January 23, 2006

The (OS) X Prize.

Here's a tiny link to the kind of activism I support: a prize for the first person to figure out how to boot XP on a new Intel Mac.

If you've got brains OR bucks, you can help out. Larry Page (one of the funders of the real X-Prize) told me last year he felt this kind of prize incentive was an effective way to fund basic research in America, since our government has essentially abdicated its role in, you know, the quest for knowledge. (I was all, like, "Hey, LP, why don't you give your billions to researchers, huh?" And he was all, like, "The real trick is to spur citizen activism, because the power of all of us working together is so much greater than just a puny couple billion dollars." And I was all, like, "Hey, I'll take a billion," and he was all, "Ok, sure, I've got my wallet right here... PSYCHE!" Ok, that last part is not true.)

Anyways, let's prove him right. Let's get out there and win one for LP!



Blogger Nevyn said...

I've been reading here and there on the topic, and porting XP just seems either impossible or waaaaaaaaa-aaa-aay too much work. Vista, at least, seems possible and even viable if MS/"someone" adds GUID partition support.

Now, virtualization, as in Virtual PC, VMWare or Darwine, seems to be both way easier and way more useful.

(It annoys me that technical forums discussing this topic are so full of "wouldn't it be cool if"-, "I think completely_uninformed_suggestion might work"-, "wow!!!!"- and "[any of the above, but a suggestion that someone else has already said, because the poster is too lazy to read the scrollback]"-people, that it takes hours to just find posts by people who actually know what they're talking about. Then again, this is the internet...)

January 23, 2006 4:18 PM

Blogger beza1e1 said...

Windows requires a BIOS, which the Macs don' t have. They run on the successor EFI. I don't think anybody would want to hack something up for this.

Vista will support it. Linux does support it. So these both seem more possible.

January 23, 2006 11:11 PM

Anonymous marc nothrop said...

I wasn't surprised when I saw your contribution the pot (re Wine etc.)

I've been touting dual booting since the day of the announcement (well sooner, but on that day I guess I went from 'crazy', to 'mildly obsessive'.) ; )

Sure it's a challenge, but with the current pot, there are a few geek eyes lighting up, I'm sure.

I tend to agree with you about citizen activism/philanthropy; it's become a big part of my mantra, donating and volunteering for various OSS projects, but more importantly making some real-world contributions.

Kudos for putting your money where your mouth is.

January 24, 2006 1:28 AM

Anonymous MJ said...

I really think the OSX Prize should be focussed on Darwine...

January 24, 2006 3:09 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

kudos for cheap advertisement

January 24, 2006 8:47 AM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

Anonymous: I wouldn't consider $1000 to be cheap advertising, actually. I consider it to be pretty expensive advertising for the number of hackers who will visit that page. It's not like a lot of moms out there are going to go: "Booting XP on Macs? Oh boy! I need to grab me a piece of that prize!"

And while I certainly admit there is some advertising benefit to almost any act of corporate charity, I don't think that necessarily invalidates the act.

That would be like saying, "Sure, you work at a soup kitchen, but you enjoy it, so you're not a good person." Bleh.

January 24, 2006 12:59 PM

Anonymous Jeff Atwood said...

Bah! Don't listen to the haters, Wil! I have no interest in OSX whatsoever, but I think choice is great for everyone involved. Win-win.

January 24, 2006 2:27 PM

Anonymous Sad Sally said...

I don't quite get why you're $1000 interested in seeing windows on macs? My impression was you're pretty indifferent to windows generally...

January 24, 2006 5:53 PM

Blogger Lee said...

Larry of all people should understand the power of collaborative efforts. He's made his billions using the collaborative efforts of others. A search engine is just fancy theoretical technology without the data of billions of people that it skims data off of.

A collaborative effort is what effectively brings in people to use their site. It's what he sells to advertisers wanting to reach those people.

January 24, 2006 6:11 PM

Anonymous Lon Varscsak said...

I love it when people say it's "impossible" or "way to much work". Honestly, I'm not smart enough to know either way. :)

However, I do know that when smart people work together they do "impossible" things everyday. I would love for some kid in his basement to have an "aha!" moment and earn 5 grand.

January 24, 2006 6:22 PM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

Sad Sally: I really like playing Windows games. I paid $2,300 for my last Shuttle PC, so I could play Half-life 2. Would rather never pay that again!

January 25, 2006 12:37 AM

Anonymous Jeff Atwood said...

> Sad Sally: I really like playing Windows games

See, Wil does have good taste. John Romero make you his bitch.. again!


Unfortunately, it's highly unlikely the video card in that MacBook (the X1600) will be sufficient for modern games. It's kinda marginal as a standalone pci express card. If it is tolerable, it'll be barely so, and only for a brief window of 6-12 months max.

Strangely, I had a dream last night that someone figured out how to boot XP on the MacBook. I'm not kidding about this part.

I really need to get a life.

January 25, 2006 1:54 PM

Blogger William Henderson said...

