Sliders resort to running OSX in a VM.

Oct 09

In the life of a cross platform slider, there is one major downside : We have a choice. A choice to pick up any computer in the house and do ‘our thing’ on a variety of operating systems. If I glance over our “laptop drawer” that houses a variety of mobile computers for various uses, I can pick and choose from a range of different laptops running a range of different operating systems. OSX, Stock Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Joly Os … Its like a little kernel parade. Sometimes this makes me feel like a woman. Not knowing what shoes to pick and pondering what pair goes well with what purse. Its kind of the same thing. My Laptops, ranging from an 7-inch EEEpc to a massive 15.4 inch Macbook Pro each sport specific characteristics for specific tasks. In true “slider-topia” I SHOULD be able to pick up any laptop for ANY specific purpuse, not wondering about the software or operating installed. In true Kilroy 2.0 fashion I should be “free” of constrictions like OS, Software or even hardware to preform my task ? No ?  Well, almost. In my weekly routine of producing and uploading a podcast to the cloud I do intend to “bump in” to some proprietary programs. Some are by choice of preference. I like using Garageband over anything else I have lying around to produce and punch out the podcast. Prefer Imovie to ANYTHING Linux or Windows has to offer when it comes to Screencast production .. but for other applications, that “choice” is based on “needing to” rather then “wanting to”. Take the very simple program “podcastmaker”. This brilliant little app lets me edit my rss feed. Add shows, description, album art, link to the file and HOP the RSS feed is updated on my server. A timesaving little piece of candy i’ve been using for years. But there is one flaw. Its OSX only and i’m unable to “copy” its settings and preferences to my dropbox folder to make it ‘machine independent’. So everytime I need to use it , i NEED to use THAT specific os and THAT specific machine. And as a true slider, I can’t stand that ! 

So what is the solution ? How do we free ourselves from these phisical “tie ins” to OS, App and Machine ? How can we make sure our “cross platform sliding lifestyle” is not affected by the need to use a specific machine ? The answer is simple : Virtualisation. Many times before I have “virtualised” certain machines to set them free from phisical ties. Helping friends move from Windows to Apple products was a breeze thanx to the fact that I could ‘virtualise’ that old legacy clunker witht that old accounting program and grant it eternal life in a Virtual Machine on their mac. 

But in this case, the answer is not that obvious … or is it ? Virtualising Windows and Linux distributions is a breeze and you can run them on any os (even on a Mac) Virtualbox gives us an easy and cheap way to do just that. But in this case I would have to “virtualise” an OSX environment and THAT is something the late Steve was not very fond of.  One of my cross-platform strategies is to virtualise instances of Windows and Linux and run them on our central server in the house. With the great little app called “teamviewer” i’m able to acces them from any device (using the teamviewer client) on ANY OS and from ANY location. Muscle and CPU power is provided by our I5 server and its a sliders dream. But virtualising OSX is a bit more complicated.

First of all OSX is designed to run on Apple hardware only. Thus “popping it into a PC” and booting is not realy an option, or is it ? Google the world “Hackintosh” and you will be thrown into a new universe of handy “hackers” who are able to run OSX on their (non mac) machines. But running OSX on the “bare metal” of your system is not an easy task. Some of those hackers have managed to pump out “preconfigured recompilations” of OSX that you can just “slide” into your PC and hope for the best. But with the wonders of Virtual Machines we don”t even need to worry about drivers, hardware and the like.

So I gave the pre-installed “IATKOS” distribution a try. A repackaged version of LION that should run on many PC’s (and surely in a VM) Now, before you proceed, let me warn you : Iatkos is illegal in 2 ways : 1 it is in violation of Apple’s EULA that states you can only run OSX on a MAC. 2 : It comes PRELOADED with a version of OSX Lion. For me : I’ve bought and installed Lion on three machines in the house and still have an ‘option’ to install it on a fourth. So I don’t feel like i’m violating copyright here. But this manual is not about ethics or  legalities : You do what you see fit but we don’t encourage or condown these kind of actions.

Half an hour (and some googling and tinkering later) the ‘Finder’ on my Mac reported a new OSX machine on my network that phisically did not exist. Configuring the new ‘virtual mac’ for screen sharing, Itunes sharing and more brought the whole thing to life even more. The addition of teamviewer to the VM made it accesable from anywhere and pretty soon I had installed that pesky ‘local loving’ application podcastmaker. Now my workflow is a lot easier. I can now edit the RSS feed from any machine and even from any location using my “central mac” that doesn’t exist.

What could be next ? Well , with IOS5 coming out we will be able to ‘sync’ our Ipads over the air with Itunes. So wouldn’t it be great to have that very Itunes directory running inside that VM ? Using remote desktop I could configure which tracks I wanted to sync and Hoopla .. here we go. No more need to fire up a specific mac to do it. Just access the always running OSX Vm on my always-on server. 

I’m not going to hold your hands on this one if you want to wander down the pirate road but if I say you google “iatkos” and use “virtualbox” you will be able to put two and two together and virtualise your very own OSX in no time.

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