With the arrival of my wife's iMac, I finally had the opportunity to try Parallel's Desktop for Mac. I wrote about this program earlier, and the excitement that I had in anticipation of it's implementation. It promised a lot that I felt was almost too good to be true, particularly when I read the reviews by other Mac users. Here is the experience that I had.
Why I Needed It
I haven't been very subtle about my love of the Mac, and it's ability to run both open source programs and professionally developed programs well. It's a wonderful setup overall. That being said, there are some few applications that my wife uses that requires Windows. While we have tried everything we can think of to try and work around it, one application in specific did not allow us to move from Windows completely to the Mac. So, instead of filling up our office space with occasionally used Windows machines, we would rather have a virtual machine that will take care of all the nasty Windows applications, while still being within the Macintosh. And, it would let me install Linux and Solaris on it as well, without having to reboot the system. That was a major bonus.
The install ran fluidly, as with any other native Carbon or Cocoa application. It did need to add some extensions, but overall it ran perfectly. And, as is characteristic of all UNIX-based Operating Systems, it didn't require a reboot of the system (yes, one of the main reasons I left Windows). Once set up, it gives the main program, and the Virtual Machine creator.
Starting it up
Starting it up was a bit different. It began with the Virtual Machine creator, because there wasn't one set up by default. I began by selecting Windows XP defaults, as I intended to install Windows Vista as the Windows machine. I continued through the process, and finally got to the point where I could boot to Windows. I changed the boot sequence, and double-checked the resources being allocated. It gave 8GB of hard drive space to the VM, and 256MB of RAM. Considering the iMac has 2 GB or RAM and a 250GB hard drive, I didn't think this would cause a problem. Then, I entered in my Windows Vista RC 1 disk, wrote down the Product Key, and started the Virtual Machine....
I got a Kernel Panic... I've never had a kernel panic before on a Mac, and was shocked! How could this happen? The resources are well below what Mac OS X Tiger requires to run... Why the Kernel Panic?!? I tried it again, with the same result. Well, time to check the manuals.
Yes, I admit I don't read manuals for a software install. They are all so basic that I have very rarely needed to do anything fancy. Well, this time I checked the process, and made sure everything was exactly as the Manuals suggested. I tweaked a couple of settings, crossed my fingers, and tried again...to the same result. Same Kernel Panic, and needed to reboot the Mac.
By now I was getting pretty steamed. I began to understand the frustration that the reviewers had for the program. As I started to contemplate it's fate (and a possible waste of $80.00), I decided to check out their website to see if they have at least acknowledged the issue. As I started checking things out, it seems that they were not only aware of the issue, but released an update that fixed it! This cooled my temper a bit, and I started the 30MB download. After a short couple of minutes, I started the install and update. Once that was done, I started up the virtual machine...and it booted! It started to try to load Windows VIsta. I say try, because Windows Vista didn't like the BIOS on the iMac, and refused to load. Well, that's fine. The program worked, and that's the main point.
While I tried to remember the location of my old copies of Windows, I gave another Operating System a try. I grabbed xubuntu 6.0.1, and threw it in. I kept the Windows XP settings, and ran the Live Update on the computer. Everything booted like a charm. It did run rather slow, but keep in mind it was a Virtual Machine running off of a CD in another Virtural Machine. It was bound to be somewhat sluggish to say the least. But it worked brilliantly, and I was more excited then ever.
So the final grade? I would give it an overall B. Yes, it didn't work out of the box, but once I got it to work, it began to hum like a dream. While I would have liked it to run swimmingly at the get-go, I'm glad that it didn't. It gave me a chance to troubleshoot the program, and get to know it better. Afterall, it took me 3 Linux installs before I finally got to the point of using it regularly. And that lead me to Mac OS X, which is my Operating System of choice. This program now gives me the option of not only remaining on the Mac, but utilizing the sttrengths of other Operating Systems, and on the same machine. I'm looking forward to my next Mac purchase (a Macbook Pro), so that I can install all my old Windows 3.11 and DOS 6.22 games, and have a real fun party! ^_^