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Parallels Desktop for OS X Reviewed 300

phaedo00 writes "Ars Technica has put up a great review of the first full release of Parallels' virtualization software for OS X, Parallels Desktop 1.0. From the article: 'Move over emulation, virtualization is in and it's hotter than two Jessica Albas wresting the devil himself in a pit of molten steel. It's no contest, virtualization has it all: multiple operating systems running on the same machine at nearly the full speed of the host's processor with each system seamlessly networking with the next. Add to that the fact that it's cheaper than getting a new machine and you have the guaranteed latest craze. Not even the Hula Hoop can stop this one.'"
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Parallels Desktop for OS X Reviewed

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  • Parallels is Great (Score:5, Informative)

    by Over_and_Done ( 536751 ) * on Monday July 10, 2006 @03:56PM (#15693315)
    I decided to plunk down the money for a new Intel Powerbook because of Parallels, and I have not been dissapointed. I have been using it since thwy released the public beta for it, and it really is a great life saver. Running XP under 1 gig of allocated RAM and I cannot notice a slowdown on the Mac or PC side of the system.

    My only pet peeve is the way that the virtual machine mount USB drives only allows 1 OS to have access to the device at a time. So if you are on the Windows side and insert a drive, Mac does not see it, and vice versa. I am not sure if there is a way around that or not. But that really is the only annoyance that prevents me for managing the this seamlessly.

    I hate sounding like such a fanboy, but this really is a great piece of software.

  • by Clockwurk ( 577966 ) * on Monday July 10, 2006 @03:56PM (#15693316) Homepage
    on my Gateway laptop and when combined with OSX, its pretty damn slick. If you plan on playing games or video, you should forget about it and just use Boot Camp, but if you're not using very demanding apps, its a godsend. AutoCAD runs really well, and its nice not having to reboot. If you are contemplating a virtualization app, be aware that you will need memory for both operating systems. 512 is painful, 1 gb can get slow at times, and 2gb is the sweet spot. If you are going to virtualize XP, try SP1 instead of 2. SP2 is a lot slower in virtualization (this was the case when using Virtual PC or VMWare).
  • by Rude Turnip ( 49495 ) <{valuation} {at} {}> on Monday July 10, 2006 @03:57PM (#15693317)
    I bought a MacBook Pro recently, with the intention of having a single machine for home (OS X) and office (WinXP). I tried out Parallels and there's no doubt that it is a very useful piece of software. Waving my hand over my Macbook (accomplished with Shadowbook + Virtuedesktops), caused my screen to rotate into either Windows XP or OS X at will. The processor speed, because the Core Duo is simply being virtualized, is pretty much full speed. On the other hand, the Mobility Radeon X1600 GPU (with its 256MB of VRAM goodness) cannot be virtualized, so Parallels must emulate an 8meg SVGA card. This makes the graphics of Windows XP seem sluggish. Since I am transitioning from a 4-year old Dell Inspiron that is very peppy and snappy in the GPU department, I refused to tolerate any sluggishness whatsoever in my new ($2K+) computer. I installed Boot Camp yesterday and then installed Windows XP. After you install the Apple-provided drivers for the MacBook (including Radeon drivers), the system runs incredibly smooth under XP. The only special thing I had to do was install Windows 2003 Server Resource Kit (free from MS) to re-map my right Command key as a delete key so that I could use ctl-alt-delete to login to my domain.

    If you need to use Windows XP all day as your work OS (as I do), you will find Boot Camp to be the superior solution, if only for the snappiness of the system. I don't need to use OS X at work for any reason, so dual-booting works for me. If you only use a few Windows apps irregularly and will primarily use OS X all day, then Parallels is the way to go. Keep in mind that Boot Camp is free, while Parallels costs $.
  • by MindStalker ( 22827 ) <mindstalker AT gmail DOT com> on Monday July 10, 2006 @04:02PM (#15693362) Journal
    And all the other virtual computing solutions to come out this year havn't done that for you???
  • by davevt5 ( 30696 ) on Monday July 10, 2006 @04:02PM (#15693365) Homepage Journal
    To clarify, I mean that I'm "joking" to be annoyed by my Mac crashing when I tried to do so many different things - not that Parallels didn't actually crash my Mac -- it did.
  • Re:Games? (Score:3, Informative)

    by LinuxGeek ( 6139 ) * <djand,nc&gmail,com> on Monday July 10, 2006 @04:06PM (#15693394)
    They did address the games issue in the article. It was 'don't bother'. He even had the tongue in cheek estimate of a 3dmark score of -30000.
  • by Savage-Rabbit ( 308260 ) on Monday July 10, 2006 @04:10PM (#15693417)
    Anybody care to summarize the pros and cons of Parallels vs VMWare?

