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

Discussion in 'Apple' started by Ronald Epstein, Feb 2, 2007.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    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.


    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

    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.
  2. Andrew Pratt

    Andrew Pratt Producer

    Dec 8, 1998
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    Its fantastic isn't it Ron how smoothly that whole process is esp considering Parallels is still in beta!
  3. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

    Jul 6, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Steve Tannehill
    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. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    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.
  5. Todd H

    Todd H Go Dawgs!

    May 27, 1999
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    Ron, your enthusiasm mirrors mine when I switched last year. Glad you are having so much fun. [​IMG]
  6. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator

    Oct 30, 1997
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    Aberdeen, MD & Navesink, NJ
    Real Name:
    Sam Posten
    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) =)

  7. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

    Oct 31, 1997
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    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!
  8. Steven Simon

    Steven Simon Producer

    Sep 14, 1998
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    Steven Simon
    Could you explain to me how to use Parallels with bootcamp? I don't understand... I thought paralells works under mac??
  9. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

    Feb 16, 2001
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    Albany, NY
    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. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

    Jul 6, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Steve Tannehill
    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. Thomas Newton

    Thomas Newton Screenwriter

    Jun 16, 1999
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    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.)

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