Another victory for Open Source
I have been using Parallels Desktop for Mac for about 6 years. It has long been one of my favourites and a programme that I have regularly recommended over the years. So why change?
Well the niggle is the publishers objective to extract every possible ounce (or is that penny) of revenue that they can from existing customers. Over the years this has meant numerous upgrades. Sure they don't cost much but every new release of OSX requires a paid upgrade. Similarly every new release of Windows and Ubuntu has required a paid upgrade. Recently I chose not to upgrade my trusty Macbook to Mountain Lion because the benefits of upgrading did not outweigh the cost of upgrading several commercial packages that would no longer work.
Yesterday I decided to give Ubuntu Desktop 12.10 a trial. Its almost time for a new desktop and I haven't yet decided between Windows 8 and Ubuntu. So I downloaded the ISO and installed a new Virtual Machine. Well it ran like a dog. No problem thought I, I'll install Parallels Tools as this is normal for a new VM. After several unsuccessful attempts I asked my friend Google. Surprise surprise, I needed a newer version of Parallels.
Now I only wanted to look at the latest Ubuntu release so I hastily downloaded and installed VirtualBox and installed Ubuntu again. Ironically my current desktop is running Ubuntu and I use VirtualBox on it to run several different Windows virtual machines, and I have been very impressed by the features and performance. So how would it perform on the Macbook.
The answer is very well. My first impression of the new OS was good, and it ran significantly better and faster than it had on my previous attempt. Importantly everything worked before I installed VB Additions, including sound. It positively flew after I installed Additions. I decided that I liked it and still haven't answered my Windows 8 vs Ubuntu 12.10 question. Only thing is now I had two programmes that do the same thing. One is very good and free, the other is also very good but needs a constant injection of cash to stay that way. So my next step was to clone my Windows 7 VM (used primarily for Visual Studio development) and attempt to convert it to a format that VirtualBox could use.
The conversion was somewhat tedious and time consuming, but I ended up with a fully functional clone of my Parallels machine running under VirtualBox with no noticeable difference in functionality or performance (for my usage). In case you're wondering the 3D acceleration works just fine although it is still branded as experimental. So I have the full Aero experience and can run Windows applications directly on my Mac desktop. I was surprised that the performance appears on a par, as the conversion route I chose was to use a VMWare format disk, which I assume requires an additional translation layer. I have now deleted my original VM (after backup of course) to ensure that I don't accidentally contravene any licensing terms and will delete Parallels in a few weeks unless I run into any serious problems. Most of my Linux VMs are downloaded and use VMWare disks anyway so their conversion should be painless. I do also have a Windows XP machine. Since it is a pretty standard build I will re-install rather than converting my current VM (simply because it will take less time).
For those interested in the tech stuff both VMS are:
4 GB Ram
60 GB expanding disk
2 Processors (well 2 cores)
Host machine has a single SATA mechanical disk with the VMs on the same disk as the host.
This is not a review of Ubuntu but I can confirm that from power on to ready to use in full graphics mode (including manual login) is just under 25 seconds on the VM - I'm impressed!