Trading Forex on a Mac or Linux

My primary computer at home is a MacBook Pro running OS X 10.5.2 (Leopard.)  My other two computers run linux.  There is not an unvirtualized Windows PC anywhere to be found.  Despite this fact, I can trade Forex using any broker trading platform and use any charting software available.  

Why let anyone dictate the type of computer or operating system you’re going to run?  I like Mac’s.  I like Linux.  Windows XP was O.K. but Microsoft’s latest release, Windows Vista is an absolute nightmare.  With that said, there are two predominant types of forex trading and charting applications that are offered by forex brokers:

  1. Java-based broker applications like those offered by Oanda, Forex.com, and GFT Forex.  I don’t know of any full-featured charting applications that are java-based.  These trading and charting applications can run on any operating system that have java installed.  You can run these applications on Windows, Mac, or Linux.
  2. Windows-based broker applications like those offered by FXCM.  All of the full-featured charting application like Metatrader, eSignal, and Xtick only run on Windows.  Your only option is to run these on a Windows XP/Vista machine.

Virtualization is getting more popular in the Enterprise and even on the desktop.  If you don’t have a clue what virtualization is, read the Wikipedia entry at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtualization.  All you really need to know is that virtualization allows you to run Windows on a Mac or Windows on Linux and vice versa.  You can run Windows alongside your Mac or Linux at the same time without rebooting.  Before I get into what virtualization options you have, let me show you a screenshot of my Mac Desktop.  That’s Mac OS X with Metatrader (a Windows only application) running.

metatrader mac os

You can also do the same thing pictured above on a Linux workstation.  

You need virtualization software installed on your Mac or Linux machine to do this.  You have two options:

  1. Parallels 
  2. VMware Fusion

I’ve used both options and they’re very similar.  VMware has been around for a long time and are the market leaders in virtualization in the enterprise.  They were late to the game supporting Mac OS though.  Parallels specialize in virtualization on the Mac so are ahead of VMware in this respect.  Therefore Parallels has a slight edge feature-wise.  Both products offer a fully functional 30-day demo.  On Linux, VMware definitely has the edge and has been running virtualization technology on top of it for years.  Just recently, Parallels announced that it too can run on Linux.

I’m not going to get into all the features and benefits of virtualization but another great feature besides being able to run Windows applications on Mac and Linux are snapshots.  They are kind of like backups of your Windows machine but are very quick (a minute at the most for me.)  Parallels describe snapshots as enabling "you to erase mistakes and recover your virtual machine from system crashes and viruses with the click of a button." It really does this.

Virtualization allows you to remain flexible with the computer hardware and software you choose to trade forex with.  You don’t have to put off buying that Mac or Linux machine just because your broker or charting provider only support Windows.  You get the freedom to do whatever you want. 

Comments

15 Responses to “Trading Forex on a Mac or Linux”

  1. Milton on March 18th, 2008 6:06 am

    Hi Rich,

    I use Linux on my desktop. For live trading I use Oanda and I use Metatrader for more historical perspectives and to play with custom indicators, I run it using Wine and nearly everything works, changing parameters for custom indicators is the only issue that I generally have and that can mostly be worked around.

  2. Hyh on March 18th, 2008 6:57 am

    Rich, current Metatrader 4.x runs smooth enough under wine(i use fedora core atm). Virtualization is ok, but its rather heave-weight approach, you know.

  3. Rich on March 18th, 2008 6:23 am

    Thanks Milton, I’ve used Wine before but you say it yourself, “nearly everything works”… Also, I found it painfully slow, unpredictable, and unstable… It’s just a fact that an application written for Windows was meant to run on Windows, not Linux.

  4. Steven Janowsky on March 18th, 2008 10:40 am

    A third choice is to use a web-based trading platform. For example, FX Solutions offers GTS Web as well as a Windows-based platform (GTS Pro).

  5. Martin tomov on March 18th, 2008 11:25 am

    I would agree with Milton. I use Metatrader and it is rather good for my analysis and trading needs. The other option I’ve tried is iTrader 7.5 and honestly – it is also quite convenient.

  6. Forex Trader on March 18th, 2008 1:53 pm

    Hi, I use Virtual Box to run XP inside Ubuntu 7.10. Use XP only for Windows only programs (part one proprietary trading application). Tried a few other set ups but this has proven to be a very stable configuration over the past few months (since 7.10 of ubuntu came out). Ubuntu is great, my wife\\\’s got a Mac and I like that too but linux is more flexibe and also less expensive. Swain

  7. Forex Trader on March 18th, 2008 9:40 pm

    FXCM does have a Java platform that you can use and it works reasonably well on 32-bit Linux. Unfortunately, they don’t really support it nor do they show much interest in opening the code to outside developers.

  8. Forex Trader on April 16th, 2008 11:19 pm

    FXCM run on wine?

  9. ForexDon on July 18th, 2008 10:46 am

    Since you are running a Macbook Pro (I got one this last week for my birthday), how did you get the wireless network up and running? Did you buy an Apple product or another vendor’s product? I have Comcast, and as usual they are not answering questions, like I’m speaking a foreign language to them.
    Please reply/email me at disbellj at gmail dot com

  10. tiger on October 9th, 2008 8:34 pm

    i run MetaTrader 4 under Windows XP which in turn is running under VMWare Fusion. works great, and the overhead doesn’t faze my dual quad 3.0 GHz Mac Pro with 9 GB of RAM…

  11. Rob on December 10th, 2008 1:23 pm

    I mean, either way you are running windows. So, who cares? Waiting for windows to boot up or reload and all that crap is still a problem and all the downloads updates and BS that you have to put up with. To make matters worse, when you virtualize it you run into hardware problems from time to time. For example, for the longest time my iphone would not work with XP on sun VirtualBox.
    I’m not being critical because I don’t think there is value in virtualizing…but the fact remains that you still have to run windows and put up with all of the BS that comes along with it.

  12. MuddBuddha on March 5th, 2009 1:25 pm

    http://www.prorealtime.com/en/

    Complete charting package under Java JRE.

    Ubuntu 8.10

  13. The Geared Investor on March 5th, 2009 2:31 pm

    I’m currently using my mac to log into my PC at home and running Metatrader that way. I like it alot better because the computer at home is always on and I can control it through a web browser on OS X (Safari and Firefox work fine) through the logmein.com free version.

    It’s pretty easy to set up, you just have to install some software on each computer and then log in through the browser. And there you have it. No need to worry about Windows slowing down your Mac, or your Metatrader program being interrupted because you turned off you laptop to take it home.

  14. old computer on October 23rd, 2010 5:27 pm

    is there a software where i don’t have to install wine or vmware to use these forex software?

  15. hub4port on December 4th, 2010 4:55 am

    you still using windows to run windows application.. this post doesn’t change anything.. nothing. Next time, instead of parallel or vmware, please try virtualbox from Sun, it is free and opensource.

    what we need it native linux trading platform.. metatrader ported to linux and mac.

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