Tag Archives | Virtualization

A Faster VMware Fusion

VMware Fusion–along with Parallels Desktop, one of the two primary ways that folks virtualize Windows into running on Macs--just got an upgrade. The version number is only jumping from 3 to 3.1, but it sounds pretty meaty for a point release: VMware says it’s 35 percent faster (with a particular boost in 3D performance), has better features for migrating a real Windows PC’s OS onto a Mac, handles USB devices more gracefully, and makes Windows apps behave even more like Mac ones (including letting you use Mac keyboard combinations).

People who want to run Windows on a Mac are blessed with a difficult choice: Both Fusion and Parallels are outstanding pieces of software. But Parallels has outperformed Fusion in recent speed tests. If VMware’s claims are realistic, Fusion just eliminated performance as a major difference between the two products.

The upgrade is free for Fusion 3 owners, $39.99 for users of previous versions, and $79.99 for new customers.

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VMware Fusion 3 Takes Windows-on-Mac Up a Notch

VMware Fusion BoxWas it really only a little over three years ago that the formerly fanciful notion of being able to run Windows apps within OS X without major limitations became reality? Today, archrivals Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion continue to undergo aggressive upgrades aimed at making the virtualization of Windows on Macs even more powerful, seamless, and simple. And today, VMware is announcing that it’s taking preorders for VMware Fusion 3, which will ship on October 27th.

I haven’t had any hands-on time with the new version yet, but the list of features that VMware has revealed leaves me anxious to get my mitts on it:

  • Snow Leopard support, including a 64-bit engine and support for OS X’s 64-bit kernel.
  • Full support for Windows 7, including the Aero interface and Flip 3D task switching and better support for DirectX and OpenGL graphics.
  • A migration utility that lets you import a real PC’s Windows installation over the network. (Parallels introduced something similar in August, but did so in a separate version of the product that does the job over a bundled USB cable.)
  • A menu for your Windows apps that appears on the right-hand side of OS X’s Menu Bar, reducing or eliminating the need to use Windows’ Start menu and Taskbar.
  • A more efficient engine that’s less taxing on a Mac’s CPU, can run Windows well in 1GB of RAM, and reduces battery drain, according to VMware. I’m especially happy about that last point–my biggest beef with both Fusion and Parallels is the dramatically reduced battery life I get when they’re running. (Still to be determined: How this version’s speed compares to Parallels–the Parallels folks understandably like to tout this MacTech story that shows their product outperforming Fusion 2 in most tests.)

In all, VMware says that Fusion 3 has more than fifty new features. It’ll cost $79.99 for new users; an upgrade version will be $39.99. A few screens supplied by VMware after the jump.

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Parallels Aims to Help Windows-to-Mac Switchers

Parallels Switch to Mac Editio Parallels Desktop was the first software that let you virtualize Windows on an Intel Mac (and is current archrival of VMWare Fusion). Today, Parallels is announcing that it’s releasing a new version of the software aimed at an obvious audience: folks who are moving from a Windows PC to a Mac.

Parallels Desktop Switch to Mac Edition includes Parallels Desktop itself–which, as usual, lets you run Windows within OS X in a window, full-screen mode, or the cool Coherence view that puts Windows apps right inside the OS X interface. It bundles it with software and a USB cable for transferring your current Windows setup–OS, applications, and files–from your old, real PC into a virtual one on a Mac. I haven’t had a chance to try this utility, and system-transfer tools are one of the tougher things to do in software. (Even Apple’s own Mac-to-Mac Migration Assistant doesn’t always do the job without glitches.) But it’s a nifty idea if it works well, since it would simplify moving a licensed copy of Windows you’ve already paid for onto the Mac so you wouldn’t end up having to pay for a new copy of the OS.

The package also comes with two hours of interactive training that introduces OS X and helps Windows types make the leap:

Parallels Switch to Mac

Parallels Desktop Switch to Mac costs $99.99 (not including a copy of Windows). That’s twenty bucks more than the standard version–not unreasonable if you need the transfer software and hardware and would find the training useful.

I’ve used both Parallels and Fusion over the years and have been mostly happy with both; I’ve been running Fusion lately but plan to give this version of Parallels a whirl once I get my hands on a copy. Windows-on-Mac users: Which virtualization software do you prefer, and why? Anyone out there still using Apple’s Boot Camp?


Is Microsoft Preparing to Announce a Yahoo Search Deal?

Microsoft may be ready to inject some sizzle into its jaded romance with Yahoo. Jeffries investment bank analyst Katherine Egbert is reporting that Microsoft registered a limited liability company (LLC) in Delaware last week–a move that she believes could precipitate an acquisition or joint venture.

Microsoft also recently disclosed that it is issuing bonds, making an acquisition more of a likelihood.

Egbert suggested that Microsoft’s target may be desktop and virtualization management software maker Citrix, but Yahoo is also a highly candidate. The timing for Yahoo would fits in light of news that Microsoft intends to invest up to $100 million to advertise its “Bing” (or something) search engine.

That investment makes little sense unless Microsoft has a more compelling service and a greater flow of traffic to Bing. A deal with Yahoo would be a means to those ends, and it has repeatedly been on the table for months.

