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Running Windows (or anything else) on your Mac Discussion of Classic or running Windows, Linux and other OSes on the Mac.

A newbie comments on his first experience with Parallels 3150


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NJRonbo

 
Member Since: Jan 11, 2007
Posts: 69
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Introduction


Please allow a brief introduction...

For the past 16 years I have been a faithful PC user. I was one of the very first in my community to buy a PC in the early '90s using DOS as a means of running programs.

In all the years of owning a PC, the thought of owning a "macintosh" was absolutely verboten. It was a dirty little word that no-one in the PC community even talked about.

So how did I end up with a $4k Mac Pro? Over the past few years I have horrendous experiences with PCs, including a custom $4k rig built by Velocity Micro. I was living in a world of unexplained "blue screens" and crashes not to mention software programs that just wouldn't play nice with each other and viruses that seemed to infiltrate my system every few months. The biggest shock to my system came as I tested the BETA release of Windows Vista. When I saw that years of work by Microsoft resulted in an operating system that was evolutionary rather than revolutionary, I knew that the future of the Windows operating system was doomed.

Meanwhile, Apple was incorporating Intel chips into their macintosh computers. Talk was beginning to surface that there was a program that allowed someone to rum Windows in a OS X environment. It was that news that pushed me over the edge and convinced me to buy a Mac Pro.

I have owned my Mac Pro for three weeks now and absolutely love the OS X environment. Installing and deleting programs are so much simpler. What's even more amazing is that OS X is more functional than Windows but yet remains far more simpler.

So, for the past three weeks I held off installing Parallels, waiting for the release of VISTA. In the meantime, I did weeks of research on the product. I asked a lot of questions in advance. I even learned that in order to use VISTA on Parallels I needed to buy either the BUSINESS or ULTIMATE editions as they are specifically licensed for virtual machines.

Installation

Yesterday was the day I waited weeks for! I was about to install Windows Vista on my Mac Pro (4GB ram, 500GB hard drive).

Instead of installing through the boxed CD I purchased weeks ago, I opted to install the latest release candidate (3150) as it had more functionality including COHERENCE, which I will talk about in a few minutes.

I downloaded the PARALLELS .dmg file, dragged it to my APPLICATIONS folder and put in the activation key that came with my boxed CD. Easy enough!

I wish I could say that installation was easy. It should have been, but there are some "quirks" in the software that leaves the installer trying to guess what to do. The problem is in the setup procedures. First of all, you are faced with 3 choices on how to install the software: EXPRESS, TYPICAL or CUSTOM. If you are a dummy with new software like me, you'll want to do EXPRESS. However, if you install VISTA before making sure of how much space you want to allocate to your hard drive, you'll end up having to reinstall the operating system. Any changes you make to available hard drive space results in PARALLELS erasing your current partition.

The big problem here is that the folks who designed the installation put some limitations in the procedure. First, everything is in MB rather than GB. I had to sit and figure out how many MB = 2GB. Yeah, for most that's easy, but the designers could have made it easier.

Another problem related to the above is that as an owner of a Mac Pro with 4GB ram and 500GB hard drive I wanted to allocate half that to VISTA under parallels. Unfortunately, you can't. I tried putting 250,000MB in the Hard Disk settings but it was much too high a setting for Parallels to handle. It would not let me put in anything above 128,000MB. On the memory end, it will not let me go above 1500MB. Perhaps I was doing something wrong, but there are severe limitations to those of us with powerful computers. It seems that the software programmers haven't designed this software to take full use of more powerful systems.

I'm happy to say that after the initial installation problems, everything went rather smoothly from this point on....


The Joy Of Using Vista in OS X


PARALLELS does mostly everything it promises to do and mostly everything you expect. I installed Windows Vista Business without a hitch including a multitude of driver permission screens I had to allow for the installation of Parallels Tools.

Within 20-30 minutes I had a separate window with Windows Vista sitting on my OS X. To be honest with you, it was quite amazing. I knew in advance that Parallels would not support the high-end graphic capability of this new operating system so I was not surprised when I saw that there was no Aero Glass functions enabled. That was fine! I still had the benefits of Vista itself.

