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Parellels Virtualization Software for OSX 10 Minute Review

by pkscout / April 6, 2006 10:53 PM PDT

For the second in my 10 minute review series Wink I'll talk about the Parallels Workstation 2.1 Beta for OSX.

The installation process:

1- Parallels Workstation (from now on I'll call it PW because I'm too lazy to type "Parallels Workstation" anymore) comes as a disk image. You have to download a 30 day beta key from their web site, which requires registering on their site so they can email you a key. I opted not to recieve marketing email from them, we'll see how that goes.

2- once you have the key and the disk image, you mount the image, run the package installer, and then lauch the app.

3- The application will walk you through a wizard to setup your virtual machine. You tell it where you want to store it, and what Guest OS you want to install. Advanced users can bypass the wizard and setup everything to their liking. The wizard setup a VM with 256mb RAM, 4gb HD, a virtual floppy, virtual CD/DVD, and a bridged network adapter for me when I said I'd be installing Windows XP. Memory seemed low, but what the hey.

4- I changed the CD/DVD image file to point at my Windows XP image (created from a legal copy of Windows XP). The only trick here is I had to change the extension from .dmg to .iso for it to be recognized.

5- I started the VM and Windows setup fired up immediately. I ran through setup in *RECORD TIME* The PW VM was faster at installation of Windows than dual booting. I was done with the XP install in about 20 minutes.

6- Hmmm, my networking is working. Turns out the bridged networking with the VM is set by default to EN0 (the ethernet port), but I was using wireless. Changed that to EN1, restarted the VM, and everything was fine. The thing I don't like here is that you have to manually change that, so as I move between home, office, and roaming around campus I have to change that setting. Ick.

7- Installed all the mandatory windows patches (well, 37 of 38 of them anyway). One of them stubbornly refuses to install. I'm creating a new VM as we speak to see if I can duplicate that.

8- PW has some Windows tools to help bridge the gap between your VM and OSX. Cool, except that when I tried to install them using the default install it black screened by Mac and restarted (did I mention this is beta software?). After the restart I did a custom install and included only the required stuff (time sync, clipboard, and something else I can't remember off hand). I excluded the enhanced video and networking.

Pros:
1- Remember how I said the dual boot XP on my MacBook Pro was fast. I lied. PW VM is faster. *MUCH* faster. I don't know how or why. It just is.

2- I can right click using the control key with this.

3- It's virtualization, so I can keep running all my Mac apps while I use the couple of Windows apps I need.

Cons:
1- No USB or firewire support. I can't even map a USB port to a COM port in Windows (you use to be able to do this with Virutal PC).

2- Sound doesn't work for me. PW claims to have sound support, so I don't know if this is a me problem or a beta issue.

3- No apparent way to move files from the VM to the host. With Q and VirtualPC you could create a virtual share and mount a folder from the host in the VM. Nothing in PW like that. I'm going to try turning on Windows file sharing on my Mac and see if I can connect to it from the VM later. If that doesn't work, I might try creating a big read/write image and see if I can mount that as a floppy (no, I don't think it will work).

4- CD/DVD supports CD-ROM/DVD-ROM only. No writing.

Random Stuff.
1- The interface is butt ugly. It is the negative example of why good interface design is so important. I actually had to haul out the manual (another really poorly designed thing) to figure a couple things out.

2- No really, the interface is bad. Stuff I could just figure out with Q or VirtualPC had me scratching my head. For instance, I wanted to have the CD/DVD mapped to my real drive. So I click the button saying use real drive. Then it tells my I have to put a valid name in. Valid name FOR WHAT?

3- Did I mention the interfac is bad? Having to manually switch my ethernet settings (everyone knows the difference between EN0 and EN1, right?) is just plain stupid.

OK, that's it. Remember this is in beta. And before anyone gets on me, yes, I will be reporting my issues and concerns to Parallels so they can (hopefully) fix some of this stuff before release.

Now everyone say along with me: t-shirt, t-shirt, t-shirt. Wink

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Firewall Issue
by pkscout / April 7, 2006 12:32 AM PDT

It appears that PW installs some ktext files (these are basically kernel extensions for OSX) that interfere at least partially with the OSX firewall. If you go to the OSX Preference Pane for sharing you get a message that another firewall is running. The only way to fix this is to go to /Library/StartupItems, remove the Parallels folder, and restart the machine. That of course means Parallels won't work anymore.

My hope is that Parallels will add support for virtual networking before PW is released so that PW doesn't have to do bridged networking (which means I get a second public IP address for the VM).

Collapse -
great review
by rechellesharp / April 7, 2006 12:55 AM PDT

realy wanted to hear a real users views, sounds really interesting.
And a way to convince my work to buy me a McBook Happy

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Same Conversation with My Wife's Work
by pkscout / April 7, 2006 1:06 AM PDT
In reply to: great review

My wife works someplace that only supports Windows. Between the dual booting and/or virtualization we think we can convince her boss to let her get a McBook. Then she can use Windows at work and boot into the MacOS at home.

Her only problem with this solution is that she'll still have to use Windows. Wink

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(NT) (NT) Yeh tell me about it, just can't escape windows
by rechellesharp / April 8, 2006 1:19 AM PDT
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