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'PearPC' looks to mix Apples and Wintel oranges

A new open-source program lets PCs built around chips from Intel and AMD emulate a computer running the Mac's PowerPC chip--bringing Mac-centric software to Microsoft-minded machines.

Though there's long been a relatively stable application for running Windows-based software on Apple hardware, using Mac-centric programs on Microsoft-minded machines has rarely been possible.

A duo of enthusiasts is attempting to buck that trend by launching an open-source program called PearPC that lets PCs built around chips from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices emulate a machine running the Mac's PowerPC chip.

The software can also run various flavors of Linux, though most of the interest has focused on its ability to run the Mac OS on a PC. Early testers say the software works but that it runs very slowly.

Sebastian Biallas, who created PearPC with help from Stefan Weyergraf, acknowledged the software's limits, warning that it's prone to crashing and runs at only a tiny fraction of the speed of the host PC.

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Still, Biallas and Weyergraf's effort would appear to be the best yet at getting Mac OS X to run on anything other than a Mac. Throughout the Mac's history, others have tried to run the operating system on the PC, with varying success, as chronicled on the site .

Biallas is also encouraging further development, posting PearPC on the Open-source Sourceforge Web site.

By contrast, Virtual PC has been around for years, allowing Macs to run PC software. The software, first developed by Connectix and later acquired by Microsoft, runs the latest versions of Windows, albeit with somewhat slower performance. The software currently doesn't work on the Power Mac G5, but Microsoft has been working to fix that with Version 7, which has been pushed back until the second half of this year.

Although far less established, PearPC has attracted a great deal of attention among Mac enthusiasts, with many rushing out to see if, indeed, their PC can run Mac software.

Dutch university student Thom Holwerda said he wanted to try Mac OS X, but couldn't afford to go buy a new computer.

Holwerda said he saw a mention of PearPC on operating system enthusiast site OSNews. "I immediately gave it a shot," Holwerda said in an e-mail interview.

PearPC doesn't include a copy of Mac OS X, but Holwerda said he borrowed a copy from a friend. While the software works, it runs at only about 2.2 percent of the speed of the computer it's running on.

As a result, Holwerda said, he's not actually running any Mac OS X programs. "It's kind of useless right now; way too slow."

Holwerda said he was nonetheless encouraged. "This is only a 0.1 release, more is definitely to come."