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A reason to switch to Mac: My experience with Parallels!


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10 replies to this topic

#1 of 11 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted February 01 2007 - 10:57 PM

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.

 

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#2 of 11 OFFLINE   Andrew Pratt

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Posted February 02 2007 - 02:07 AM

Its fantastic isn't it Ron how smoothly that whole process is esp considering Parallels is still in beta!

#3 of 11 OFFLINE   Steve Tannehill

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Posted February 02 2007 - 02:21 AM

Native graphics and full USB support should be possible in Boot Camp.

I installed Boot Camp, then allowed Parallels to use that partition. The graphics are not an issue with me either, but I did need to be able to use a Gretag Macbeth i1 Pro Spectrophotometer via USB. Parallels will not recognize it, but Boot Camp will. I just have to reboot my MacBook when I need to calibrate something.

I am glad to hear Parallels is working out for you, and I too am a fan of the "coherence" feature. It is so nice having hardware that is OS-neutral!

Oh, I just started using the "Pedia" family of DVD / CD / Book cataloging software. DVDPedia blows Delicious Library away with respect to performance, and with the right software it can be made to use the little Bluetooth laser scanner. And since that thing works so fast, it will only take a few hours to re-scan my library.

Oh, have you used the EyeTV yet?

- Steve

#4 of 11 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted February 02 2007 - 03:08 AM

Steve,

EyeTV is great. It has some slight drawbacks. Sometimes, if you
start it right after OS X bootup it fails to initialize. I have to restart
it a second time and then it works.

Another problem is that you can't keep it on top of other applications
for constant viewing. After contacting Customer Support I was told
this was a problem inherant with the software (too many layers of
windows are needed to run EyeTV). The company is looking, however
to address those issues soon.

I have no need to run Boot Camp. Don't want to deal with it
even it would solve my USB issues. I am confident that in the
not-so-far future, Parallels is going to support total USB, high
end graphics, and be the complete Holy Grail software we are all
hoping it will be. If you look at how fast that company releases
new updates (every 6 weeks or sooner) you can see we are well
on our way to having a flawless Windows environment on our Mac.

It's actually FUN using a computer again and I can't believe
people are still hesitant to change over to mac.

Finally, concerning DVDPedia, I may try that software. I "hear"
you can actually import DVD Profiler profiles into it and unlike
Delicious Library, it doesn't crap out after 1000 entries.

 

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#5 of 11 OFFLINE   Todd H

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Posted February 02 2007 - 06:34 AM

Ron, your enthusiasm mirrors mine when I switched last year. Glad you are having so much fun. Posted Image

#6 of 11 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted February 02 2007 - 11:47 AM

I told you you would love it Ron, grats on the new workstation, I am TOTALLY jealous. I've been itching to buy a Macbook Pro, only the lack of a HD storage optical drive has held me back, but as soon as they do that I'm in (tho I hope they put a better video card in at the same time) =)

Sam

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#7 of 11 ONLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted February 02 2007 - 12:59 PM

Ron, your posts on the Mac/Win experience have been most helpful. I own a Macbook Pro and use XP via Bootcamp, but have been interested in Parallels and how it would work with Vista.

My desktop PC will come up for replacement in about 12-18 months. If the Vista experience via Parallels or Bootcamp proves to go well in that time, I'll probably replace my desktop PC with an iMac or Mac Pro in about a year or so.

Please keep us up to date with your experiences!

XBox Live: TheL1brarian (let's play Destiny on XB1)


#8 of 11 OFFLINE   Steven Simon

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Posted February 02 2007 - 02:05 PM

Steve,
Could you explain to me how to use Parallels with bootcamp? I don't understand... I thought paralells works under mac??
Steve Simon
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(Retired)
 

 


#9 of 11 OFFLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted February 02 2007 - 04:15 PM

Basically, Parallels uses the bootcamp physical partition instead of its own virtual partition in the same way it was using its own virtual partition. It works the same way except you have a real installation of Windows instead of a simulated version. Bootcamp would also presumably give more control over the size of each partition. The reason the USB might work better is because it's a physical installation of the operating system. That being said, I've never used it either way so I'm not certain that the logic is true in practice.

I guess some people are just intimidated by Bootcamp which is why they don't screw around with it; perfectly understandable. It does seem, however, that a one-time slightly more complicated install would pay dividends later with this install.

#10 of 11 OFFLINE   Steve Tannehill

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Posted February 02 2007 - 04:35 PM

Both Boot Camp and Parallels use a partition in which you load the operating system. Parallels can be configured to use the Boot Camp partition.

- Steve

#11 of 11 OFFLINE   Thomas Newton

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Posted February 02 2007 - 07:11 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Lenhardt
The reason the USB might work better is because it's a physical installation of the operating system.

I wouldn't expect running Parallels off a BootCamp partition to do anything for the USB issues (or the 3D graphics limitation). If it couldn't read files off the virtual partition, you'd see a lot more problems than USB flakiness.

I would expect that the hard part about USB and 3D graphics support is virtualizing the access to these devices in a way that (a) takes into account hardware variations and (b) does not interfere with MacOS X's low-level control of the hardware. (You don't want Windows to decide that it owns the entire video card, and to Hades with Mac OS windows and bitmaps.)