Saturday, 9 August 2008

Should You Throw Apples at Windows?

I found myself looking around for a new laptop a few month ago. Around the same time I purchased a Canon DSLR and started a photography course. Everything pointed to a Mac being the choice for my hobby but Windows was required for my work. I found an article on running Windows on a Mac using Parallels and tested it out on a Mac that I borrowed from my company.

Well hold the phone people, we have a winner. I can say from first hand experience that purchasing a MacBook Pro is the best thing I have done all year. I can switch between Windows and Mac OS without even thinking about it. All my Windows tools are still available and I can benefit from Aperture 2 on Mac for my photograpy.

From what I can gather there are 3 products that allow you to run Windows on your Mac. They are Parallels, Fusion and Macs own Boot Camp. I chose Parallels and have been very happy with the results. It has a mode called Cohesion which presents Windows in such a way that it looks like your Windows applications are running natively within Mac OS. In other words you do not get the Vista desktop in a traditional sense of the word, you get the task bar loaded with your Mac task bar and you cannot tell that it is running on a virtual machine.

If you decide to go this route I suggest that you purchase a 4Gb memory kit from Kingston at around $100 and replace the 2x1Gb modules that comes standard with the Mac. The performance increases are well worth the price.

Another good idea is to share your documents with Mac outside the virtual machine. Also once you have installed Vista and all your applications take a snapshot. This way if you mess something up in the future you can restore the snapshot and still access your documents.

I have tested my system with no problems as yet. I can even terminal on to my PC at the office via a VPN.

The two biggest pleasant surprises for me have been the following:
  • If you have a number of applications open and say for example you have done some work on a new Excel spreadsheet but have not yet saved it, you can just quite Parallels and when you bring it back up again in the future the spreadsheet is waiting for you just as you left it.
  • If you receive e-mail attachments via your Mac, say a Word doc, and you double click it on your Mac, it associates it with Word in your VM and opens up your Vista session and presents the document in Word.
So to answer the original question, YES, you should throw Apples at Windows.

- Paul Steynberg

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