    The latter is vaporware on OS.X.
  • by Rude Turnip ( 49495 ) <{valuation} {at} {}> on Monday July 10, 2006 @04:45PM (#15693685)
    That combo works in Parallels because Parallels likely maps that combo automatically. "Pure" Windows doesn't recognize it, unfortunately. As the user of a Happy Hacking Keyboard, fn+delete would be my preferred method :)

  • Bootcamp? (Score:3, Informative)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Monday July 10, 2006 @04:55PM (#15693746)
    I fail to see the problem since if you want to run games you simply use Bootcamp instead.

    In fact that gives you a better setup since you have what is essentially a dedicated system for gaming that can be tweaked out and then a seperate windows system setup for productivity apps that you don't optmiize nearly so much. It's the ultimate setup because a rogue game (or more like a rogue game deinstaller) cannot then wipe out your REAL data.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 10, 2006 @04:55PM (#15693747)
    You wouldn't want to move Virtual PC as-is to Intel Macs anyway. Virtual PC is emulation, Parallels is virtualization. Virtual PC will need to be rewritten from the ground up as virtualization for it to be worth anything on Intel Macs, because there is simply no point to running an emulator on the exact chip you're emulating.
  • by Kittyflipping ( 840166 ) * on Monday July 10, 2006 @04:58PM (#15693772) Homepage
    Your post is from April 26, which means you were using the beta. Since when did we start expecting beta software not to crash your system? I've had a crash or two with the beta, but the release version has been as solid as a rock.
  • Re:Shared RAM? (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday July 10, 2006 @05:03PM (#15693812) Journal
    RAM allocated to the VM is not real RAM, it's virtual memory space. If you are using the VM a lot, then this will be swapped into real memory. If not, then it will be swapped out. You are generally better off allocating more RAM than is needed to the VM, since then the host OS will handle swapping, which will generally be faster than the guest OS doing it (I/O is a bigish bottleneck with virtualisation).
  • by WombatControl ( 74685 ) on Monday July 10, 2006 @05:12PM (#15693865)

    I don't know about any of those titles, but StarCraft runs reasonably well, except for occasional problems with the sound cutting out.

    In general, anything that doesn't require any hardware accelerated graphics should run fine, so games that have a software rendering option should be playable under Parallels. However, YMMV.

  • by refactoringdr ( 163991 ) on Monday July 10, 2006 @05:26PM (#15693952)
    I'm playing Planescape:Torment under parallels on my iMac. Works great. You'll have to fiddle with the graphic settings in the VM to allow it to change resolutions if you want to run it in its fullscreen glory. The speed is quite acceptable. There are a few graphical "turdlets" when you are moving the mouse around, but these are easily ignored (at least for me).

  • I have used both (Score:4, Informative)

    by why-is-it ( 318134 ) on Monday July 10, 2006 @05:32PM (#15693985) Homepage Journal
    Anybody tried Parralels for Linux here?

    I have. They appear to be fairly equivalent, as far as I can tell. I run SuSE 10 at the office, but I am required to run a few windows-only applcations. I have been using various versions of VMWare for the past 4 years to get around that barrier. I downloaded a trial version of Parallels to see what it was like. I was initially interested because VMWare has been fairly expensive to re-purchase over the years, and Parallels is quite inexpensive by comparison.

    Both install via RPM and the install is pretty straightforward. I did not find Parallels difficult to configure, but then I have been using VMWare for some time, and I am familiar with the concepts and what needs to be done. The Parallels interface is quite similar to VMWare's, so if you are familiar with one product, you should be able to use the other. In the past, I learned the hard way that VMWare was a fairly memory-intensive application. Once I added an extra gig of RAM to my workstation everything ran pretty smoothly. I don't know if Parallels runs well with less RAM or not, but I would assume that more memory is always better. I have an Athlon 1700 CPU, and it can run multiple Linux applications and a virtual windows session without tons of paging or lag.

