Telecommuting with OS X Part IV – “Windows Only” Proprietary Applications

Sometimes in the OS X world, we have to accept the fact that we’re treated like rotten stepchildren when it comes to corporate software. Either there just is no Mac version or if there is one, its half ass and doesn’t work anything like the Windows version that we’re used to. For Part IV of the telecommuting with OS X article, I’m going to show you that for now, Windows only versions are OK. Here’s how to deal with them.

The way it used to be:
Back in the PowerPC days, the best you could use (besides a working Mac version) was a nifty program called Virtual PC. Basically an emulator, just like those cool programs that allow you to play old video games, it ran inside the OS as a program. Unfortunately, this would take a giant amount of resources from your Mac, and it ran incredibly slow. Also, not every Windows application would work this way. They would either be buggy or just not work at all. It sucked.

The Intel change:
In 2006, an important change happened at Apple – the changeover to the Intel architecture. I believe this changeover has much to do with Apple’s recent surge in marketshare. The chips are better, Intel actually updates them (thanks for the G5 and nothing else in 2 years, IBM), and a wonderful realization took place. That realization, simply put was if this is the same hardware as a Windows machine, we can now run Windows applications natively! With this realization came our three methods of dealing with Windows only applications – Parallels, VMWare Fusion and Boot Camp.

Option One: Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion
Parallels Desktop and VMWare Fusion are virtualization software that allows you to run Windows within OS X. Basically, a window opens up and you start up Windows as an application. Not to be confused with an emulator (like Virtual PC), this Windows is not being translated by OS X.

Virtualization technology allows the computer to share the processor and run two (or more in the server world) operating systems at the same time. They run natively and independent of one another. This greatly speeds up performance. You can also adjust the way the machine behaves, how much memory it consumes, if it is networked or not, and how tightly integrated (or not) it is with the main OS.

Whether Parallels or VMWare Fusion, applications can be seamlessly integrated with OS X. They sit in the dock and look and behave like a regular OS X application. You can also run the Parallels/VMWare machine in a window, where it behaves similar to a remote desktop session. Finally you can run in full screen mode, where your desktop becomes completely Windows.

Note: Windows isn’t the only OS that can be run with this technology. You can also run distributions of Linux and BSD/Unix as well.

This is the best way to deal with workplace “Windows Only” applications, and the whole Outlook/Exchange mess. You can flip back and forth between the PC apps and the OS X apps without hesitation.

Note: When you start up your virtual machine, the amount of RAM you select becomes locked to the virtual machine. This means that if you have 1GB of Ram total and the virtual machine takes 512MB, the OS X machine now has 512MB as well. If you don’t have enough memory, you could end up with two extremely slow machines.. I would heavily recommend that you upgrade the amount of RAM in your machine to give the Parallels/VMWare machine a healthy amount. 1GB for each (2GB total in the system) is a great starting point.

Next Page: Option Two: Boot Camp.

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