Using VMWare Fusion for Windows 7 on a Mac

September 20, 2010

My recent conversion from a Windows 7 Professional Desktop PC to an Apple iMac has been a painless transition, where I’m close to shutting down my PC for good. There are only two PC-based applications which I currently still need to run on my desktop: (1) Password Manager Application, (2) Paint.net graphics application.

Fortunately, there exists a product called CrossOver which allows me to run certain Microsoft Windows applications inside of Mac OS X. CrossOver is based on the WINE WIN32 emulation and basically emulates the Windows calls for most of the Microsoft Windows system functions. So you aren’t running the full-blown Windows OS but still can run Windows applications. As such, running such apps with CrossOver is fairly quick on the Mac. CrossOver is a commercial product that normally sells for $40 US, but after the trial period ends they sent me an email offering the product for $20 US which I thought was a deal, so I purchased it.

Now, CrossOver worked fine for running my Password Manager application, as it was based on standard WIN32 calls and control libraries. So, I can start up my Password app very easily by just selecting the app’s icon from the Mac Applications Folder. I have to note that the buttons, and other various Windows controls look very Windows XP-ish (not Vista or Windows 7), and some of the fonts used in the app are a bit off, but neverthless the app runs quite well.

Unfortunately, I can’t run the Paint.net application using CrossOver since this application heavily uses Microsoft’s .NET technology. Apparently, CrossOver doesn’t have a way of emulating the latest .NET libraries so I’m out-of-luck with running my favorite graphics application on the Mac.

After searching through all the available native Mac graphics apps, I still can’t find anything that can do everything I need to do easily as with Paint.net. So, I tend to run back to my Windows 7 Desktop PC (using a Remote Desktop Connection from my Mac) whenever I need to do some graphics image editing. Since at some point I want to turn off my Desktop PC forever, I need to find a solution to this issue.

So, I decided to explore using Virtualization Software which will emulate the x86 hardware virtually, basically simulating a Desktop PC. I can then install Windows 7 in that environment and run Windows and Windows-based applications through this emulation.

There seems to be three big players in this field to choose from: (1) Parallels, (2) VMWare Fusion, and (3) VirtualBox. Both Parallels and VMWare Fusion are commercial products that go head-to-head for this application, and both cost around $80 US. VirtualBox is freeware offered by Sun Microsystems which has similar virtualization technology. I’ve used VirtualBox for my Palm WebOS development (the Palm Emulator runs inside of it) and it seems to work fairly well. I’ve also used VirtualBox with Windows 7 and it also worked fine, but seemed a little slow when starting up the applications.

Both Parallels and VMWare Fusion are designed for a smoother and transparent operation running on the Mac when compared to VirtualBox, in my opinion. Both of these products offer the ability to run a Windows App on the Mac such that it appears to be a Mac application. So if I run my Paint.net application it will popup in a window on my Mac and operate just as it would on my PC in it’s own window.

So, I decided to download the VMWare Fusion software and use their 30-day trial period to test it out. After jumping through their hoops to get a temporary activation code, the installation of VMWare Fusion and the Windows 7 OS was a piece of cake. Very easy to install, as I simply inserted my Windows 7 OS install CD when asked for it from VMFusion, and away I went.

I used the default settings for the virtual environment of 40 GB of simulated disk drive space, along with 1 GB of RAM. This should be sufficient for running Windows 7 and my Paint.net application. After the Win 7 installation and the various Microsoft Updates, I was all ready to do. No need to fuss with internet connections, etc.

I then installed Paint.net in this virtual world and was able to run it using VMWare’s “Unity” mode which makes the app appear to be a Mac application (running in it’s own window). So I don’t see the Windows 7 Desktop, just my Paint.net app running in a window on my Mac’s desktop screen. Sweet!

I was surprised at the responsiveness of Windows 7 running in this environment, as it appears just as snappy as running it on my Desktop PC. I especially like the Unity-mode, which allows me to run a single app on my Mac. In fact, there’s a drop-down menu from my Mac’s menu bar which allows me access to all the installed apps in the VMWare Fusion’s Windows environment, so I can effectively run any installed app very easily. Note, that Parallels has a similar feature called “Coherence”, so you can probably do something similar with that product.

