Tag Archives: virtual-machines

How To Turn Your Mac Into a Geek Control Center

Geek!This is Billy Doyle’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

So you’re a geek. And you just got a Mac. Now what? I’m in that position too, and I’m going to share a few things I’ve been doing to turn my Mac into the prefect geek control center.

Use the apps it came with!

Your Mac came with a bunch of great apps like the iLife suite, iChat, Spaces, etc. So use them! For example: Even if you don’t use iChat as an instant messenger, it has lots of other uses too! Paired with notify.me, it can become a news ticker that can keep you up-to-minute on happenings on any site with an RSS feed! Or, use it with the ping.fm bot on Google Talk to update your status with two clicks!

iPhoto is another great one. Not only does it store and organize all your beautiful pictures, but you can use plugins to do all kinds of cool things. Download the Pixelpipe plugin, for example, and create an account if you don’t already have one. Then you can instantly push your photos up to all your photo sharing accounts!

Run Windows!

OK, now you’re thinking: Why would I want to run Windows on the computer I bought to stop running windows??? Well, I have a reason: Not everything runs on the Mac. Gasp! How could that be? Well, it’s true. And no geek would want to have to be in the position of not being able to run that killer app you just can’t possibly live without, right?

Now, here’s the disclaimer: This one’s optional. If you don’t have a copy of Windows lying around, it isn’t mandatory that you run out and get one right this second. But if you do, this is something to consider.

So, if you’ve decided that this might be a good idea, you’ve got two options: Boot Camp or a virtual machine. Both of these have advantages and disadvantages. Boot Camp allows you to run Windows in a partition by itself. This gives you the full power of the Mac’s hardware, but you have to reboot to switch operating systems. A virtual machine allows you to run Windows “in a box”, as a program inside of OS X. This has the advantage of letting you switch between systems instantaneously, but it also can slow down your Mac depending on how much of its resources you grant the VM.

If you go with a VM, or virtual machine, you have a few choices. The two big names in virtualization for the Mac are Parallels and VMware Fusion. They both retail for $80. If you don’t want to pay for your WM software and don’t mind a bit of a steeper learning curve, try VirtualBox. It’s from Sun, and it’s what I use right now. I wont go into depth on Boot Camp here, it has a simple setup wizard. Just click the Spotlight search icon on the menu bar, type “boot camp” and hit enter.


Your Mac comes with everything you need to get started. Key phrase: get started. Sure, you could probably live without cool things to plug into your Mac, but why take the chance? Here are a few gadgets I recommend to enhance your Mac experience:

  • Griffin Simplifi – It’s an iPod dock with a built-in multi-card reader. Who could ask for more?
  • Chumby – Sure, it doesn’t actually plug in to you Mac, but it does provide you with an RSS ticker, weather gadget, screen licking dog, and much more, all packed into a cute little Wi-Fi enabled beanbag!
  • Timecapsule– Here’s one from Apple itself! Back up your machine wirelessly. Available in 500GB and 1TB flavors.
  • Bamboo Tablet – Here’s one for all the artists out there: A drawing tablet! You can always graduate to a normal Wacom tablet if you need a bigger one.

Never stop geekin’ out!

There are lots more tips that I didn’t cover here, and even more that I couldn’t possibly cover, because I don’t know they exist! So, the number one thing you can do to turn your new Mac into the ultimate geek control center is:

Don’t stop looking for more ways to make it awesome!

There are always more things you can do to your Mac to make it perfectly suit your level of geekosity. Add a touchscreen! Set up live log file readouts! The list is endless. So, I provide you with one more link, the ultimate resource for Mac geekiness. Now go, click the link, and begin your geeky Apple-related adventure! This is the link!

Sharing VMware Experiences

I’ve been a fan of VMware for quite some time now, stretching back years (long before they were sponsoring my video endeavours) – and I’m not alone in my fandom. Gus Munguia is with me:

Hi Chris, I see that you have written a few things about VMware. I have been using VMware products since 1999 when they were in Beta. I would like to share with you what I have done using the free version of VMware (VMware server). One of our PCs got hacked several months ago so I finally decided to do what I a have been thinking about for over a year.

I wiped the PC and installed Windows XP with no TCP/IP protocol. I then installed VMware Server and built a Virtual Windows XP machine and allowed it to get an IP address from the router. This virtual machine connects to the internet and is configured with a non persistent disk, which means that every time that it restarts all changes are lost and it is always in the same state.

