Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Parallels Desktop for Mac

While I would love to be completely Windows-free, there are a few Windows-only applications that I need to run on occasion. At work, diagrams are frequently sent around in MS Visio format. At home, the programming software for my Yaesu ham radios rquires Windows. So, yesterday I downloaded the demo for Parallels Desktop for Mac and loaded XP Pro onto my MacBook Pro this morning.

Dayum, this works! Really well so far, AAMOF.

Parallels even simplifies the XP installation process. Run the wizard and it configures a virtual machine with 256 MB of RAM for you. The only entries you need to make are for your name, organization (optional), and the product key. A couple of mouse clicks later the install runs and doesn't need any more user intervention.

I was able to let the XP install run inside Parallels while I did other stuff on the MBP. While XP was installing I had Firefox, Mail.app and iChat open. After the installation completed the impact on OS X's performance seemed minimal.

To get online I had to switch from the default bridged networking to shared networking. The network I'm plugged into at work does not have a DHCP server. The default DNS server that the VM is pointed to is the same as the default gateway in shared networking, but this resulted in slow browsing. From within XP I opened the network properties and manual specified a real DNS server and web browsing sped up immensely.

I installed a few programs in XP: Firefox, Google Toolbar for IE, AVG Antivirus, Crap Cleaner, Spybot Search & Destroy, and MS Visio 2003. I also installed the anti-spyware hosts file from MVPS.org.

On my Core2 Duo machine XP runs smoothly. Firefox, IE, and Visio open quickly, although I haven't yet opened any complex diagrams. I'll have to wait until later to install the Yaesu apps and configure a USB-to-RS232 adapter. I don't intend to install many Windows applications, only what I need to fill a gap for stuff that doesn't exist in OS X.

Switching between OS X and the virtual machine is as simple as moving the mouse and clicking on the appropriate window. It's much more transparent than Virtual PC was.

To access folders on my MBP's hard disk from the XP VM, I added them to the "Parallels Shared Folders" which were enabled by the install wizard.

I've used VMWare on Windows and Linux, and IMO at least for workstation use, Parallels beats it hands-down for ease of use.

If you get an Intel Mac but need the use of Windows programs, you owe it to yourself to take Parallels Desktop for a spin.

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