Genealogy & PC Operating Systems

Which Operating system is best? Mac, Linux, Windows?

Well aside from the inaccuracy of the phraseology in the above query, this is a question I often see discussed, debated, and fought with religious fervor.  Truth of the matter is quite simple.  Use the operating system you like best- for me that means Ubuntu Linux.  For you, well, you get to to pick. 

However, when making the choice of one operating system over another, people seem to believe they are forced to leave everything about their previous (or simply another) operating system behind. In the genealogy space that often means, a move to Mac or Linx from Windows confounds people as to how to get a good Windows genealogy program functioning on their new found PC home. When these moves occur I hear questions like:

What is the best genealogy software for Mac? I really liked RootsMagic but it doesn’t run on my Mac.

Well the answer is really direct, and only requires a modicum of adventurousness. The simple answer is to set up and run a Virtual Machine on your new PC.  Sounds complicated, I know; but, it really is not.  In the virtual machine space you have numerous options however, I will focus on my favorite- VirtualBox.  To quote their website:

VirtualBox is a powerful x86 and AMD64/Intel64 virtualization product for enterprise as well as home use. Not only is VirtualBox an extremely feature rich, high performance product for enterprise customers, it is also the only professional solution that is freely available as Open Source Software under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL). See “About VirtualBox” for an introduction.

Presently, VirtualBox runs on Windows, Linux, Macintosh and OpenSolaris hosts and supports a large number of guest operating systems including but not limited to Windows (NT 4.0, 2000, XP, Server 2003, Vista, Windows 7), DOS/Windows 3.x, Linux (2.4 and 2.6), Solaris and OpenSolaris, and OpenBSD.

What all this means, is you can install a package like VirtualBox on your PC and then install any number of other Operating Systems there as well. The Guest operating systems operate in windows within your main PC environment. There is no need to reboot as you move between environments once ‘all are operational. And for those who do not want to leave an old favorite software application behind, you don’t have to because it will run in the appropriate Virtual machine and it will run in its native mode. Voila! Problem solved.

It is worth sharing an additional data point. In my experience, the pool of essential non-native operating system applications you will need seems to diminish over time. As you adjust to your new environs, you inevitably find new improved ways of doing things. Soon enough your Virtual machine needs shrink to the barest of essentials.