Fun With Parallels

March 18, 2012 by  

One of the many things we MyMac.com writers do is review products for all of you fine readers. I’ve been on the staff for a month or two, and got media credentials at Macworld (I still can’t believe that happened…), got a few things published, and so on, so Nemo asked me what products I want to review. I indicated I wasn’t too sure, and that I’d sleep on it, when a few days later, I was asked to review something, but that I needed an Intel Mac capable of running Windows to do so.

A few months ago, I picked up a refurbished store demo Mac mini 1.66 GHz Core Duo, 512 MB RAM, SuperDrive for $549 at my local Apple Store. Here in Palm Beach County, we are blessed (?) with three Apple Stores, the one closest to me at the nearby Wellington Green Mall. But I digress… My plans for this machine centered around making a media center of some kind. The cost of a disk array or a NAS (see my previous blog about NAS devices) and finding a quiet, cool place to store it has put that project temporarily on the back burner, so I had a machine available to do the product review (coming soon!). This mini, due to the fact that I am a complete and total slob and every available horizontal surface is a place to stash stuff, wound up connected to my home entertainment system. I use an Apple wireless keyboard and a Kensington wireless mouse to control it. As I am all out of HDMI connections (hey Nemo, got any review stuff from Belkin? I hear they have a nice HDMI switch!), I connected the mini’s video output to one of the two RGB connectors on my Panasonic 50 inch DLP rear projection TV (only 720P, alas, but with my vision, that’s probably fine–I also don’t need to see every pore in an actor’s face or other body part…). The limitation of doing so is that screen resolution is limited to 1024 x 768 pixels. Not a problem for this project, though.

Last weekend, I stopped by the Apple Store and picked up a copy of Parallels. For those of you who might not know, Parallels is a product that allows you to install and concurrently run additional operating systems, like Windows or Linux, on your Intel-based Macintosh. Last night, I began the setup. As it turned out, it couldn’t have been easier. Parallels installed with two or three mouseclicks. I entered the registration code, it authenticated with a server at Parallels, and all was right with the world.

The Windows installation turned out to be the easiest one I have ever performed. I popped out the Parallels CD and inserted the Windows XP (SP2) CD, picked the default configuration, and sat back. In about 40 minutes, it was all there, fully-functional, including the registration. What really took the time was the process to connect to the Windows Update website and download/install literally 66 individual patches and updates. That took about 90 minutes. When I rebooted, I went back to the update site, and found that the brand new Internet Explorer 7 already had a new patch! There were also seven additional non-critical updates that had to be installed. That took another 45 minutes.

The fact that Parallels handled all the network connectivity issues between Windows and Mac OSX, which in turn was sent wirelessly to my Belkin wireless router (with WPA encryption) completely automatically. I did not have to configure a single item to have basic functionality. The only special thing I had to set up was a shared folder so I can easily move files back and forth between the Windows and Mac environment. It’s also pretty amazing that I’m doing this with a 512 MB RAM machine that is having to split its memory between two different operating systems. Granted, I haven’t installed any applications yet, and haven’t tried to push things, but it’s pretty amazing how well this went. A few years ago, I installed Virtual PC with Windows 2000 on my 500 MHz TiBook, and the process literally took all night, and it needed a lot more handholding. If it does in fact demonstrate the need for more RAM, I’ll pay a visit to one of MyMac.com’s fine advertisers and get me some…

The VMWare product is going to have to be at least this easy to install and configure, or they are going to be in big, big trouble in this product category.

The only problem I’m having right now is a problem in both the Mac and Windows environment. It seems like the Kensington Bluetooth mouse is interfering with the Apple wireless (Bluetooth) keyboard. The keyboard is generally working OK, but the mouse is a complete bust, with slow tracking, fast overshooting, and other issues. Hey, it might just be me, and I’m sure a quick trip to Kensington’s FAQ page(s) will help me solve this little minor issue.

Please note that this is NOT a Parallels product review, hence it does not follow the standard MyMac.com product review formatting. This is just a blog entry to describe my really positive first impressions of a very impressive product. The ease of installation and configuration is going to go a long way toward helping switchers switch.