Parallels v3.0

Updated to v3 today with the promise of DirectX support. Hmm, not very impressed. To be honest I think I should have stayed with previous version. I enabled DirectX but Vista carried on running it its non DirectX mode, I guess that cause it wants a DirectX 10 card rather than 8 that Parallels support. I used to be able to run Majong but now it crashes. Also the full screen mode seems blurry although to be fair when I went via the menu it was fine.

[Edit] – I think I’ve sussed the blurry full screen. When you go full screen it seems to preserve the resolution you have in the window mode. Therefore you have to manually adjust the screen resolution to the correct maximum size…I’m sure the old one handled this automatically

Convergence v2 didn’t seem all that different either, although you can now launch applications from the other OS, e.g. open a Word Doc on the Mac and it launch Office in Vista…or something. I don’t use that.

The Transport feature looks interesting, it seems that it can create Parallel machines from physical or other VM applications. I may have to try that.

The Explorer is quite nice too, it allows you to examine a disk without running a Parallel machine. Quite nice if you’re trying to conserve battery but need a file.

Still I think I’d rather have kept my money, but maybe they’ll be some patches soon.

[Edit] IE7 now crashes a lot, I’m not sure why this is, possibly a security changes, maybe DirectX related…it is very annoying.
[Edit] Ah it looks like it is DirectX related (maybe something to do with Flash adverts?), if I turn DirectX off the sites work fine, on they crash IE. Also there is a entry in Event log that looks very much like a DirectX related DLL. However, the copy from Event Log now crashes so I haven’t copied the text!

Will Apple be undone by their own strategy?

I must confess two things, 1. I enjoy my Mac book 2. I can’t stand people that glorify the Mac. I’ve owned Mac’s for about nine years and subscribed to MacUser for the same amount. I’ve seen the Mac go from an "also ran" to a potential leader of the pack. All through this period people have written in MacUser saying how great the Mac is compared to the Windows PC or rather just the PC. This months edition contained a letter that really made my blood boil. Basically the letter was saying that this guy was telling a family member to ditch their PC because of all the trouble they had with a virus. The premise to switch was that you won’t get a virus on a Mac. How stupid. Sure statistically I bet there are a thousand Windows based viruses for ever Mac one, but this is all about popularity rather than a secure system. I’ve long argued that rather than heap praise on one side or the other both Apple and Microsoft produce annoying operating systems and applications. Their hardware isn’t always that much better either. My MS Force Feedback joystick failed to work on XP, two Apple Macs were delivered dead-on-arrival, Ipod Nano scratches by simply looking at it, OSX is black or white OS, either your totally pandered by UIs or your down in the guts of Unix, Vista attempts to secure itself by panicking the user into never installing anything! What I’m saying is stop the my OS is better than your and start asking your preferred vendor to produce better quality products.

The real choice between PCs and Macs is flexibility vs. out-of-the-box compatibility. Mac’s only contain a very restricted set of hardware, basically you could say that the only options are how much memory or disk space you have (yeah ok there are more choices but it’s not far from the truth). This means the a Mac OS only has to worry about a very small set of hardware and hence the chance of a dodgy hardware drive getting into the mix is greatly reduced. Whereas PCs come in all sorts of permutations, some with downright cheap and nasty kit. Windows bravely attempts to cope with all of this, but with all these permutations of kit getting a conflict is greatly increased. So for me, when I want to build my optimum machine I go the PC route, when I want something that will be pretty dependable without me doing loads of researching then a Mac would be a good choice.

Ok rant over, now onto the title of this blog entry. Apple have made a
very big push at the home user to switch by concentrating on what the
average Joe user wants. Pictures, music, internet browsing and email.
Ok so you get that with Windows too but why should that matter?
(Although Apple charge for their email services). We swallow the slick marketing and go an buy our pretty iMac and put it into our homes, in fact it’s so versatile we put it into our living rooms/lounges. Great, we’re thrilled. But hang on what’s this on the horizon? A device that sits in our living rooms/lounges you say. Plays music, browse the internet, email, etc? Apple have been so keen to market the Mac as a simple users tool that stuck the Mac in the middle of the road where the consoles trucks travel up and down. Next gen consoles will do everything that the Mac campaign says you want from a computer. Plus they play cool games…hmm the choice of what to switch to looks obvious now, I don’t want a PC/Mac I want Nintendo, Playstation, 360…

Apple developers from WWII Germany?

I was just staring around my room and focused on the ‘Company of Heroes’ game. Next to that is my ‘Mac OS Tiger killer tips book’. It then struck me that the code names of OS X match the names of German Tanks from WWII. I wonder where this will lead? Focker Wolf 190 coming next?
Actually it’s Leopard, so I’m fully expecting iPanzer any time now.

Vista and Parallels

Finally managed to install Vista on the Mac via Parallels Desktop. I had some initial trouble getting the installer to use the .iso file but after quiting and restarting it worked fine. The result…very good, so much quicker than Vista on Virtual PC on a PC which I still can’t quite get my head around. The network didn’t work at first but once I’d installed the Parallels components onto Vista then all was good. The only down side is no DirectX3d so you don’t get the fancy bit…oh well I usually turn all that stuff off anyway!

