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VirtualPC = helpful

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One thing I'd always been told as a Flash developer was to test SWF files on several platforms. It's not because the player is so vastly different between platforms, but because browsers all handle plugins a bit differently.

Figuring that this was good advice, I'd always intended to test Duck Tiles other OS's, but that's a pain to do unless you want to (shudder) multi-boot your machine. Hence I got MS VirtualPC, which'll run about every x86-based OS.

Installing Windows 98 under VirtualPC was seamless, and Duck Tiles worked just fine. My main want, though, was to test it under Linux.

Linux has always given me the willies because of the amount of contradictory talk by the zealots out there. Linuxheads are quick to insist that Linux is 13.8 times easier to install than Windows, but Linux install problems are always the topic-du-jour on technical message boards, so it was always clear that the ease of installation is overstated. Thankfully, a new fatWallet thread opened with a magical coupon-code allowing me to get Linspire (formerly Lindows) 5.0 for free. Since Linspire is aimed at folks with even less Linux experience than myself, I got the disk image and installed.

It was almost seamless. Rumor had it that MS planned to add code to exclude Linux from working with VirtualPC, but that's not the case. Linspire did manage to crash VirtualPC, but the crash-results dialog box recommended that I get the VirtualPC service pack (who'd have thought that the crash-results dialog box would ever be helpful). The service pack fixed the problem, and I've now got Linspire running in a window after an almost entirely unattended boot process.

Linspire looks nice and really tries hard to act like Windows XP, but it's still not quite there. For one, there's no obvious uninstall feature, so I couldn't remove the default "Frankenmozilla" browser or the Flash 6 player in favor of Firefox and Flash 7. Installing Firefox was easy, but it didn't put an icon on the desktop or start-menu, and I had to drill down to the Firefox directory to launch it. Installing Flash 7 involved dragging the shared libs to the plugin folder, as the install script didn't work. The process wasn't exactly seamless, but I did manage to get Firefox and Flash 7 working well enough to test.

Sure enough, Duck Tiles was a bit different. The plugin (or maybe the browser) wasn't paying enough attention to the recommended size, so I saw some bits of Duck Tiles that you're not normally supposed to see, namely bits that I was stashing off-window when they're not used. A little work with the _visible attribute, and Duck Tiles now looks great on Linux. Ran pretty well too.
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I've been using VMware for years for the same reason. It's just plain useful to be able to put up/tear down an odd machine/OS configuration.

However, according to Microsoft support policy there is now only one Desktop OS in the world: Windows XP SP2 so you don't need to worry about such things any more!

All praise the Redmond Hypnotoad!

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Huh? Looking at VirtualPC, they've got preconfigured setups for Windows going back to Windows 3.0, DOS, and OS/2. They don't have a preconfigured setup for Linux, but it worked okay.

If VirtualPC only allowed you to virtualize Windows XP SP2, there wouldn't be much need for it :)

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