Another cool thing is that I can configure VMWare to share my Mac’s desktop, and as such all the files currently on my Mac’s desktop appear on the Window’s desktop as well. I can also place an icon of a Windows application on my Mac’s Dock bar so I can launch it very easily.

Now the real test, is how quickly can I start up VMWare Fusion on my Mac when I want to run Paint.net? It would be a real drag if it took 5 minutes for the entire system to boot up for me to run a single application. So I did a quick test on my iMac quad-core i7 machine to see how fast I can bring up the Paint.net application with VMWare Fusion not running in the background.

So clicking on my Paint.net icon on the Mac dock launches VMWare Fusion (which started up the VMFusion virtualization software and booted up Windows 7 inside of it) and my Paint.net application appeared in a self-contained window on my Mac in 30 seconds. That time is actually pretty good, since VMFusion is booting up Windows 7 from a cold start!

Another feature with VMWare Fusion is that you can save a Windows session as “Suspended”, which stores the current Windows environment in a file for faster startup. So I initiated the suspend mode and then Quit the VMFusion application. Next, when I clicked on the Paint.net icon in my Mac’s Dock bar the Paint.net application appeared in 10 seconds! That was astounding, and perfectly acceptable for my needs of running a few specific Windows applications on my Mac. Who knows if VMWare is achieving this because it’s using the multiple core processors on my i7 iMac, but in any case I’m really liking this!

The only downside to all of this, is that you need a Windows 7 license for your virtual world. That shouldn’t be a problem for me, as I can always decommission one of my retired PCs and use that license. Also, you’re tying up a certain amount of system memory (in my case, 1 GB) and a small amount of disk space on your Mac system, but I think that is perfectly acceptable for what I’m getting in return.

So there you have it. A perfect solution for running much-needed Windows Apps on your Mac. VMWare Fusion seems to run fast and allows easy and convenient access to my Windows Apps. I just need to fork over $80 and get a full license. 😉

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Week 4: Apple Mac Update

September 14, 2010

It’s been over 3 weeks now since I purchased my Apple iMac, and I’m still loving it. The system is running strong and fast, I haven’t had the need to reboot it for any reason (except for an OS update), and it just works. I still have my Windows 7 Quad-Core Desktop PC running in my home office, but I only use it for recording my TV shows and converting them for my Zune HD media player.

Surprisingly, it was relatively easy for me to make the switch from Windows to the Mac. I’m finding the “muscle memory” of doing an CTRL+C to copy has been replaced by CMD+C rather easily. In fact, I catch myself now trying to find the CMD key on my Dell Win 7 netbook! The one thing I miss on my Apple Bluetooth keyboard is the equivalent of the DELETE key and the HOME/END keys. Otherwise, I seemed to have adapted well to the Mac OS X environment.

What’s still a big bummer for me, is finding a replacement for my Paint.net graphics application. I absolutely love that app, and I can’t find an adequate replacement for OS X.  I’ve tried Pixelmator, Pinta, Seashore, Gimp, and a few other obscure apps and nothing is as easy to use as Paint.net. Unfortunately, Paint.net will never be ported to the Mac so I’m out of luck. The Pinta app was developed to mimic Paint.net, but it seems to have some glaring bugs when I use it and also doesn’t have all the features that I require from Paint.net. Gimp has been around a long time and has a lot of features, but it is not a native OS X app and requires the old Unix X11 overlay to run it. Pixelmator is the obvious replacement choice, but in using that app I had some unexpected crashes and some difficulty doing basic graphics editing (e.g., making rectangular boxes, etc.). So, nothing is perfect I guess.

I think what’s helped in my transition is the fact that so much of what I do is on the Internet and is web-based. Most of my activities involve a web browser, whether it’s doing online banking, searching for infomation, reading news and articles, checking email messages, creating a map with driving directions, etc. As such, I’m less reliant on having dedicated applications installed on my personal computer to do these activities. So, moving to a different computer platform isn’t such a shocking transition.

I’m certainly glad I made the switch, and over the course of the upcoming months and years I’ll probably continue my migration towards using Apple products. First an Apple iPod Touch to replace my Microsoft Zune HD, then maybe a 13″ Macbook Pro to replace my Dell 11z Notebook, followed by an iPad, and from there who knows?


