Parallels Desktop for Mac

In December I took advantage of the offer that Parallels made (buy before dec 23 and get free major upgrades for a year) and bought the Parallels Desktop for Mac software.

This virtualisation software allows any Intel-based mac to run Windows (or another Intel-cpu-based operation system like Ubuntu or even Reactos) side-by-side in Mac OS X 10.4 at close to native speeds.
I previously had played a bit with Virtual PC (Microsoft) and Qemu (OpenSource) on my PowerPC mac mini, but the performance was very sluggish (more so with VPC than with Qemu, actually). But with my new dual-core 2 imac, I wanted to give it one more try, especially as with the latest beta, Parallels now can use your Bootcamp partition as a virtual drive.

This means you need to create only one (Bootcamp) Windows partition on your Mac and then in Parallels create a new virtual machine and indicate that it needs to use your bootcamp partition. It’ll install some drivers, and you’ll need to reactivate your licence once (if you have a Volume XP licence, this does not apply).
Disclaimer : Please note that this only works if you let Bootcamp install itself on your primary disk. I’ve seen lots of mac pro users on the boards who have assigned another partition or even another disk where it is not working. My guess is that these bugs/missing features will be worked out soon enough…

The result has blown me away. Windows XP is running at full speed in a (re-sizable) window on my imac. Using Activity monitor, I can see that while Windows XP is active, both my CPU’s are running between 50 and 60% of capacity, but that means there is plenty left over to run other Mac applications. When XP is not running, CPU usage is around 10 to 20% … I haven’t compared it against Ubuntu, though, so it just might be Parallels who is taking all that CPU time to ‘virtualize’.
I’ve installed all of my office programs in it, and everything “just works”. As a plus, most of the simple 2D games my son Tom loves to play (like “Putt-Putt at the zoo” and “Ollo Tomaat”) just work !
Next I will try out Coherence mode, which allows one to run windows applications seamlessly next to mac application, each in their own windows.

My one big wish for this software : to support 3D DirectX. That would be sooo cool, not needing to reboot in Windows but just be able to play DirectX games when I feel like it.