Using Mac (or Linux) in a Windows dominated workplace
It’s a (sad) fact that most corporate workplace are still using Windows as the only supported platform for work. It’s not that I’ve anything against Windows. Don’t get me wrong here. Instead, I personally think that if I choose to run Mac and Linux OS, so be it. Why should one get shun off just because the corporate standards and softwares only support Windows.
Now, what would your options be?
One is obviously to setup a dual-boot environment where you get to boot into the corporate-friendly Windows OS which would run all those corporate softwares, such as VPN client, Email and conference clients and perhaps even VOIP systems.
But by dual-booting, you would have reboot the system just to switch over to another platform which really kills productivity. Also, it defeats the purpose of using a non-Windows OS in the first place.
So, this is obviously not a very practical solution. I know, I’ve dual-booted Linux Mint (Ubuntu) and Windows before on my work notebook. I ended up using ONLY the Windows partition. Imagine this scenario. I’m working on a paper on Open Office on Linux. But in order to email it out, I’ve to hook onto the VPN which the client only runs on Windows. Not too smart here.
But fret not, there is an alternative! And the the answer is virtualization!
There are a few virtualization solutions available both Mac and Linux such as VMWare, Parallels, and VIrtualBox. I won’t be covering all since I haven’t actually used all of them. So instead, I’ll just share my own personal experience on the ones that I’ve been using so far.
VirtualBox is an Open Source VM software that Oracle offer (via the Sun acquisition). Despite it being an Open Source Software, it’s actually comparable with the likes of VMWare!
One of the main reasons why I opted VIrtualBox over any others for my Linux machine was it being a free to use product. Sure, VMWare Player works just as well. But hey, VirtualBox is a full-featured virtualization solution that’s made to be FREE.
The other reason was also that it was fast and has very little bloat. Configuring and creating a virtual machine on VIrtualBox is really easy too! And I personally like the ease of getting files to be shared across from the host machine to the guest machine.
However, if you’re planning to use VirtualBox to run Windows 7, then you might want to opt for VMWare instead. VirtualBox’s graphics driver still does not support Aero unfortunately. In fact, VirtualBox’s support for 3D acceleration is still at an infant stage. But if you intend to just run Windows XP and run regular office productivity tools like Microsoft Office, then VirtualBox is a really great, and free, solution.
On my MacBook Pro – VMWare Fusion – $79.95
VMWare Fusion is essentially the Mac version of VMWare Workstation, minus a few of the more advance capabilities of the Workstation edition, such as integration to Visual Studio and virtual disk encryption.
The main reason why I opted to test out VMWare Fusion on my MacBook Pro, despite VirtualBox supporting OS X too, was the fact that VirtualBox’s compatibility isn’t all that great with OS X as this point. I wasn’t even able to pass control of my USB hard drive over to the guest OS on VirtualBox.
On VMWare however, everything worked like a charm! There are some nice integration to OS X too. Unity works relatively well when I tested it despite it being a little laggy at times. It also integrates well with Exposé and includes a tray icon that allows you to quickly access Windows applications as if it’s the Start Menu right on your Mac desktop! You can even secondary-click a Word document for example on your Mac OS X host OS and choose to open it in the Windows guest OS running on VMWare too, as long as the file location is shared across. This is a really cool feature if you asked me.
And if you plan to run Windows 7 as the guest OS, VMWare Fusion is a great platform to run it on as It allows you to even run Aero on it.
What about others?
Don’t like my personal choices? Well, here are some other worthy mentions too if you like some other alternatives to the ones I’m using.
VMWare Player – Free – Linux (and Windows of course) only
VMWare is the market leader when it comes to virtualization technologies. So it’s always a safe bet to use VMWare to run your virtual machine. In fact, the latest version of the free to use VMWare Player is pretty darn good for your virtualization needs. The best thing about the latest version is it’s ability to create virtual machines as well, instead of just running a pre-configured virtual machine.
The only cons of VMWare Player is the lack snapshots, virtual disk encryptions among the few missing features. You can check out the full list of feature comparisons here.
Overall, it’s a pretty darn good virtualization tool to use on your Linux machine.
VMWare Workstation – $189.00 – Linux (and Windows of course) only
If you need more control and those features only available on VMWare Workstation, then you’ll have to pay for it.
Parallels Desktop 5 for Mac – $79.95 – Mac only
When you talk about virtualization on the Mac, Parallels Desktop for Mac is always brought up to mind. I’ve not personally tested Parallels yet but from what I read so far, it functions quite similarly to VMWare Fusion 3. So, you can expect pretty much the same features and capabilities on Parallels Desktop 5 as well.
I’m currently downloading the trial version of Parallels Desktop 5, so you can expect a review of it soon too!