My MacBook Pro Experience - Day 5

It's day 5 of my MacBook experience - time to see if I can get Windows XP and Windows Vista running on that sucker!
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

It's day 5 of my MacBook experience - time to see if I can get Windows XP and Windows Vista running on that sucker!

For this experiment I downloaded Apple BootCamp and Parallels for Mac.  I was going to use BootCamp to get XP on the MacBook and Parallels for Windows Vista RTM.

Parallels is good - BootCamp was a different matterIf you want to see what these applications looks like, I've created a gallery of images which you can view here.

Since BootCamp involved creating partitions and such, and I didn't want to run the risk of making a mess of things, I decided to start off using Parallels for Mac (I started off using build 1970).

I've only been using Parallels for Mac since last night but I'm impressed by how quick, easy and reliable this program seems to be.  It's dead easy to install and the wizard-style makes the job of installing the guest OS simple.  Installing Parallels took about a minute and I had Vista installed on the MacBook Pro in about 25 minutes. 

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Vista worked well within Parallels.  I didn't have the Aero interface but that's because of the graphics driver used by Parallels for Mac. 

With that working, I decided to upgrade Parallels for Mac to the latest RC build (build 3120).  This adds a number of new features, but there was one in particular that I wanted to try out - this is called Coherence.  This gives you the ability to run Windows applications outside of the virtual PC windows you usually view them through.  This way they look and act more like regular applications.

The upgrade worked well but there's a cautionary part to this tale.  When I fired up Windows Vista again after the upgrade I was prompted to reinstall Parallel Tools (these are a set of tools and drivers for the guest OS).  I did this and rebooted Vista - to a black screen.  Few more reboots resulted in the same experience.  Rather then mess about trying to fix Windows I just repaired the install and things went well.  I suggest that if you're planning on carrying out a Parallels upgrade to the new version that you uninstall Parallel Tools from the guest OS first. 

I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about the Coherence feature.  It makes the desktop feel cluttered and confused and removed that idea of a virtual PC running within the physical one.  I'm pretty sure that it's just as safe working this way, only that it feels weird doing so.  I've been using VMware for some time now to handle some dangerous packages and the idea of removing the frame from around the virtual PC makes me feel more exposed.

But overall, Parallels for Mac is very sweet.  It feels a lot like VMware, a application that I'm very familiar with, and this helps a lot.  It feels very fast and responsive, and the applications feels solid.  I feel like I've only scratched the surface with it but I hope to play more with it over the next few weeks.

BootCamp was a different matter.  Installation of BootCamp was easy and installing XP was, well, just like installing XP.  BootCamp even created a drivers disc for me to use within Windows.  But the problems started once I had XP installed.  First off, how do you eject the XP disc out of the drive in order to put in the drivers disc?  The keyboard-based eject button is a no-go and there’s no other eject button on the MacBook.  No problems, I thought, I'll just fire up Windows Explorer, right-click on the DVD drive and select eject.  Well, I would have done that if I could get the right-click to work on the trackpad. 

To get around this I went into Control Panel, activated the Mouse applet and switched the primary and secondary buttons on the mouse.  This let me eject Windows XP and get the drivers installed.  This, I hoped, would fix the trackpad.  It didn't.  I was still stuck with a single mouse button.  I could have attached a separate mouse to the rig and that would have probably worked, but to be honest the hour was getting late.

Another issue with installing the Mac drivers on XP - be ready for a shower of unsigned driver warnings.  I must have clicked through at least a dozen of these, maybe more.  It's a minor point, but it helped make the whole process seem ugly.  But thinking about it, maybe Apple want XP to look ugly on a Mac?

Next up, I want to install VMware Fusion Beta on the MacBook and see what that looks like.

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