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Coming next to the Mac: Linux and Windows?

Some Linux vendors and Windows fans want their operating systems running with Mac OS X

By Eric Lai
February 9, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Momentum is building, albeit unevenly, to bring alternate operating systems to the Intel-based Macintosh computers that Apple Computer Inc. recently released.
Despite a lack of encouragement from Apple, operating system vendors and enthusiasts are working to make Linux or Windows run with the Mac OS X already installed on the latest Apple iMacs and MacBook Pro laptops. The iMacs are available now; the new laptops are due out later this month. Both of the "Mactel" lines sport Core Duo processors from Intel Corp.
Mandriva SA, the third-largest Linux distributor, said its version of Linux is already compatible with the 32-bit dual-core Centrino processors, which are also used in conventional Linux and Windows PCs. While technical issues, for now at least, prevent booting Mandriva on Apple hardware, a fully compatible version of Mandriva Linux "could appear sometime in the second quarter of 2006," according to David Barth, vice-president of engineering at the Paris-based company.
Canonical Ltd., which is behind the fast-rising Ubuntu Linux distribution, said that despite current technical hangups, a Mactel-compatible version of Ubuntu could be available within the next eight months, when development on the next major release of Ubuntu is expected to finish, according to Jane Weideman, a spokesperson for the Isle of Man, England-based company.
Other Linux distributors are less definitive with their plans. Linux market leader Red Hat Inc. has denied earlier reports that it's actively rewriting its Linux distribution to run on Mactel hardware. And Novell Inc. is waiting for the open-source community to provide a technical solution.
Linux long available for older Macs
Many flavors of Linux already run on Mac hardware using PowerPC chips, which Apple is phasing out because of chip-speed limitations and excess heat. The main problem with getting Linux to boot on the new Apple computers is the newish Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) it uses to connect the operating system to the hardware and peripherals at startup.
EFI was developed by Microsoft Corp. and Intel as a faster, less complicated successor to the 2-decade-old BIOS technology used on non-Apple computers. However, apart from servers and workstations running Intel's 64-bit Itanium chip, most PCs today continue to come with BIOS installed.
Linux has been able to boot on Itanium machines using EFI for a number of years using a bootloader program called ELILO. According to Brett Johnson, a software engineer who maintains the ELILO open-source project, tweaking ELILO so Linux can run on 32-bit EFI systems such as the new Macs is possible, though he isn't working on a solution himself.
"ELILO should just work, and load the Linux kernel

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