To my surprise, the one hardware problem I feared the most was extremely easy to configure....

I have a wireless printer set up through my Mac Pro using an Airport Express card and Airport base station. I had thought that I would never be able to find nor share that printer through Windows Vista under Parallels. You cannot imagine how utterly easy it was to configure Vista to find my printer. I simply went into Vista's control panel -> printers and set up a network printer. Vista was able to immediately locate my wireless printer hooked up through Airport. It was just amazing to me that I could do this.


The Joys of Coherence


This experience with PARALLELS became even more amazing as the day went on....

I sort of knew what COHERENCE was, but until I actually went to the toolbar at the top of OS X and selected that mode, I never knew what I was in for.

My Windows totally disappeared and INTEGRATED with my OS X operating system. In other words, the user is back to working with OS X, it's dock and background --- but at the same time, Windows applications (including the Windows taskbar that sits beneath the OSX dock) are all active. I can actually work in both Windows and Mac OS X without switching windows. All programs work side-by-side together in one environment!

While I surf the Internet using SAFARI or FIREFOX on mac, I can instantly go to the Windows taskbar below my dock and bring up OUTLOOK 2007. It's absolutely an incredible experience and it WORKS mostly without flaw.

Thus far I found two flaws. The first flaw I found has to do with graphics. When using COHERENCE and combining the two desktops, I found that patches of the Windows wallpaper were placed on the OS X wallpaper. It looks very odd. I actually was able to fix the problem somewhat by using the SAME wallpaper background on both Windows Vista and MAC OS X. Though they don't line up perfectly, it certainly looks better than having patches of one wallpaper placed over the other.

The next flaw is USB support. While PARALLELS claims it can support USB, it doesn't do a good job of it. I tried plugging in my Pocket PC (PDA) and doing a synch with Windows Vista synch center (to synch with my OUTLOOK). It did not work, though I know it did when I was using the BETA version of Vista on my PC. I also tried plugging in my barcode scanner that I use to scan DVDs for a catalog program. Interestingly, the scanner was recognized but the numbers it outputted were all incorrect.

On the other hand, PARALLELS recognized my USB flash key I had plugged in as well as CDs that I had placed in my optical drive.

I still have so much to play around with here. After all, this is only day TWO using Parallels so I haven't even scratched the surface on its functionality.

I am just absolutely filled with excitement over the fact that all my wishes in purchasing a mac were fulfilled. I wanted to experience the Mac OS X environment and use as many programs within it as possible. I also wanted to run the essential Windows programs that I needed for my business. What I got through the use of PARALLELS was a computer that meshed the two operating systems together as one. It amazes me that I am sitting here running Windows on OS X with very little indication of where one starts and the other ends.


My Wish List


I could not end this report without talking about some of the things I hope that the folks at Parallels will soon be able to address. Since I am rather limited with my experience at this point, so are my suggestions. I am certain others who are more advanced will add even more wishes to that list.

The biggest wish is for better graphics support. Games are not important to me (though I know they are for others). It would be a Holy Grail for us to see Parallels support a 3D environment. On a lesser scale, I just want to see the higher-end visual functions of VISTA (including Aero Glass) supported in future versions of PARALLELS.

I'd like to see PARALLELS allow those of us with higher end Mac Pro systems to allocate more memory and hard disk space to Windows. Also, please modify your installation wizard so that it shows us adjustments in GB in addition to MB.

USB support is also still a problem. It works only on a minimal scale. I would like to be able to synch my Pocket PC (PDA) with Outlook under Windows. I'd like to be able to use my barcode scanner so it actually outputs the correct numbers it reads. I'd like to plug in my Brother Label Printer and be able to use Windows software to output labels. These are all things that I hope will one day be accomplished with future versions of PARALLELS.

This software really is the single most important reason why I switched from a PC to Mac and will never look back upon that decision. I think the word "macintosh" will no longer be a dirty word for PC users. There's a migration revolution underway and it's mostly because of this one piece of software.
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