I am (was) the unofficial Microsoft Entourage support person for my organization. Susie Q. is having a problem with Entourage losing her e-mail, “Call Andrew” her office-mate would say. Those days are no more. I now use Outlook 2007 on my Mac and let users know that until the next version of Entourage appears, this child of mother earth is not going to to suffer the burden of two computers any longer. No more do I have to keep a Windows box on my desk just to manage VI3 or play games. The days of this systems administrator keeping up with the Joneses when it comes to many machines is over — behold the power that is Windows on a Mac. Behold the power that is Parallels.
I know Windows on a Mac is nothing new. People have been doing it since almost last year at this time, however, it is only recently that it has been so easy to seamlessly run the latest version of Office or the VI3 client on OS X. As I type this I am also composing a message in Outlook, checking on one of my ESX hosts, and trying to get a 5-man together for the Mana Tombs. With the release of the Core-2 Duo Mac laptops last year as well as the very new Parallels release, I can do all these things on my MacBook Pro, at the same time, and still have honk left over. The recent release of Parallels is the first production release to include their feature Coherence. Coherence lets you hide a VM’s background, so that applications running inside the VM appear to be running as part of the host OS’s (in this case OS X) window manager. And it works very well. Copy and paste is supported between Windows applications and OS X, as well as drag and dropping files! You can even stick Outlook 2007 and Word 2007 in your OS X dock!
You may be wondering, “But that means he is still running a full version of Windows inside his copy of Parallels? How is that any better than two computers? And how does his laptop have any, what did he call it? Oh yeah, how does his laptop have any of this so called honk left over with a full version of Windows running in the background?” Those are very good questions, thank you for asking.
Yes, I am still running a full version of Windows. It is however far more efficient to do so in a VM than on real hardware because I do not have to keep up with 2 computers, a KVM, or using synergy, keyboard/mouse synchronization errors. I have one system to rule them all. Besides, I don’t have enough Tycho and Gabe stickers for all of my boxes, it is good to whittle the number down.
Yes, my laptop still has plenty of honk. It screams. It is so bright with power it out-gleams Mr. Cruise’s teeth from that volley-ball scene in Top Gun. Shiny! The reason for this is that I am using a modified, stripped-down version of Windows XP. I stripped out all of the unnecessary services and other miscellaneous junk out of Windows using nLite (http://www.nliteos.com/). nLite allows you to create custom versions of Windows without all of the fluff. Before I installed Office inside my VM, it was running in around 100 M of memory. Not 640K, but not bad. If you are going to go this route, it is my very sincere suggestion that you do not use Vista. It is a resource hog and the point of running a Windows VM in the fashion that I have described to you is for it to consume as few resources as possible. In fact, Windows has now become not unlike a Java Virtual Machine (JVM). It exists to make other applications possible on top of an existing OS.
You may have caught that I mentioned I am able to play games. Does this mean that the new release of Parallels supports DirectX inside of a VM? No, no it does not. That feature is exclusive to the latest beta of VMware Fusion. However, you can use Parallels to run your BootCamp (http://www.apple.com/macosx/bootcamp/) version of Windows inside of a VM. That way you can boot into Windows bare-metal when you need to and use it inside of OS X the rest of the time. How well does this work? Well, I do not know. I have no need to do this, because the only game I play is World of Warcraft (until Spore comes out) and it runs just fine on my Mac 🙂
I could keep typing, but I need to modify an Active Directory account’s attributes. Pardon me while I load AD Users and Computers from OS X. It’s evil, it’s delicious, it’s fun, and it’s a darn good business reason I can present my boss (the one I’m married too) that I should be able to buy a quad-core MacPro. Please honey?