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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

MacBook Project Continues

Day #3 – By now, most of us are familiar with the saying “if it ain't broke, don't fix it”. Let me start this day's entry by stating that this is advice I tend to give others, and rarely follow myself. This is especially true when it comes to high tech and software integration. Although I was quite happy with the outcome of my efforts to create a dual boot MacBook, the fact remained that I had really created two (2) Laptops in one that were not capable of working together in any meaningful way. As I surfed the various Web Forums on the subject, I came across at least two (2) different solutions that claimed to allow for the configuration of a Virtual Machine within Mac OS X using the disk partition that I already created for Vista, Parallels and VMWare Fusion. Having worked with VMWare in the past, I opted to use their solution for a test of this feature.

VMWare Fusion is a solution which allows you to create a number of Virtual Machines running within Mac OS X. These Virtual Machines can be Windows or Linux. After installing VMWare, the Vista partition on my drive did, in fact, show up as a configurable Virtual Machine. I picked this existing Vista installation as a Virtual Machine to start. VMWare spent a few minutes configuring the machine to run, and then launched Vista in a window. I should make two important points before I continue describing my results. First point is that the End User License Agreement for Vista only allows for use in Virtualization when purchasing a license for the Business or Ultimate additions. As I was using Vista Home Premium, this may have had an influence on my results. Second point is that VMWare Fusion, and Parallels for that matter, do not claim to support the full video capabilities of the software while in virtual mode. This means that the Aero Theme and gaming will not be possible.

Although the Virtual Machine did run, it was a fairly sluggish interface that took a long time to start. I also noticed that the settings in Mac OS X for how my keyboard and mouse were supposed to behave did not make the jump to the Virtual Machine. This stumbling block was compounded by the fact that these settings also went away in Mac OS X until the next Restart. The graphics experience was in fact dumbed down quite a bit, with limited resolution and response time. All of the applications previously loaded in Vista were accessible via the Virtual Machine.

The fun actually began when I closed the Virtual Machine, and restarted the MacBook, via Dual Boot, in it's Vista configuration. When Vista was finished booting up, I noticed that the video was still in it's dumbed down state. Upon further testing, I realized that many of the MacBook subsystems were not responding as before. It was not long before I received a few Hardware Found pop-ups, which confirmed that things had indeed changed. At this point I decided that clean Dual Boot performance was much more important than virtualization of Vista. I corrected the issues with Vista by reloading the driver disk that Mac OS X built during the BootCamp install. This corrected Vista performance. Needless to say, my next step was to un-install VMWare Fusion from Mac OS X. Still haunted by the desire to be able to run Windows software, while booted in Mac OS X, I decided to install an evaluation copy of CrossOver. CrossOver, by the company CodeWeavers, claims to allow many Windows applications to be installed and run under Mac OS X. As the software seems to emulate Windows 98, this is a somewhat limited list of software. CrossOver installed fine, and even allowed me to install and run some Windows applications, most notably Office 2000 and Internet Explorer 6.0. IE 6.0 showed some limitations when Java content was involved, but browsed fine otherwise. Integration of IE 6.0, and the Java VM that is not longer supported by Microsoft, could be a blog of its own. No noticeable limitations in Office 2000 so far. So having checked Virtualization and Emulation Software off of my to-do list, look for printer sharing and file sharing in the next installment.

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