Mac corner: Improved Flexibility With Macintosh Computers?

By Larry Grinnell,Palm Beach Phoenix Apple Users Group

larry grinnellHere's something a Mac can do that a Windows PC can't, or at least can't and still adhere to licensing restrictions: Any Macintosh that has an Intel processor can run Windows! Depending upon how you set it up, you can even run the Macintosh operating system and Windows (almost any version) simultaneously!
Some might ask "why the heck would you want to do that?" The answer is pretty simple. There are a number of business-related applications that only run on Windows — your office probably uses some of them, but you still prefer to do the majority of your work on a Macintosh. With these new tools, you can do it with amazing ease.

There are several different ways you can do this:

Boot Camp:
When you first install and configure your new Mac, install the Boot Camp application provided with MacOS X 10.5, and when prompted to do so, install the Microsoft operating system of your choice (32-bit versions of XP, Vista, and beta/release candidate versions of Windows 7). Once the Mac and Windows operating systems are installed, you can choose which operating system you want to run at start-up time.

Advantages: Operating system runs exclusively, making best use of existing disk space, memory, network connections, etc. Runs as fast as hardware permits.

Disadvantages: You need to buy a copy of the Windows operating system you want to run. 32-bit only. Runs only one operating system at a time--an inconvenience if you need to switch between the operating systems. There is a workaround for this if you also install Parallels or VMWare Fusion, you can either boot from MacOS or Windows, or boot into the MacOS and then run Parallels or VMWare Fusion which will allow you to run both operating systems simultaneously. When running in Windows, you are still vulnerable to all the viruses, spambots, malware, and all the other nasty things that happen to Windows machines. Don't forget to buy, install, and use Anti-Virus software!

Virtual Machine Technology (Parallels, VMWare Fusion, Sun VirtualBox):

These software products permit you to install other operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, one of the many variations of Linux, or one of the many variations of Unix. This is an increasingly popular way to reduce hardware acquisition costs, as one computer replaces two or three, depending upon how many operating systems you need to run. They run nearly as fast as the operating system running on dedicated software. Install the Virtual Machine software, install the operating system within that environment, and run. The Virtual Machine software simulates network connections and uses a generic set of device drivers so the installation of the operating system is usually a flawless affair. The virtual OS "sees" the network, and shared disks (so you can move files between the operating systems), so as long as your Mac is configured correctly, your Windows (or Linux) session will similarly be flawless.

Advantages: Can run both operating systems simultaneously. Controlled operating environment which all but eliminates connectivity problems, whether you are using a wired ethernet or a wireless network connection.

Disadvantages: Requires a fair amount of dedicated hard drive space, which can grow even bigger if certain features to protect data are utilized. Uses large amounts of RAM, as two operating systems are running on one piece of hardware at the same time. The guest operating system suffers a minor performance hit (maybe 5-10%) because it operates inside a virtual machine which has its own performance overhead. Disk-intensive applications sometimes run much slower. When running in Windows, you are still vulnerable to all the viruses, spambots, malware, and all the other nasty things that happen to Windows machines. Don't forget to buy, install, and use Anti-Virus software!

Windows to Macintosh Compatibility Tool (CrossOver Mac):

Another technology that has emerged from the open source community is the virtual environment, where equivalent device drivers, data link libraries, and other operating system-dependent applications have been reverse-engineered.

This means that you install compatible Windows applications on top of CrossOver Mac but don't need to buy, install, or run Windows. When you launch your Windows application through CrossOver Mac, it opens its windows inside the running Mac operating system. You do not get a Windows desktop, so that Windows applications look far more integrated into your Macintosh environment.

Advantages: Less memory and disk overhead than the Virtual Machine products like Parallels, VMWare Fusion, Sun VirtualBox). Less performance loss due to alternate operating system overhead.

Disadvantages: Most Windows applications will not run properly unless specially customized add-ons have been provided by Codeweavers. Check their website to make sure your application is supported.
This is another strong argument for using Macintosh computers in your workplace.

With Virtual Machine (and variant) technologies, you can run your favorite applications, no matter what the operating system. This is a complex product and at least initially, may require more support than you are used to. Make sure your IT staff is fully versed in these products before deploying to your staffers. Make sure your staff is versed in both Mac and Windows operation. Don't be afraid to take the Mac away and migrate individual users back to Windows if, after a reasonable amount of time has passed, they just don't "get it," and continue to have problems with file handling and application use.


Mac Corner appears every Wednesday. Last week's column can be found here.

About Larry Grinnell: Larry has been working with Macintosh and Windows PCs for over 25 years and worked as a senior technical writer and IT support professional for a major midwest-based consumer electronics and telecommunications equipment manufacturer here in South Florida. Click here to reach him by email.

palm beach phoenix apple users group logoWriters of this column are members of the Palm Beach Phoenix Apple User Group, a nonprofit organization for Apple Computing Device Users, recognized by Apple Inc., with the purpose of providing educational training and coaching to its members (students, professionals and seniors alike) in a cordial social environment. Click here to visit their website. Click here to reach them by email.

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MAY 20, 2009 click to go home
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