At week two with my iMac and still lovin it!

September 3, 2010

I’m nearing the two week mark with my new iMac and I just love it. The keyboard is feeling really good, and I just love the snappiness of the system and the bright clear LED monitor. It’s dead quiet, and does everything I need it to do. In fact, I haven’t had to use my previous Windows 7 desktop PC for any of my real work. The only reason I have it still turned on, is to record TV shows for my Zune HD using the built-in TV Tuner card and Windows Media Center Software. I’m hoping to rectify that soon with an Apple iPod Touch and an EyeTV HD recording system for my iMac.

So after two weeks, here are some noticable differences between my previous Win7 system and the iMac:

  • It’s taken me a while to get use to using CMD+C/V for copy/paste on the Mac instead of CTRL+C/V. (Muscle memory is hard to untrain!)
  • You can’t highlight a file or folder in Finder (equivalent to File Explorer) and press the delete key to delete it. You have to either drag it to the trash can or right-click on it and select “Move to Trash”.
  • Apple’s equivalent “Office” software (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) are much, much easier to use instead of Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. You don’t have all the bells and whistles as Microsoft Office, but you have enough to get the job done quickly and with professional results.
  • Saving an image from a web site to my iMac can be done simply by dragging off the web browser and onto my desktop. No more right-click-copy-paste as I did with my PC.
  • The Mac’s Automator software is great at automating certain operations and functions. Much better than trying to create DOS batch files.
  • My iMac has been running just fine for the last two weeks with only one reboot (due to a system update). I have no desire to reboot, which in contrast I needed to do on my PC routinely to clear memory, etc.

So I have zero buyer’s remorse at this time and am a happy Mac user. I’ve got two Mac/iPhone/iPad programming books sitting on my desk, along with two Mac OS X Beginner’s Guides to help me unlock the full potential of my iMac. The next thing you know, I’ll be putting the Apple logo decal (that came with my system) on my car bumper… 🙂


I love my Palm Pixi Smartphone!

November 23, 2009

For the last few years, I’ve been using my Motorola-Q Smartphone (running Windows Mobile 5) as my cell phone. When I first got it, I thought it was really cool that I could get emails “pushed” down to my phone automatically through the Microsoft Exchange Server system that my company was using. Along with emails, I could also view my calendar and get alerts on events and tasks.

As time went on, newer smartphones appeared on the market with GPS for positioning, better web browsers, and better apps. Blackberry phones were very popular, and the Apple iPhone raised the bar when it came to a productive user-interface. About 6 months ago Palm, Inc. came out with the Palm Pre running Palm’s WebOS operating system. Very much like Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android interface, WebOS was the new Linux-based OS that would help propel Palm back into the modern Smarphone arena.

It was the WebOS that really interested me, as it made the Windows Mobile 5 OS on my Moto-Q phone seem prehistoric. Unfortunately, the first Palm phone to run WebOS  (Palm Pre) had a slider keyboard form-factor which I really didn’t like. The Pre was also somewhat thick (because of the slider keyboard) and I didn’t want to get something that was thicker than my current Moto-Q phone (since I normally keep my phone in my front pants pocket).

Then appeared the Palm Pixi, which was a very thin candy bar-form factor smartphone that ran the WebOS and had a fixed keyboard. It was similar to my Moto-Q, but thinner, slimmer, and lighter and also sported a touch screen. This was the phone that I was waiting for! Read the rest of this entry »


Windows 7 Family Pack – 3 copies for $150

October 27, 2009

win7_familypackIf you’re like me and you have several computers in your home, Microsoft is offering a Windows 7 Family Pack for those wanting to upgrade multiple PCs. You get 3 licensed copies of Windows 7 Home Premium for the price of $150 US. Since a single copy of Win 7 Home Premium is selling for $120 US, that’s a good deal. Note, this is for an “upgrade” price, so you need to have a copy of XP or Vista on your machine. However, I did a clean upgrade where my PC’s hard drive was wiped clean, so I’m not sure how the upgrade checks for a prior Windows copy?

