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Special Report:
Preview of the Lismore Blue Label PowerEmulator

Have you seen PowerEmulator? Talk to us.

NOTE: This is a preview of Lismore PowerEmulator written before it shipped. It still serves as an introduction to the product. For more recent information, see the MacWindows BLPE Special Report page.

The Blue Label PowerEmulator from Lismore Software Systems, Ltd., is a new PC emulator for Macintosh ($19.95, without operating system). It is best known among emulation circles as a long-running vaporware product. For several years, the Lismore web site has been promising superior performance and unique features compared to current products. Over the past year or so, we have posted news items about Lismore when it updated it's web page, which is currently off-line. Not only was the product vaporous, but so were it's developers.

We were as surprised as anyone to receive this report about a near-complete beta. The report and the screen shots were sent to us by a source who wishes to remain anonymous. Our source claims that this version of the software is a late beta, and works well. According to our source, it has some features not found in Virtual PC and SoftWindows, but the performance was no better.

Blue Label PowerEmulator is not shipping, and our reader reports on the shipping version are similar to this, though they also report a wide variety of bugs, particularly with newer Macs. Lismore has reacted quickly to this with upgrades. At this point, Lismore has released Update 3 to Blue Label PowerEmulator, which fixes a quite a few bugs.

Here now, is the report with screen shots on the late beta version:

It took me 5 minutes to install BLPE. Then I installed Win 95 and ran some programs for Windows and DOS--they all worked! Even those programs that I couldn't launch under Virtual PC. BLPE started to meet my expectations so I wanted to learn more.

1.) Emulators love RAM. The more RAM you have, the better they work. You need to have 64MB of real RAM with 40-50MB dedicated to emulator.

Many Macintoshes only have 32MB of RAM, so I found some ways the problem is settled in BLPE. You can boot BLPE at startup (just like OSBooster), you can boot BLPE from Finder by unloading of all the programs, even Finder itself. The BLPE works correctly with virtual memory turned on (unlike Virtual PC).

2.) You can boot your emulated PC from bootable CD-ROM. You can not do this by using any other software PC emulator. This property greatly eases OS installing, since there is no floppy drive in the latest Macs making a startup diskette.

[Here are more screen shots related to booting and configuring. Click on these thumbnails to see the full-sized images. -- Editor]

Customize Mac extensions at emulator launch

Boot sequence

CPU Settings

Ethernet Controller


Joystick Settings

3.) BLPE has a modular structure. Open architecture allows writing additional modules for the emulator. This allows not only writing device software emulation, but also program independent complexes such as 2D/3D accelerators. Audio/Video decoders, input/output devices by using real hardware devices in Macintosh. As far as I know, LSS is going to distribute the API for all willing to write a module for BLPE.

4.) At last you could setup IRQ and DMA setting for SoundBlaster (and for all other devices). Now my favorite DOS games with nonstandard IRQ and DMA work! And additionally many devices use standard CD-ROM, Mouse, and VideoBoard DOS/Windows/Linux drivers that dramatically improve compatibility. XWindows for Linux doesn't work with VPC because of using nonstandard VideoBoard, but it runs perfectly with BLPE.

5.) Then I noticed the Bugger module allows you to debug programs on a real PC connected to the Mac+BLPE via TCP/IP. I sometimes have to write PC assembler programs and so I run some of them in debug mode under theBugger. Before theBugger I thought that programs could be debugged on that way only on hardware debugger "ICE" that cost $10,000. I think it is great!

[Lismore's Bugger module running on an actual PC. You need connect BLPE on the Mac with real PC through TCP/IP or serial. Click on the thumbnail to see the full-sized image. --Editor]

BLPE has some demerits, of course. It has some bugs and not all modules work as appropriate. I could not run Windows NT. In whole the product has usual beta version problems.

It is pity but emulation speed is lower than that of both competitors. Although on my G3/266 64Mb and iMac/233 64Mb performance was good. When I tried to launch BLPE on my friend's PowerBook G3/292 64 Mb the speed was amazing. I think that performance is effected by its modular structure and not completed optimization of the first version. I think that performance of future versions of BLPE won't differ from VPC's.

I have no idea how much the product will cost but according to my information BLPE will be delivered without any OS. I think it is a good decision, because I already have enough copies of DOS and Windows. Most likely BLPE will be sold via Internet as an image of 2MB. So I think the price will be lower than rival products have. [Note from the editor: the cost of the shipping product turned out to be $19.95.]

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