Macintosh emulation. First impressions...
Apart from Executor by ARDI there hasn't been a software-only commercial Macintosh emulator on the market (as far as I know). A product called Gemulator requires the physical presence of a small board containing original Macintosh ROMs. (Which means that notebook users as myself can't use such a solution). For the Commodore Amiga an emulator called FUSION by Microcode Solutions has been available for years. This product has now been released for the PC.
The following reflects my first impressions.
FUSION requires no Macintosh hardware; instead it relies on the user to make sure a copy of a legally obtained ROM exists as a file in the FUSION directory (i.e. you should own a Macintosh). The same technique is used by vMac and the same provisions as to the legality of making that file remain; for instance the ROM does contain the string '(c) 1990-1992 Apple Computer, Inc.'. Click here for more on US copyright law (especially sections 107 and 117 of US Code 17 seem applicable).
I downloaded the FUSION demo and used the therein supplied utility ROMUTIL to dump the 1 Mb. ROM of my thrusty old Powerbook 165 to a Macintosh floppy. Since I don't run PC-Exchange on the Powerbook or a tool like MacDisk on my PC, I had to use Executor (sic!) for the actual transfer. (See note below.)
Using the supplied SETUP program I created a harddisk image file and configured FUSION to use my CD-ROM. I also gave FUSION the maximum 8 Mb. of RAM (the non-demo version has no limitation).
I inserted my System 7.5 Disk Tools diskette in my A: drive, started FUSION and it worked first time!
First thing System 7.5 asked me was whether I wanted to format the HD I created. After that I copied the System Folder from my Disk Tools floppy to the freshly formatted HD. After a restart, FUSION booted fine from the harddisk. I successfully installed some software from my CD-ROM and floppy. As a measure of speed I installed the Grolier Encyclopedia which worked well. In general FUSION is an impressive product!
I ran TechTool to find out what hardware/software emulation is implemented, click here for the results.
A screendump of FUSION running System 7.5 (enhanced with Aaron). Shown are Speedometer 3.23 results.
Speed comparison Executor versus FUSION
The graph on the right clearly shows that the CPU emulation of Executor is superior, caused by Executor's slightly more advanced dynamically compiling 68LC040 emulator.
But the graph below shows that overall (weighted) performance of these two excellent products is in the same class.
From my first impressions I conclude that FUSION is an excellent combination of the emulation speed of Executor and the full hardware emulation attempt of vMac. Having said that, a number of observations remain:
- FUSION runs on MS-DOS alone. Executor and vMac are available on a much wider range of platforms.
- When FUSION becomes a commercial success, Apple might step in legally. The readme files of FUSION contain the phrase "This emulation ... has not been approved by Apple Computer, Inc." More on this issue is found here.
- The harddisk images used by FUSION are compatible with the Executor/vMac format. Jim Drew of Microcode Solutions has warned against booting FUSION from vMac system images because using any non-generic system software on those images (vMac emulates a Mac Plus) will cause problems for the emulator. However, renaming my fusion.hf1 file to fusion.dsk enabled the excellent freeware HFV Explorer by Anygraaf Oy to read/write to the disk image.
The good news is that PC-Exchange does work with Fusion so mounting a PC floppy is possible.
- The supplied documentation with the demo is way too limited for a PC user without extensive Macintosh knowledge and vice-versa to get it all running.
- My notebook's MousePoint device was not as responsive as within Windows.
- A month after the release of the demo there have been almost no posts from people using the full version although the readme claims that "U.S. Postal Money orders will be
processed upon receipt." I hope that possible delivery problems are not the cause of this.
- The full version of FUSION will contain encryption schemes so that piracy will be made more difficult. Every copy will contain its own encryption key so that a pirated copy can be traced to the original copy and therefor owner. It is hoped that this mechanism does not burden a legal owner for instance with less than optimal performance. (Whether a protection scheme like this works at all is to be seen; my personal bet is that it will not.)
- I guess Microcode Solutions could just as easy have created a PC program that creates a Macintosh floppy containing ROMUTIL and reads the dumped ROM file from it. After all; they know the code required to read/write to Macintosh media.
- The documentation and the software itself contain a number of spelling mistakes. I always wonder why so much time is spent on building quality software and so little on documentation.
To rank Executor, FUSION and vMac would be unfair. All three have their use. Executor is very fast, runs on Windows, OS/2 or Linux and its usage is fully legal but you will have to test whether a particular application will run. FUSION will run almost all applications albeit at a slightly lower (but very acceptable) speed. It only runs on MSDOS and requires legal copies of Macintosh ROMs and the MacOS. vMac is in a different league since it is freeware and still in development. However, if the vMac team can get vMac to emulate colour and give it a faster CPU emulation (both projects are on the horizon) then it might be a serious (and free!) contender.
Some useful links:
Info on Macintosh emulators: http://mluwis17.wiwi.uni-halle.de/~tom/tombin.html#mac
vMac info and disk images: http://www.acay.com.au/~ardill/vmac/download/download.htm
Interview with Jim Drew: http://www.kearney.net/~mhoffman/jd.html
The OS Emulation home page: http://www.kearney.net/~mhoffman/index.html
Gemulator's homepage: http://www.emulators.com/
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