In my home, we have lots of PCs and laptops so I do plan to get the family pack to upgrade a few laptops and one desktop PC. If you want to save even more money, you can order your family pack from Costco for $140 US. Now, I don’t think Microsoft will be offering the family pack indefinitely, so I suggest you not wait forever to get one if you’re considering it.


Dumped 64-bit, went back to 32-bit OS

October 27, 2009

trash_canI was really looking forward to switching to the 64-bit OS with my Windows 7 OS upgrade, but after using and configuring my new system for the last few days, I’ve decided to go back to the 32-bit OS world.

When you are using a Windows 64-bit system, it’s very clear that you have two distinct executables (32 and 64-bit) on your system. In fact, you have a C:\Program Files folder for 64-bit files and a C:\Program Files (x86) for 32-bit files. The problem I was having, is certain 32-bit applications just don’t run well (or at all) under the 64-bit OS. Maybe it’s poor programming on the developer’s part, but these applications simply crash or don’t runl. I had a few different applications that I used for video conversions, and I really want those apps to work.

Of course, I could use Window 7’s new XP-Mode and run theses app in a virtual XP environment (since I purchase Windows 7 Professional), at least that is what I thought. Apparently, to use this feature you need a special CPU that has “virtualization hardware”, which unfortunately, I do not have in my new Intel Quad 2 Core processor (I guess I didn’t pick the right model). So, this feature isn’t available on all modern processor, just specific ones.

Also, some of my existing hardware didn’t have 64-bit drivers (e.g., Canon Scanner, USB-to-DB25 Printer cable) so I needed to get new hardware to replace perfectly good equipment.

As such, I decided to avoid all the headache and go back to the 32-bit OS. The advantages of utilizing more than 3.25 GB of RAM just wasn’t big enough to justify all the issues I was having with the 64-bit OS. So after doing a clean install of the Windows 7 32-bit OS this time, I was back up and running. My Canon scanner is working again, along with my USB-to-DB25 printer cable setup. My software is working once more, and I’m out of the 64-bit fog.

From what I can tell, the operational speed isn’t any faster with the 64-bit over the 32-bit OS. But one thing is clear, I can certainly install and run my 32-bit apps again. Whew. So maybe by the end of next year, the 64-bit OS will be in full swing and developers will have fully working 64-bit drivers, apps, etc. so the headaches I ran into will vanish. I plan to stick to the 32-bit OS for as long as it works for me, and won’t be upgrading until everybody is on board the 64-bit train.


My Intel Core 2 Quad CPU can’t run Windows 7 XP-Mode!!

October 25, 2009

win7One of the reasons why I bought the Windows 7 Professional version was to have the ability to run in “XP Mode”, which basically uses the Microsoft Virtual PC application to simulate a PC running Windows XP. This is a useful feature in case you have an application that just doesn’t want to run under Windows 7, so you can run it in XP-mode in a virtual PC inside a window. With Win 7 Pro, Microsoft provides you with a free copy of XP, so you should be all set. So I thought.

Apparently, you need to have a computer with a CPU that is “Hardware-assisted Virtualization” capable. And guess what? I don’t have one!

What’s really amazing, is that I have an Intel Core 2 Quad CPU (Model Q8200 @ 2.33 GHz) with 4 GB of RAM running Windows 7 64-bit OS and I can’t use this feature. My machine isn’t powerful enough. What the heck!!??

xp-mode

It seems that certain CPUs have this HAV technology that is a requirement for Microsoft Virtual PC in this mode. I can understand if I was running a Intel Solo or older Centrino CPU, but my Quad CPU isn’t good enough?

So beware of all the advertised capabilities for the various Windows 7 versions, as some of them may require a machine with the very latest CPU (or mor expensive CPU) to utilize them.

What is truly bizarre is that I was using Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 with this very same computer (and my previous Core 2 Duo) with no problems. But for some reason, Microsoft decided to add on this ridiculous feature (probably to make people upgrade their computer).

My only recourse now, is to use a product such as VirtualBox (by Sun Microsystems) that emulates a x86 environment, and then install Windows XP inside it. Of course, that also means I need to find a copy of Windows XP to install, as the “free” one provided with Windows 7 Pro is not usable.