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Dual Boot

© November 2007 Anthony Lawrence


In the past ten days, three people have mentioned "dual boot" to me. One was a Mac user wanting to run Windows, one was a Linux user with the same need, and the other was a Windows user wanting to experiment with Ubuntu.

What thoughts entered my mind when they mentioned this? Oh, let's see: stagecoach, poodle skirt, rotary dial phone, Z-80, Windows 98..

What did I actually say? How about Parallels, VMware, Xen..?

I simply cannot imagine why anyone would want to dual boot today. No doubt someone with more imagination can come up with some legitimate reason and will post it in the comments, but if there is such a reason, it can't apply to many people, and certainly didn't apply to the three people I happened to talk to recently.

Obviously virtualization is the way to go today. On the Mac I am typing this on I have both Parallels and VMware and I run Windows, Ubuntu, CentOS, SCO 5.0.7 .. and have at least temporarily put up dozens of other Linux and hobby operating systems. I don't have to partition my disk, I don't have to waste space, I can cut and paste between these virtual machines, any of them can be immediately available to me without stopping what I'm doing: why on earth would I want to dual boot when virtualization is so good today?

Maybe somebody developing drivers for multiple platforms? Maybe.. but how many of those are there? How about a husband and wife who share a computer and one likes Windows while the other doesn't? Oh, OK, there must be billions of those people.. no, I don't think so.

I suppose part of the problem is Google - search for "dual boot" and you'll get millions of hits. Probably a lot of these are old, but even a recently modified Wikipedia article completely ignores virtualization as an option. Not all this foolishness is old, though: many of the top hits returned have "Vista" in their title.

And of course Apple is a major offender here with their promotion of Boot Camp. They are really out in left field here. I had hoped Apple would move toward a real hypervisor with Leopard, but they did not. I think they are really missing the boat, but there it is: the first thing a naive Mac user needing Windows will think of is that foolish dual boot.

I suppose there is one downside to virtualization: it usually costs a little extra. Not necessarily so on Linux, but everywhere else the free projects are pretty clumsy and sad. But the cost is so small, and the benefits are so much better than dual booting: I just don't see it.

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Inexpensive and informative Apple related e-books:

Take Control of Parallels Desktop 12

Take Control of Preview

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Photos: A Take Control Crash Course

Take Control of the Mac Command Line with Terminal, Second Edition

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Thu Nov 8 15:05:55 2007: 3237   Niall

Games. Don't underestimate the market, Mac users have been clamoring for games for years, and virtualization just does not cut it. If it ain't available natively on your OS, dual-boot is your best bet.

It's pretty much the only reason I use Boot Camp at all.

Thu Nov 8 17:21:13 2007: 3238   TonyLawrence

Ah, of course - games. Totally off my radar..

Thu Nov 8 23:42:38 2007: 3239   ScottCarpenter

I'm having great luck with Virtual Box in Ubuntu. I have my Windows use contained to an XP instance in it while I work on migrating a couple of more things. After that, it might be useful to keep around for testing compatibility on some Java apps there.

Mon Nov 12 03:40:17 2007: 3251   John

I can do most things in my virtual machine. But some reasons to keep dual-boot available:

1. I've had instances, such as Netflix "Watch Now" feature, that won't work in my vm (or on my Mac.)
2. There's the extra cost. Vista Home Premium can't legally be virtualized, and if you want to stay legal, you either need to dual boot or pay up for Ultimate. (I won't argue that there's a ton of people worried about staying legal in this regard.)


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