Parallels and Apple — Near perfect

December 4, 2006

There’s a whole lot of buzz around the latest Parallels beta release. They have added a new feature called “coherence” which allows OSX and Windows to co-mingle on your desktop. At first, this seems wrong and creepy. But once I appreciated what this will mean for the future, I found peace with Windows on my Mac.

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Here’s the gist, you can drag documents between the Windows and Mac desktops and folders. Sadly, they do not “move” but simply copy from one environment to the other. Hopefully this will be changed in the near future. That’s not all, with the coherence mode turned on you can also drag an OSX window into the MS Windows desktop environment and copy and paste between applications using the default Apple short cuts. This is nothing short of monumental in the evolution of virtualization on the Mac.

I’m imagining a future where you can right click on a document anywhere and choose to open it in either the windows  or the OSX environments. Or better yet, predefine that certain file types always open in the desired environment. The software will just work. No need to worry about the operating system. Web browsde in linux, rip DVD’s in Windows and take care of photo’s in iLife without ever concerning yourself with which environment is actually running.

I am blessed enough to be running dual monitors. This allows me to dedicate one to the Windows VM on Parallels and one to OSX. I couldn’t ask for a better setup for getting my work done. The coherence mode of Parallels allows me to drag OSX windows into the Microsoft environment with no problems (however, you can not drag Microsoft application windows into the OSX environment). The image below shows Microsoft Media Player 11 running overtop Vienna and iStat (both Mac applications).

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Bring your DVD’s on the plane

November 19, 2006

I really wanted to bring my DVD’s on a recent cross-country flight. I was familiar with backing them up using a PC, but I had never done it on the Mac. I played around with several options and decided that Handbrake is the best solution if you want a file for your iPod or in iTunes while Mac the ripper is the best if you want a dvd image file at full quality.

You can find a complete description of the process here and here while Macworld also has a nice write up here. This seems pretty satisfying, but I think I would still prefer to remaster the disk like I did on the PC. I was able to strip out the multiple languages, menus and extras to produce a much smaller DVD image that I could load up in any DVD playing software (including windows media center player in the living room ).

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The best (and worst) of both worlds

October 4, 2006

The latest revision of Parallels Desktop for the Mac is running butter smooth on my Mac Pro with 2GB of RAM. No hangs or crashes. In fact, right now, I’m using Ecto for Mac to write this post while watching DL.TV Episode 100 and installing software updates on Windows XP.

Windows

To be more specific, the update is for my Sandisk 4GB flash drive. I can’t recommend this drive enough. It is fast, small and holds a ton of data. It also came with U3 Cruzer security software that allows me to carry sensitive data from my day job home totally encrypted. The down side is that the software is Windows only. But now that I have Parallels on my Mac, I have access to the secure data any time I want. While getting the Cruzer software installed and running under Windows was pretty quick, the Windows update that I performed on my system was another story entirely.

Check out the number of updates in this set. 59!!! Has Apple even had 59 updates ever? This seems pretty crazy, but I went ahead with the updates. I don’t want to get any of the Windows nasty little bugs in my Parallels install.

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Some quality time

September 29, 2006

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Parallels has just released RC2 of Desktop for Mac. While the Mac Pro received some love a few weeks back with a beta release, Parallels has put some real quality into this release candidate. Not only is it compatible with Vista and developer builds of Leopard, but there is no longer a RAM restriction. Parallels was only recognizing 3GB before.

I have to ask myself though, are there people out there with $2K of RAM in their Mac Pro that do not have a PC sitting under their desk to run windows on?

Here’s the FAQ sheet for this release:

No RAM limitations

No hardware reconfigurations

while using Windows and it’s critical applications on new 64-bit Mac Pro towers and iMacs.

Other improvements & fixes that make Parallels Desktop even easier to use:

New! Compatibility with developer build of Mac OS X 10.5, code-named “Leopard”

New! Experimental support for Windows Vista

Solaris guest OS no longer hangs after suspend/resume

An improved Parallels Tools package

Full support for OpenBSD 3.8 as a guest operating system

G4U hard disk cloning tool now works in virtual machines

Better video output improvement and acceleration

Added multi interface USB devices support (including Windows Mobile 2005 devices)

Added isochronous USB devices support (including WebCam devices)

Keyboard support improvement: Eject CD key support, left/right Shift/Ctrl/Alt (Option)/Windows keys difference support

Added virtual disk cache policy option: Mac OS X performance optimized or guest OS performance optimized

Image Tool fixes

Optimized disk cache policy for Suspend/Resume feature

Windows ME Suspend/Resume fix

Shared Folders first time access acceleration

Clipboard synchronization tool fixes (unreadable symbols sometimes added during copy and paste)

Sound playback and recording improvement

“Unable to allocate virtual memory” during virtual machine power on fix

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Go to sleep and quit locking my VT-x

September 9, 2006

If you are running the new Parallels RC on a Mac Pro you may have come across this little message when you boot up Windows:

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If you read the Parallels support blog about this there’s some help from the user base that indicates you have to put your machine to sleep after reboot in order for this vt-x support to be available in Parallels.

It does work. Before putting the machine to sleep, it took about 1 minuet for Windows XP Pro to startup. After going to sleep and restarting Parallels, it took about 10 seconds to boot.

I still can not apply the Windows update patches though. However, there is a nice little trick. You can simply go to this website in Safari and download the patches to your Parallels share folder. Jump over to Windows XP in Parallels and run the installer. Voila… service patch 2 (SP2) installed!

If you need a tutorial for setting up Parallels and the share folder, go to ARStechnica

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Things just got parallel… for the Mac Pro

September 7, 2006

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Well, I have to hand it to them, the Parallels team pulled it off. Today they announced that a new release candidate is available that enables Parallels to run on the new Mac Pro. I just installed the update. After a minor warning that a virtual machine already existed (from my previous attempts to run Parallels) the rest of the VM startup went smoothly. I created a 12GB hard disk for the VM and allocated 765MB of RAM.

Install

The next step was to startup the VM (which worked flawlessly this time and to pop my Windows XP Pro CD into the drive. I did get a strange message that my Intel chip supported virtualization, but that I did not have it enabled. I just clicked OK and went about my business as if I knew what that meant. The windows install began right away. I did notice a considerable slowdown of the Mac OS, but I selected the option to optimize the performance of the VM over the Mac OS, so I wasn’t really surprised. I formated the windows partition as FAT. I’m not sure why, but it just seemed like I would want to keep my Mac drive NTFS free, even if it isn’t a “real” drive. The subsequent typical 40min windows install went just as I expected…SLOW. But this is entirely an MS phenomenon, not related to Parallels. When all was said and done, I was extremely happy with the end result. I now can have access to a few random PC programs without having to reboot or startup my home-brew PC.

I did find this message pretty funny. At the time, I was listening to iTunes through the Mac OS. Apparently my entertainment just got better. Who knew.

Funny

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Parallels update on its way

September 4, 2006

The Parallels website now warns that it is not compatible with the Mac Pro:

“At the moment Parallels Desktop doesn’t run on Mac Pro. We’ll provide an updated version that will function on Mac Pro soon. Click here to sign for Parallels news and stay updated about this issue”.

However, they claim there is a patch in development. This is great news. Let’s hope that they can pull it off. If not, this could be a serious blow to Apple’s quest to capture some of the PC crowd with a mac that can run windows.

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