $129) and run any application that runs on OS X.

According to the software designer, CherryOS performs at about 80 percent of the speed of the PC hardware, since the emulator takes about 20 percent of the host system’s resources. Maui X-Stream recommends a 2 GHz processor and claims that, on a 3 GHz Pentium 4 desktop with 1 GB of RAM, the emulator performs as quickly as native Apple hardware. If the claims are true, CherryOS corrects the speed deficiencies in open-source Mac emulator PearPC.

Maui X-Stream also claims it is developing a stand-alone version of CherryOS that will run independently of Windows XP. If successful, that version will permit a user to install Mac OS X on an inexpensive commodity PC without the expense of a Microsoft operating system.

Windows on a Macintosh

For several years, Virtual PC has enabled Macintosh users to run Windows on their Apple hardware and to connect their Apple computers to PC-only peripherals and networks. Virtual PC does this by emulating a Windows-compatible PC. When installed, you will be running Windows and OS X in separate windows. Microsoft acquired Virtual PC from Connectix and has just released a new update B Version 7. According to Microsoft, Version 7 (Windows XP SP2) was significantly rewritten for the G5 processor and runs 10–30 percent faster than previous versions, although it’s still slower than Windows on a PC.

Virtual PC 7 supports Windows shortcuts, allows you to drag and drop files from OS X, and permits cut, paste, and copy functions between OS X and Windows applications. Version 7 enables the user to launch Windows applications directly from the desktop, in the same fashion as using the Start menu in Windows. Startup is slow—over a minute to the login screen and 32 minutes to full installation—but Version 7 has a fast save feature that shuts down Windows XP and Virtual PC on a single command, saving the then current state of the virtual computer and allowing you to restore the same state when you relaunch the application.

Virtual PC 7 requires a G3, G4, or G5 processor running at a clock speed of at least 700 MHz; at least 512 MB of RAM (at least 1 GB recommended); at least 3 GB of available hard disk space; and Mac OS X release 10.2.8 or higher. The emulator itself costs $130 ($100 for an upgrade to Version 7). Bundled with Windows XP Professional, it sells for $250.

To avoid performance problems, commentators suggest allocating half of the RAM in a 1+ GB Mac to Virtual PC and then running only one program at a time. In addition, you probably should avoid the shared folders feature of Virtual PC to preclude exposing your Mac files to the possibility, however remote, of contamination by Windows-based malware.

Observations

Eventually, we can hope that flawless emulators will be standard equipment on every personal computer. While neither CherryOS nor Virtual PC 7 approaches that ideal, they do allow you to emulate one type of popular personal computer on another. The tradeoffs in speed and multitasking ability to achieve low-cost flexibility in the applications available to you may be worth your investment in one of these solutions.

 

DESKTOP SEARCH ENGINES

If you ever have tried to locate a particular file on your computer, you surely have encountered the deficiencies of the Search Files function in Windows or the search functions in Microsoft applications such as Outlook. There now are several freeware applications that may ease your frustration.

Following closely on the heels of its IPO, Google announced the release of the beta version of its new desktop search engine earlier this month. It is available as a free download at http://desktop.google.com. Although limited in its utility (it only runs on Windows computers, requires Windows XP or Windows 2000 SP 3+, and searches only limited types of files), it has the familiar interface and, if your computer is connected to the Internet, it will execute the search on both your own computer and across the World Wide Web. Google claims it will be adding greater functionality over time.

In the meantime, because of the way Desktop Google indexes files, including cached web pages, it can permit an otherwise unauthorized user to view files that normally would be accessible only via a username and password, such as e-mail messages sent or received via a web mail application such as Yahoo Mail or Hotmail. As a result, some care needs to be used in setting the features of Desktop Google. In addition, you should protect access to your computer by requiring a boot password, as well as a username and password to access Windows, and you should log off Windows whenever stepping away from your computer.

A more robust application is Copernic Desktop Search (CDS) from Copernic Technologies, Inc., introduced at the end of August 2004. CDS works with Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000/XP and Internet Explorer 5.0 or later. You can get it as a free download at www.copernic.com. Using a streamlined, intuitive user interface, CDS executes subsecond searching of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files, Acrobat PDFs, all popular music, picture and video formats, contacts, browser history, and favorites. Using Boolean search logic, it will index and search e-mail and contacts from Outlook Express 5.x/6.x, Outlook 2000/XP/2003, and Windows Address Book. CDS features a seamlessly integrated previewer that instantly provides you with a view of the file or e-mail you’re looking for. The previewer highlights all search terms and automatically scrolls to the first use of these terms in a document.

Another free download is Filehand from Filehand, LLC, accessible at www.filehand.com. This application works for PDF, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, WordPerfect, text, MP3, HTML, and MHT (archived HTML) files and searches for documents in most Western and Middle Eastern languages. Filehand also uses Boolean search logic.

So much for free search engines, each of which demonstrates that you get what you pay for. Many users think that X1J version 04.09, from X1 Technologies, Inc., is the best desktop search engine around. X1J is the brainchild of entrepreneur Bill Gross, the founder of IdeaLab, who conceived and developed a similar product, called Lotus Magellan, that was published in 1989. Several members of the original Magellan team have been involved in the development of X1J.

X1J uses a proprietary indexing system to locate files, e-mail messages, e-mail attachments and MS Outlook contact information across local and network drives. X1J displays the contents of files and e-mail messages in the format of the program that created them, any of 255 formats. It handles all popular word processors (including WordPerfect, Microsoft Word, Microsoft WordPad, Lotus WordPro, Star Office Write and WordStar); all popular spreadsheet formats (including Lotus 1-2-3, Excel, and Quattro Pro); most popular e-mail applications (Outlook7, Outlook Express, Eudora7, and Netscape7 Mail); all popular presentation formats (including PowerPoint and Presentations); all popular graphics formats; various database formats; various compressed formats (including MIME text mail and PK ZIP files through version 2.04g); executable .exe and .dll files; and the text portions of Microsoft Project files. With some exceptions, when a user locates a file, X1J can instantly launch it into the program that created it. The user can specify various settings, including which e-mail and file folders to index, file types to index, the maximum file size to index, degrees of indexing (for example, it may not make sense to index the contents of binary files). In addition, users may configure X1J as a hideaway taskbar at the top of the screen, or as a standard window.

X1J runs on any of Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP and requires a minimum of 128 MB of RAM (256 MB recommended). You can purchase X1J as a download from www.x1.com for $74.95 with volume discounts of 20, 25, or 30 percent for purchases of 5, 10, or 25 copies at once.

Happy searching!


J. Anthony Vittal ( tony.vittal@abanet.org) is the General Counsel of Credit.Com, Inc., and Identity Theft 911, LLC, both based in San Francisco, California. A former member of the ABA Standing Committee on Technology and Information Systems and a member of various technology-oriented committees of ABA Sections, he speaks and writes frequently on legal technology topics .