Trading Forex on a Mac or Linux
by Trader Rich
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- 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.