    Mind you, I only boot the windows VM once a week or so, and run it for maybe 15-20 minutes at a time. If you wanted to run something more intensive, YMMV. I have not tried to run any games via VMWare either, so I have no idea what that would be like. On the whole, I am pleased to say that both Parallels and VMWare both work really well for me. They offer similar performance and functionality, and both are quite stable applications. The next time VMWare rolls out an upgrade that I have to pay for, I will be switching to Parallels.

    As other posters have stated, games are probably the holy grail of windows virtualization. I would like nothing better to have an Intel-based PowerMac with a kick-ass graphics card that could give me all the benefits of owning a Mac, with the added bonus of being able to play my favourite games without rebooting.

  • by sootman ( 158191 ) on Monday July 10, 2006 @06:04PM (#15694181) Homepage Journal
    I just got my MB last week and tried Parallels this weekend. I'll definitely be buying it before the price goes up on the 15th. (From $50 to $80.)

    I couldn't get W2K installed* but XP went on fine, as did RedHat 7.1. Ubuntu goes on next, followed by SmackBook. []

    Slower than native (AFAIK, all of Parallels runs as one thread) but still fun and very useful for what I need it for.** Each OS picks up another address on your LAN (, 106, 107, etc.) and it's a lot of fun to SSH to a virtual Linux box, make a page in ~/public_html/, and view it in Safari on the same box.

    XP runs fine fullscreen (1280x800) and if you have your Mac set up to right-click with the trackpad, you don't need to do anything different in Windows--a quick one-two on the trackpad and I've got a contextual menu in XP. Scrolling also works. 'Command' maps to 'Windows key' just like when you use a Mac keyboard on a regular PC, so that also behaves as expected. Overall, it's great. Definitely fast enough to be useful--it's not like I'm on a 200 MHz machine all of a sudden or anything. Feels like any reasonably peppy Windows box.

    * doubly funny because that's the OS they show in the screenshots in the documentation) because no matter what I tried, I couldn't get it to see the CD--it just keeps saying "No boot device available, press Enter to continue."

    ** handy way to have lots of OSs with me, do testing, troubleshooting, etc. And FreeCell. There's still nothing better than Windows' FreeCell.
  • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Monday July 10, 2006 @06:15PM (#15694261)
    The real question is: is there any good reason why ctrl-alt-del is used as a combo for logging into 'doze?

    Yes! It's because that particular key combination is special: it has unique hooks into the BIOS, event-handling system, etc. As is often the case, Wikipedia [] is your friend:

    On a PC running DOS or a system that runs in real mode, this keystroke combination is recognized by the keyboard handling code in the BIOS and treated as the CPU's NMI signal, which, except for rare exceptions, invokes a soft reboot.
    The design of Windows NT is such that, unless security is already compromised in some other way, only the WinLogon process, a trusted system process, can receive notification of this keystroke combination (because it is the first to register the keyboard hook). This keystroke combination is thus a secure attention key.
  • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Monday July 10, 2006 @06:39PM (#15694405)

    I was thinking the same thing, but I just realized: even if you could use the same Windows install for both, Windows itself wouldn't let you because it would keep complaining about the hardware changes and require you to reactivate all the time.

    (Product activation is why I still use Windows 2000...)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 10, 2006 @06:41PM (#15694412)
    I believe the HP processor philosophy is very simple, involving little in the way of on-chip instruction reordering, branch prediction etc. Consider the Intel Itanium2 based primarilly on their architecture. It's primary failing was the requirement for compilers to be smarter than we can currently write. I.E. they would LIKE a virtualization layer, because the chip doesn't do that stuff and expects the compiler too. Thus the emulator is doing something that the chip doesn't do. I'm not sure that this is the case with a pentium chip, which has a HUGELY complex instruction reordering and translation layer already on-die.
  • by Zobeid ( 314469 ) on Monday July 10, 2006 @07:32PM (#15694671)
    Virtualization is better than dual-booting, but you still get all the natural disadvantages that come with WinXP. To wit: high price tag, vulnerability to malware, and bad karma from supporting the Evil Empire. There are a very small number of Windows programs that I would like to run, but this price is just too high. WINE and Crossover Office represent my real hope for the future.

If it's not in the computer, it doesn't exist.