Using Mac, Windows and Linux

Tonight I finished the installation of Ubuntu Linux inside of Parallels running under Mac OS X…and spent some time goofing around with it, the Windows XP install I did last evening, and tweaking some stuff on the Mac OS on my new MacBook Pro. None of what I’m about to write (about using multiple OS’es on one computer) is new, but I’ve got one perspective you might find enlightening.

Having grown up in the personal computer business and used operating systems on microcomputers as well as workstations, minicomputers and from a teletype connected to a mainframe (back in high school), I’ve come to appreciate the expertise and artistry needed to pull off the virtualization needed to run mutliple operating systems on one computer.

But that’s what the team at Parallels has done. While I won’t play games on the Windows installation or do media work on either Windows or Linux, they nonetheless run fast enough that both are indistinguishable to me from what I experienced on the HP Pavilion laptop (a 3ghz, 1GB ram computer) that I recently gave to my niece. That alone is amazing.

But what astounds me is Coherence, a feature in their beta release that allows Windows applications to run like they were native Macintosh apps (see a screencast here). This is a big deal, since power users like me can run apps that are only available on other platforms on an as-needed basis. I’ve already found this to be *very* useful since I could now help a colleague troubleshoot a PC-version of Skype which is just different enough from the Mac version that having a copy on my own machine allowed me to help him.

Here’s another example: there is a great little application for managing wireless networks that has no parallel (no pun intended) in the Mac or Linux worlds. At this moment and this version of Parallels, I have to click inside of the window running Windows and manage the application in that manner. In the next release, I can just fire up the application and Parallels, hide the running Parallels window (running Windows), and have just the application in the dock available to me.

Apple’s Boot Camp is an inelegant solution since it forces you to reboot to use either operating system. Rumor has it that in Apple’s new OS called Leopard, Boot Camp *may* allow Parallels to “point” to the Boot Camp Windows install instead of creating a virtual instance. That means that one could install Windows, boot an Intel Mac and run it as a Windows machine (for gaming or other CPU intensive activities) or run a virtual instance so all the Windows applications are available for day-to-day personal productivity.

Just like when my Dad and I went to Germany in 1997 for a trip to find our ancestry and just goof around, I smiled when he kept remarking on the plane ride over, “Geez….can you believe that Johann and Suzanna (my great, great grandparents) took one month to get to Minnesota when they emigrated…and we’ll be to Frankfurt in a mere 8 hours?” Even though I am hyper-aware of all the changes that are coming so am rarely stunned by disruptive technological entries, I still am amazed that I’m typing this on my laptop, in my living room, connected to the Internet (a global network!) through the air, and have Windows running in the background and Linux just installed. Oh yeah….and I just got done watching a video and downloading some podcasts.

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  1. Ed Kohler on February 18, 2007 at 6:29 pm

    Great insights. I’m a Parallels user, but haven’t played around with the new beta version. Coherence sounds awesome.

  2. Lenny on February 26, 2007 at 11:48 am

    I have had Parallels since it was originally released in beta form. I’ve used it to test my website from Windows IE, Firefox, etc… as well as just to tinker. I have decided that I would never infect by beautiful Mac with its own Windows partition – so Parallels is a great solution. Most recently, they have added the “Coherance” mode, which allows you to run Windows apps along side your OS X apps in OS X. Truly a great feature when you need to access a Windows IE-specific website or if you need to use Windows-only software.
    The greatest piece of advice that I would give to any Parallels user – Once you install Windows and have all of your apps and settings as you would like them, back up the Virtual Machine so you can always go back to the original image. I have had the wonderful experience of getting a virus on my VM. I just tossed the image and copied a new one over!

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About Steve Borsch

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Connecting the Dots Podcast

Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.