I’m happy using Google for search, so I would need to see some stunning search results before I make the switch. To put it bluntly, Microsoft might be blowing its $100 million on another failed consumer venture, and I believe that a Citrix deal would make more sense in the long term.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about what’s in it for Microsoft is deploying virtual desktop environments within enterprises. Cloud computing and server-based virtualization are other areas where Microsoft would benefit. Strategically, acquiring Citrix would help Microsoft compete with VMware–one of the software giant’s greatest bete noires at the moment.

Whether Microsoft’s machinations involve Yahoo, Citrix, or something else, keep an ear out for news out of Redmond within the coming days or weeks.

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How to Improve E-Voting? Take It to the Cloud

State governments in the United States must maintain servers year round for tallying votes during a matter of hours on election day, and many have a mixed record accomplishing even that task. A CNET article published today suggests that cloud computing provides a better alternative, and I agree.

For starters, I am more confident in cloud providers hosting sensitive election data than I am in a governmental IT department doing so. Data centers are built to be redundant and physically secure, and some are staffed with personnel trained in industry security standards. It would be impractical and cost prohibitive for a state to take those steps.

More importantly, virtualized server images that run on cloud services like those offered by Amazon.com are most  likely to be configured correctly; more servers that meet the same rigor can be spun up as demand peaks. There are companies that make a living out of selling certified images for that lock down access in virtualized environments hosted in the cloud.

Independent audits have uncovered security holes when local governments have set up their own servers. That is unacceptably risky.

Cloud infrastructure providers like Amazon make it possible for states to use the exact same databases and servers that they would use if they were tallying the results themselves, so the data remains interoperable with their existing voting systems. Even though the data is not physically controlled by a state when it’s hosted by someone else, it remains the property, of the state as cloud providers do not customarily control customers’ intellectual property.

So what does this all mean? If vote counting goes to the cloud, the state departments responsible for elections are then free to focus their efforts on providing accurate, accessible and reliable voting machines on election day. States can save taxpayers money and allay fears about stolen elections by using cloud computing to provide capacity on demand for tallying votes on election night, and do so with confidence. The time to make the switch is now.

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Parallels Desktop for Mac Hits the Big 4.0

parallels-logoParallels Desktop for Mac was the first software product that let you run virtualized copies of Windows within OS X on a Mac. It was a feat which created the closest thing in existence to an ideal computing platform, as far as I’m concerned. But Parallels ended up in fierce competition with VMWare’s Fusion, and version 2.0 of Fusion was the most highly-evolved way to run Windows on a Mac.

The rivalry between Parallels and Fusion remains one of the coolest ones in computing: Both of these nifty products keep getting better. And today, Parallels is back with Desktop for Mac 4.0.

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VMware Fusion 2.0: A Better Way to Run Windows on a Mac?

For more than two years now, my primary computing platform has been Apple’s OS X with a virtualized copy of Windows XP and/or Vista running inside it. I started running the first program that could virtualize Windows on a Mac, Parallels Desktop, the moment it became available as a beta. And mostly, I’ve stuck with Parallels.

But Parallels’ archrival, VMware Fusion, is now shipping in version 2.0, after a few months of public beta. I’ve been using it for a few days and enjoying it. A few major features of the new version:

–The ability to do multiple snapshots of the state of a virtual machine, and to have Fusion create them automatically at set intervals, so you can jump  backwards if something goes wrong;

–Keyboard mapping so you can simulate Windows keypresses that don’t exist on a Mac;

–Better handling of file associations so Windows apps can open Mac documents and vice versa;

–mirroring of folders so that Windows’ My Pictures shows stuff stored in OS X’s equivalent, for instance;

–Support for DirectX 9.0 Shader Model 2 3D graphics, making Fusion a more plausible platform for gaming and other heavy-duty 3D apps (the previous version and Parallels only go up to DirectX 8.1; Parallels also supports OpenGL);

–A year of free McAfee Viruscan Plus security (Parallels comes with six months of Kaspersky’s suite);

–Support for multiple monitors;

–General polish and fit and finish improvements to make the app as Mac-like as possible.

I wanna live with Fusion for a while before I make any attempt to declare a winner in the Mac virtualization race; both it and Parallels are pretty darn good, and the competition between them has unquestionably resulted in two strong products. There’s no doubt, however, that VMware tried to catch up with Parallels or surpass it in a number of places where the latter product was in the lead until now.

Virtualization still can’t replace running a native operating system in every case. Both Fusion and Parallels exact a stiff tax in the form of reduced battery life on my MacBook Pro, I find. And there are still apps that run poorly, or not at all. (As an experiment, I just tried to run Real’s RealDVD, thinking that the DVD-ripping functionality would be a good stress test–but it wouldn’t even install in Fusion.) So I also use Leopard’s Boot Camp feature to turn my MacBook Pro into a true, non-virtual PC…and I have a Vista desktop, too.

Oh yeah–what do I run within virtualized Windows? Office 2007, for one thing–I like it much more than the Mac’s Office 2008. And Internet Explorer 8. And Chrome. And other applications as I need ’em–it’s a blessing to be able to run nearly any Windows application without leaving OS X, as any virtualization fan can attest.

VMware Fusion is $80, but it’s a free upgrade for current users. You need a copy of Windows XP or Vista to use it (or another of the 90 operating systems it supports, including Linux and OS X Leopard Server). More thoughts once I’ve spent more time with it…