Adding more memory, good ole Intel

As much as my Macbook is a nice computer to use, the majority of the work I do is on Windows, so why waste a nice Dual Core machine when I can run Windows on it. I didn’t want to go the dual boot option, mainly because I want to switch between Safari and Windows to test some web pages. With this in mind I purchased the Parallels virtual machine software. It ran XP really well but most of the software failed the pre-requisites checks since the meagre 512Mb of memory meant that XP could only have 128Mbs, not the greatest set-up ever. What was I to do? I collected my 2x1Gb sticks this morning and set about installing them. Looking at the previous Mac laptops the feat of installing new memory was quite a task. But now they’re using Intel it seems that finally Apple’s near facist attitude to its users doing anything to their machines is slowly dissolving. The tasks consisted of:

  1. taking the battery pack out – easy
  2. unscrewing a metal retaining bracket – a little tricky since you need a short screw driver
  3. free the memory by pushing the retaining arm – a bit of a sweat since it takes a nerve racking amount of brute force
  4. change the sticks
  5. push the new sticks until they don’t go any further
  6. attempt to put the retain bracket back on – fiddly but doable

So not only do we get a nice cool dual core Intel chip, we get some user friendly configuration options too.

Also just spotted that Parallels are beta testing a new version that runs individual Windows applications to look like they’re OSX applications with copy and pasting files and other "seemless" interoperation, plus it looks like Boot Camp is going nowhere.

Macbook arrived

Finally moved into the dizzy world of OSX from OS8 with a bottom of the range Macbook. So what’s it like?
Macbook Laptop
As a laptop the Macbook is very nice, small and compact with a nice screen. The keyboard has a very nice (and quiet) action. The Magna-plug thingy is odd, almost tears your arm (ok it pulls a bit) when the plug gets near the socket. The screen is very nice, a good 13.4" widescreen size which, although is reflective, produces rich colours. I’m also very impressed with the two finger scrolling on the taskpad, great idea.
Now for the problems…
US keyboard!!! Ok it’s not the biggest problem in the world and I’ve suffered with Sun systems in the past and yes my aging G3 is US too, but come on Apple get your head out of your xenophobic butts and give us a UK keyboard.
The tiny build in web cam is great but it’s positioned at exactly the point you use to open the lid, so I dare say they’ll be lots of thumb prints on the lens soon.
I’ve read reports about the machine getting too hot and also of it discolouring (probably related). Yes it does get hot, but it a lot hotter than my Dell…hmm perhaps it is, I guess only time will tell if has an adverse affect on the components.
Ok I’m a Windows user for most of the time so I do tend to be all "fingers and thumbs" when it comes to using a new OS, a recent excursion into Linux confirmed this. Overall it’s fine.
The initial setup process was annoying. The first confusing choice was, "US or GB keyboard". Erm, well I want a GB keyboard but this is an Apple laptop so I don’t have the choice you little *****! Next was the networking… I’ve got a wireless network but didn’t have the encryption key to hand but it was a real nightmare trying to persuade the setup to move past that. Ok there was an option not to use wireless but I didn’t know how difficult it would be to persuade it to use wireless again (turns out it’s easy). Fortunally my neighbours don’t bother with secure wireless (another blog on that later) so I happily piggy-backed onto their unsecure network.
Machine name, I’ve yet to sus this one, currently it’s called after me, or according to my router HOST1. Hmm, annoying.
Now, context menus. I know Windows have had a second mouse button since the year dot, and Sun had at least 20 (or was it 3) and Apple have, until very recently, refused to ack’ this but it’s so much easier to right-click rather than command-click. Come on Apple we want a second mouse button on the laptops, you know it makes sense swallow some of that pride and get on with it.
The dock…what on earth is the horribly over-large blob taking 1/3 of my screen? Yes look at the funny bobbling icons, yuk…ok it may appeal to people who still stare at planes with wonder but come on. So after right-clicking (yes I’m calling it that) I got the dock to a decent size.
"I’m doing something indicators" – normally with any computer you get some indication that it’s doing something. For me, that usually means a hard disk LED. Apple have always been quick to get rid of ugly things that shouldn’t have any use, great. However, there have been a number of times that I’ve launched some application and I’ve been faced with a completly blank screen, no animated beach ball, hour-glass, nothing but a normal pointer. With no disk LED I’ve simple no idea what’s going on. Sure this is the OSs fault but a little support from the hardware wouldn’t go a miss here.
.Mac account
You get some, now standard, applications with OSX such as iChat. But wait, you can’t simply use it, oh now you’ve got to subscribe to a .mac account for £70 per year! Now I’m all for paying a little extra for the extra features, such as on-line file sharing but really…paying for an instant messenger account is just too much, in fact paying for a web space these days is a cheek.
Interop with Windows
So far so good, connected to Windows shares without an problem. Downloaded and run Microsofts Remote Desktop Client so I’ve managed to develop on a PC from the Macbook without too much fuss…apart from the right-clicking de-selecting text before displaying the context menu. The other way around is a bit more of a problem. I installed VNC for OSX, which works ok. The speed in no way matched the RDP of Remote Desktop but its ok to do the odd bit of work but you can’t use it to work remotely on the machine…well not if you’ve got my patience.