Monday, January 12, 2009

Mac - A Great Year in Review - Parallel vs Vmware Fusion - Which should you choose?

So I am happy to say that the one of the best things that happened in 2008 for me (probably one of the only good things) was I got bit by the Apple bug and craze. I will be celebrating my one year anniversary probably with the new Mac book pro 17" .

To start off 2008, I had made a commitment to try to get off my Windows XP Machine. The year started out pretty good, I had install Ubuntu on one of my notebook and actually did for about 2 months work off the Linux and the Window Platform. In March however, after using the Mac, sadly I haven't really used Ubuntu much since the Mac really was the alternative. Ubuntu is still great, however Mac is just much better (for now). So in the span of 10 months, myself and my family have started to accumulate a lot of Apple Equipment. (Last count, 1 Mac Pro, 2 x 30 Cinemas, 1 17" Macbook Pro, 3 Macbook Airs, 5 iPhones (1 2G , 4 3G) ). Some of our friends from China that just recently came to visit, I managed to get them onto a 24" iMac for his son and the new 15" Macbook Pro for himself. I will probably end up getting some kind of an Apple certification or reseller status since now I am interested in their xServe platform, and seriously considering selling and installing Mac computers for the next wave of computer upgrades at our office. Yes they are that good!

Of course, we live in a multi-OS world, so no Mac discussion would be complete without the talk of virtualization. The two main virtualization options are Parallels and VMWare Fusion. I still probably need to use Windows XP about 50% of the time, but the nice thing is that I would use Windows XP for the following

1) Software Development - SQL Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008 (I still develop on the Microsoft Platform but server only) - Some of the ERP and Financial Quantitative applications I develop all use .NET.
2) Internet Explorer 7 because some sites only work in IE.
3) My Day Trading Applications, TD and Ninja Trader
4) Microsoft Word and Excel

On the Mac:

1) Email Client - Thunderbird - Great tool, better than Outlook. My only complaint is there is so much configuration out of the box.  I will probably look at some scripting tools later because this is difficult to deploy in the enterprise. On another note, I am happy to say we jettisoned Exchange for Google Apps ($50 for 25 gigs a year how can you beat that?), so now we use the following clients in Mac
2) Web Brower - Safari, Firefox
3) Chat - MSN on Mac, iChat
4) Productivity - Seriously considering iWork, I hate Office 2008 on the Mac.
5) Software Development - PHP, Ruby on Rails, MySQL - happy to say I can do some development work on my Mac!
6) Spaces

So as you can see my tasks are split between Windows and Mac, so you still need to use some type of virtualization. I have not tried bootcamp because it uses FAT or FAT32, so I didn't bother since I never need to run XP natively on my Mac. Although some of my friends have told me to (From Microsoft they said run Vista on my Mac Pro - yeah right) I still haven't gotten around to it. So virtualization it is. On that front, I started with Parallels about a year ago because they were more established in the Mac virtualization than VMWare, even though I have been using VMWare in the windows and server environment for the last 10 years.  VMWare was only at the 1.0 but some of my colleagues told me it was faster. However, for 1.0, VMWare had some stability issues and I found that the integration with the Mac was not as good as Parallels.

So for the last 10 months I have been using Parallels. Over the weekend though, I tried both of the newer version, specifically Parallels because it was up to version 4.0. I thought by sure for this version, they will have the issue for multi display working. Sadly I was disappointed. You would think after 4 versions, they would figure out that there are many users that use virtualization who use multiple displays. Clearly not, you can still only use 1 screen in Full Screen Mode. VMWare however supports up to 10 so I decided to give VMWare a shot again. There were some problems with the multi processor setup, apparently if you are running a 32bit OS, I recommend only using 1 CPU, since it may crash. I had this problem on servers before as well, only Guest OS's that are 64Bit seem to run ok with multi CPU. The multiple display option works well although there was some tweaking. Great news is now my windows xp on my Macbook Pro can use multiple displays.

So now I am using VMWare, maybe if Parallels puts this in I will go back, but I think they dropped the ball on this one. Also from a spec standpoint, it looks like VMWare is much better than Parallels, everything seems to run faster (at least for me.) After 4 versions you think they would have added this in by now, guess not. So my recommendation for my second year of using the Mac for Virtualization is VMWare.

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