So I’ve been trying our different options for virtual machines on the MacBook Pro with varying degrees of success. So far I’ve played around with the Parallels 3 demo, the VMWare Fusion demo, Crossover and VirtualBox.
Given I don’t have a spare Windows XP or Vista licence lying around at the moment (something I’ll fix in the next few days) I’ve been playing around with Windows 98 and Ubuntu distributions to see how easy it is install and run the different virtual machines.
Firstly, Crossover which effectively attempts to run Windows applications (using a WINE base) without you having to install a Window OS in a virtual machine. A nice idea but it didn’t really do the job with the apps I tried. Plus I want to record what the Windows setup looks like with something like Camtasia and having the familiar Windows Desktop helps there.
Secondly, Parallels. Easy install and worked well mostly. With Windows 98 it wouldn’t find the CD drive properly (disk image or real CD) which meant it couldn’t install the extras nor additional drivers it needed to run smoothly (like for sound and networking). Ubuntu installed too, but again the extras wouldn’t install either, though it ran just fine without them for testing purposes. Perhaps XP and Vista would work better, but it’s had a couple of strikes against it. YMMV.
Thirdly, VMWare Fusion. Again easy to install and the install of the OSs seemed to work well. It did a better job on Win98 (which is useful because I need to test course CD-ROMs etc. on old browsers and OSs. A lot of our students seem to have second-hand/hand-me-down hardware) but I couldn’t for the life of me get the soundcard to work. The appropriate drivers just gave a blue screen of death on install, though the CDROM worked. Latest Ubuntu (8.10) installed like a charm, with the extras. So, if this one plays well with XP/Vista it could be the one to pick.
Lastly, VirtualBox. Installed Win98 fine but only in basic mode – no sound etc and lo-res graphics. Ubuntu fared better and installed smoothly. If all I wanted to do was run the latter for testing then maybe that would be the way to go.
Next step is to set up a Bootcamp partition with Vista and then see how the virtual machines like Fusion play with that. In a less than perfect world I’d go with that by default, but I’d like to be testing and documenting the Windows and Linux experiences for students at the same time as the Mac experience. So far Fusion looks like it might do the job best, but we’ll wait and see.