Wil plays games! maybe you should do a post on "computer games and time managment". me, i just rediscovered Myth (which is now nearly 10 years old!) and its already cut into a bit of my programming time. christ, if only debugging could be so fun... (envisions a debugging environment that included moltav cocktails and warlocks)

January 25, 2006 1:55 PM

Anonymous Jeff Atwood said...

Review of the X1600XT:


I think the X1600 in the MacBook is *not* the faster XT version, either.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, hitching your gaming aspirations to a laptop (of any kind) is basically a losing proposition.

At least desktops can be *upgraded*. With laptops, you're pretty much fucked on that front. I know the concept of upgrading may be a bit alien to Mac users (what? I don't just buy a new box every time Jobs announces it at MacWorld?) but it's a heck of a lot cheaper way to go for PCs.

January 25, 2006 2:00 PM

Anonymous Pat said...

Some may say its way too much work, but you're right Wil, this is the way to make things happen. $6500 worth of work is a lot of work.

January 25, 2006 9:13 PM

Blogger Mark Stultz said...

i think he meant: kudos to wil for the donation. when i visited earlier, you made up about 20% of the donation.


January 25, 2006 11:30 PM

Blogger Lee said...

Jeff: "I know the concept of upgrading may be a bit alien to Mac users (what? I don't just buy a new box every time Jobs announces it at MacWorld?) but it's a heck of a lot cheaper way to go for PCs."

You're joking right? Laptops and some of the consumer desktops with small form-factors might not be very upgradable, but the towers sure as hell are. This goes for Macs and PCs.

January 26, 2006 6:34 AM

Anonymous Jeff Atwood said...

> You're joking right? Laptops and some of the consumer desktops with small form-factors might not be very upgradable, but the towers sure as hell are. This goes for Macs and PCs.

Well yeah, for trivial stuff like memory upgrades-- but that's possible on a Laptop, even.

Can you drop in a new, faster CPU like I can? Or a new motherboard? Or a power supply?

I'm not sure if the latest video cards even have drivers for OSX. I know vendors sell "Mac editions" of certain cards, like so..


Of course they cost more, but that's a given for the Apple world. It's all about paying more for the exact same thing, but prettier. There's a real gem at the bottom of that page, too:

"I've been informed that a bunch of guys who got their 6800's are reporting that the card causes OS X 10.3.5 or lower to crash if the driver is not installed. This means that the Apple Install DVD is useless with the card in the slot. It also means that you can't reinstall the OS or fix permissions while booting off the DVD"

Pretty sweet.

Anyway, I don't mean to turn this into a dis session. I totally support dual boot on Intel Macs, I think it's better for everyone involved.

But the idea of a laptop as a gaming machine is not a good one. I'm just sayin'.

January 26, 2006 2:58 PM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...


The current generation all-in-one machines are not going to compare to desktop PCs for extreme gaming or upgradability, it's true. I'm not clear why you point this out. You can compare PC notebooks with Apple notebooks if you'd like, and find that they are about the same in these regards.

I found my old laptop to be OK for some games, and it's got a really crappy video card and a pretty bad CPU (for games). Honestly, I'll be happy to have a laptop with a video card that is a generation _after_ the expensive one I bought to play Half-Life^2, and a CPU that's 4x as fast as my current one.

If you want upgradability, no need to argue -- just wait for the Mac Pro machines instead of MacBooks or iMacs.

January 26, 2006 4:20 PM

Anonymous Matt Bland said...

I think that it will possible. Here's how I'd approach it, if I had the mad_leet_haxxor_skillz:

Use Grub as a boot loader.
Build on top of something like Xen as a virtual machine handler and rip some code from BOCHS or something similar for emulating a BIOS layer and then bootstrap the Windows disk partition within the Xen environment.

I'm not sure if what I'm suggesting is entirely possible, but here are the reasons imagine that it might be the way to go.

GRUB runs on EFI, which LILO apparently doesn't. The Windows boot loader also doesn't work on EFI.

If you can run Windows XP on BOCHS in the same way that you can VMWARE (although without the CPU virtualisation) then it must handle the requirement for a BIOS of some description.

Xen allows multiple OSes to be run virtually on a single machine. Here's where I think i'm on dodgy ground. I was thinking that the BIOS emulation environment could call the windows bootstrap and run in a separate process space (kind of thing) so that windows can call it if needed.

Any comments? I'm I mental or would an approach similar to this work in theory? I haven't heard any theories on how anyone who get XP to boot on a Mactel.

January 27, 2006 1:10 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wait for VPC or VMWare. Letting an unsecureable operating system boot your machine is dangerous. If you MUST run a windows app, keep it in the penalty box. Don't say I didn't warn you.

-jcr (Speaking as the former global data security manager for KPMG's electronic commerce group.)

January 27, 2006 5:21 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


It certainly can be done, it's just Not a Good Idea.


January 27, 2006 5:24 PM

Blogger Evan Schoenberg said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

January 29, 2006 9:47 AM

Blogger RSS Spirit Combine said...

Even mentioning the shame that is our 'abdication' of basic research in this country should be cheered.

But why should we expect R&D in a whorehouse....

February 09, 2006 1:13 PM


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