SUMMARY Experience with SoftWindows/RealPC

From: Gerhard den Hollander (
Date: Thu Jan 28 1999 - 05:13:30 CST

Dear Managers,

a few weeks ago I asked (basically)
> We're looking into enabling our users to access the windoze environment
> Has anyone ever tried Softwindows on ultra machines ?

I got an overwhelming number of responses, falling broadly into the following

1) Buy a PC, run an Xwindow emulator on the PC, use that to access the Unix

We've been there, done that (I can recommend Hummingbirds Exceed
package). While this is a good solution, we need our users to sit physically
behind the Unix box, we are developing 3D visualisation software (among a lot
of other things) based on OpenGL, so our users are sitting behind Ultra
machines with Creator3D or better GFX cards on board (lucky bastards ;) )

2) Buy a PC, install vnc on the PC, use the vncviewer on the Unix box

Been there, done that as well, while VNC is a good product, the performance of
it is way too slow for real work. Even minesweeper starts lagging after a
while. If however you only very occasionally need to type large documents, but
do regularily need to do small tasks on PCs vnc is a very good product.

3) Metaframe or Winframe from Citrix

A solution that uses an NT server as server, and uses the X-protocol to
display the NT windows on your Unix (X)Terminal. Looks very good, but the
we didn't explore this option much further since it's more costly than the
realpc solution which was sufficient for our needs.

It got duly recommended by various SunManagers

| As a third alternative, perhaps you might want to go with with Citrix
| Winframe (which provides an NT 3.51 environment) or Windows NT terminal
| server + Citrix's Metaframe (which provides an NT 4.0 environment). We
| currently use Winframe to provides windows applications support to our
| Macintosh and Solaris users, and I'm reasonably satisified with the
| results.
| You can find more information about Winframe and Metaframe at

4) Insignia's RealPC or Softwindows

RealPC/Softwindows give you a software emulation of a PC on your Sun
The difference between realPC and Softwindows is that the latter package comes
with a Win95 installation (and license) and is therefore roughly twice as

When asked about the performance of this product, I got a variety of
responses, ranging from ``this is so slow it's unworkable'' upto ``this
product is exactly what I need'' (in one case on the same hardware
configuration even).

We bought one copy which I installed on an Ultra 10/300 Mhz, 128M ram and this
works for us.

RealPC has a number of limitations:
1) you can not allocate more than 32M of ram.
2) you are limited to a C: partition of 500 M
3) the C: partition is created in a single Unix file
   (that will also be 500Megs) so make sure you have enough diskspace [1]
4) you are limited to 256 colors (or 16 colors if you really so desire)
5) If you want to run TCP/IP under windows, you need to allocate a new IP
   addres .
6) Installing software from CD was vveerryy slow
7) Running softwindows remotely caused a huge volume of Xtraffic which
   repeatedly killed my Xserver .

All of this is covered in the manual (iirc).

[1] This file is created under the users homedirectory , which is an NFS
mounted disk in our case, however setting $HOME to a spot on the local IDE
disk of the U10 solved this problem.

However, our primary goal was to have a solution with which our programmers
can access Office and Outlook from their workstations, and with RealPC that is
possible and workable.

Other caveats I've been informed of:
- SoftWindows is not 100% compatible
- SoftWindows is a CPU hog (that's true) and runs badly if you have little
  memory in your Ultra (we have 128M which seems to be just fine)
- Buy your Softwindows/RealPC from your sun reseller, not though insignia,
  since your sunreseller will be (lots) cheaper.

5) a PCI-PC board
Sun is going to market a PCI-board for the Ultra machines which will have a
hardware solution (basically you plug in a PC motherboard, with it's own CPU
(an AMD 200 IIRC) and use the Suns keyboard, monitor &c

Unofficially (in other words, don't quote us on it, things might change
whitout us knowing, no warranty implied &c &c &c &c &c &c) I was told that
1) This item will not ship untill late march
2) Will probably cost around $500

Given the price/performance ratio we will go the Insignia way

Kind regards,
Gerhard den Hollander Phone +31-10.280.1515
Technical Support Jason Geosystems BV Fax +31-10.280.1511
Adres: POBox 1573
                                                3000 BN Rotterdam
Visiting Adres: Weena 598
                                                3012 CN Rotterdam The Netherlands
visit us at
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