Back in February I got a 17" MacBook Pro. I'm not a big fan of Apple, but I got this because I wanted a 17" WUXGA display, like my old, and now stolen, Sony VAIO VGN-A190.
Turns out, getting a machine with a display like that is kinda hard and the Mac really wasn't that high of a premium compared to others. I also got it because I wanted one machine to rule them all... that is, I didn't want to have to lug around a Mac and a PC so I can do iPhone development and .NET development.
I had experience using virtualization software before, like VirtualPC, Virtual Server, VMWare workstation, VMWare ESX, so I kinda knew what those were like. I had heard about Fusion and Parallels, but I was used to getting my virtualization free. (I know VMWare isn't free, but those were at work.)
I found VirtualBox and considered the problem solved. I ran that, but there were several annoying things about it and I ran into bugs.
I really wasn't very happy with Mac OSX and I wasn't doing much iPhone development, so I spent a stupid amount of time and effort to set up BootCamp on my Mac so I could just run Windows 7 x64 with no brakes. Sigh. Even that had problems. I couldn't TruCrypt the Windows system partition, which was a big reason for doing that. Couldn't pair my Apple Bluetooth keyboard to it. Then, of course, the need to do iPhone development came back. I wasn't looking forward to migrating back to Outlook for email and using iTunes on Windows. The other factor was that I wanted to be able to run SharePoint 2010 on
my Mac. I upgraded to 8GB then found out VirtualBox wasn't gonna use it. I tried a crazy scheme where I booted Windows and ran VirtualBox to guest Mac OSX... yeah, that's not working. Had it worked, I would have spent even more time totally paving to run Windows 7 under TruCrypt with OSX in VirtualBox. Then I saw that MacSales was running a sale on Parallels v5, researched it and concluded, eh, for $50, I'll try it. I knew I couldn't keep running VirtualBox and BootCamp was too annoying.
The Parallels Experience
I got the disc, put it in, entered in the obscenely long license key, it downloaded a newer version, installed and walked me though getting a new VM going. Very easy. I built a new VM using Windows 7 Ultimate x64. A minor hiccup was the Windows timezone was not set correctly. I think it got set to Mountain Time, not Arizona's most-awesome, immutable, daylight-consistent-time. I could have migrated my BootCamp partition (or just run it in VM) but I wanted to get back to a single partition world and, if it is going to be a Windows install I have to work in everyday, I'm going to spend the time to build it clean. This is probably my sixth Windows 7 install that I'll use everyday. It's not really that hard.
A Freeway of Delight
- Wow. Taskbar and the Dock are one. The start menu is right there! And I can Cmd+Tab across Mac and Windows apps! Double-click an Excel document from Finder and Excel launches! Launch Mac programs from Windows.
- Ooooh, coherence mode. My Windows apps are running in, uh, a window!
- Brilliant! I can always use Cmd+C and Cmd+V, even in Windows! It's so clumsy having to remember Cmd+C vs. Ctrl+C.
- Awesome. My %USER_PROFILE% folder points out to the Mac disk!
- Cruising through the configurations, man, this product is built by passionate+crazy smart people. Features like disk resizing with guest resizing... nice. The incantations and shenanigans you have to go through to do this on a "mature" product like VMware made me recommend a while ago to just make vdisks crazy big, always.... bigger than the host disk even. Now, I don't have to. Turns out, these are the crazy smart people behind Virtuozzo, the OS-layer virtualization system used by a lot of hosting providers.
- Heh, heh, heh. The features of Aero that I hate don't seem to work, but the ones I like do.
The Alley of Sorrow
- Oh, my dream of keeping all my projects on the Mac side are dashed. Even after adding \\.psf\Home and the network drive mapped to it (Z:) to my Trusted Sites list and using caspol to make .NET trust them, I still can't really work with Visual Studio projects off the mapped disk or host sites using IIS from there -- I think this is due primarily do lack of ChangeNotification support. ASP.NET really wants to know when a dll or web.config changes. Visual C++ totally refused to build even a console project there. If I had one wish for a future feature, making this work would be it.
- Alas, I had to kill the beauty of Cmd+Tab across Mac+Windows because I needed to be able to use the function keys in Visual Studio. Boo.
- Minor hiccup: I set up another virtual machine to run Windows XP and IE6, because it is the most awesome browser! Anyway, running a second VM made things a little weird. I was expecting a second start button on the Dock, but instead I had to switch between them. Not a huge deal, given I was just going to run IE6 on the other VM, but the main thing was the networking totally didn't work when the VM came up the first time. Not sure why, but I could ping the gateway, but DNS didn't seem to work.
- I like the fact that I can access the Windows disks from Finder, but, it looks like that only works when the VM is running and didn't seem to work reliably. How sweet would it be if I could work with Windows disks anytime, but that, of course, would require Parallels include a full NTFS driver.
- The audio and video playback doesn't work quite perfectly, but given I run iTunes and surf mostly on the Mac side, this doesn't present a big problem for me.
- Another minor feature request: It would be nice if it could virtualize the iEye camera a little better. Allow all VMs to see it as hardware and the first to turn it on gets exclusive use of it until they turn it off or the VM is killed.
- I had this problem on bare metal too, but Aero seems to switch on and off. Sometimes, I'll have translucent window frames, other times opaque.
- I expect that when I shift+click a Dock icon for a Windows app, that it should launch a second instance. Heck, Parallels should add that for Mac apps. Ever try to run two instance of Calculator?
Parallels isn't perfect, but it is worlds better than any other virtualization product I've ever used. Is it as good as just dual-booting? No, for audio/video, but better for most everything else.
The big caveat to this review is that I have never used VMware Fusion
. I will. VMware offers a 30-day trial version
and I will try it. I almost never get trials, because I'm hardly ever ready to commit to starting the clock on them. But I will. Give me a couple of weeks and I will download and try Fusion and report back. If it turns out to be mega-awesome, at least I can get $30 back on their competitive rebate
You should try Parallels
. They offer a 14-day trial
, but, honestly, 14-days is just barely enough time to really evaluate it if you started right away. They don't seem to offer a competitive upgrade.