I do not need to worry if the virtual machine gets hacked because everything will be lost when I reboot it. Since my real (physical) machine has no ip address and no TCP/IP stack, there is no way for it to get hacked from the internet.

I have been running like this for about 2 months. My virtual machine runs pretty fast because I installed an additional 2 GB of RAM on my physical machine. On the virtual machine I have enabled the Windows firewall and turned off automatic updates. I also do not have any Spyware protection or Anti-virus on the virtual machine since any infection will be lost upon reboot. You would be surprised (or not) on how much faster a machine runs with out Anti-virus or Spyware protection.

Of course there are some issues such as saving IE favorites and loading new software that become a little harder to do with this type of configuration. I have developed procedures for doing these things offline (while not connected to the internet). There are other things that I have done to assure that my physical machine does not communicate with the virtual machine such as disabling the VMware adapters (VMnet1 and VMnet8) and removing other protocols.

There are a few other issues that I have worked around. I currently have 2 physical machines configured like this; one has a wireless network adapter so I had to do some registry manipulation so that it can talk to the access point and not get a valid IP address. I tried putting but the connection was not reliable. I ended up putting in a private IP with a mask of and this has been working so far. I will eventually get rid of the wireless and install CAT 6.

So far this configuration has worked pretty well for me and I hope to eventually have the physical machine run Linux so that I do not have to worry about possible licensing issues with running 2 simultaneous versions of MS Windows on the same machine. I was wondering if you or anybody else has done something similar and would like to share their experiences.

I’m not sure if anybody has answers for Gus, or possibly other ways to use VMware and its line of products?


Virtual CPU

Albert asks:

So my question is: Is there a way to basically run two instances of your operating system, or basically running two computers on your own one system and monitor? I don’t know how to describe it really. What I want to do is basically have two instances of my computer running on a split-screen type thing on my one monitor. This is because I have a program that won’t let me run two instances of it at once. I have two computers setup to the internet, and I have to run across my room every time I want to do something on the other computer. I even got one of those “switch” things that makes my two computers connect to my one monitor. But that is still really troublesome, and I’d rather see if I can do everything from one computer and monitor.

Dude. It’s all about Virtual Machines. VMware saved my bacon with Vista, and it’s saving my bacon on OS X. They’ve recently come aboard as a sponsor so, in the interest of balance: I’ve also written about Parallels and other VM programs before.

Parallels Desktop 3.0 for Mac Update

Exclusive Coupons: $10 off for Parallels Desktop 4.0 for Mac.

There are two camps forming: one side who loves Parallels for the Mac, and another side who loves VMware Fusion for the Mac. It’s great to see that with a recent patch, many Parallels performance issues were minimized. Kevin emailed me about it the other day:

I normally wouldn’t send you a link to one of my articles, but I think you’ll appreciate this one. Since we cater to a mobile audience, I looked at how Parallels hits your battery life with their v2.5 a few months ago. It was so bad that I couldn’t run Vista on my MBP for too long when out and about. And the fan noise when running Parallels on the 2.33 GHz C2Duo….let’s just say it was embarrassing; like the Mac had a constant case of intestinal gas.

I just revisited the same basic tests with the newest release of Parallels and found a vast improvement in how effective the new virtualization software is.

I’m only running Vista on the MBP for Outlook 2007 since Entourage is stuck in 2003 for now.

I was loving my installation of Fusion when I was in Germany. I wasn’t using Outlook 2007 in a virtual machine, but I was relying on IE7 for OWA 2003 (Outlook Web Access). While a OWA Light 2003 works in Firefox, it’s beyond unusable. I have to wait for Rackspace to upgrade their servers to Exchange 2007 / OWA 2007 before I would consider using a native OS X browser to access my inbox.

Lord knows if Entourage 2008 will be any better than the current version of Entourage (I’ve only seen one screenshot for it, and it looks marginally better). The latest screenshots of the Mac Office Suite UI overhaul look very promising, however.

Windows Vista Complaints Department

At the risk of sounding even more negative about the entire Windows Vista situation, I have a steady stream of disgruntled users venting in my inbox. Michelle Rampelt, for instance:

I just experienced the ultimate irony. As I selected your “Mail Me” Icon, the wretched “Allow” Window popped up. I am an exceptionally happy person, although Windows Vista is making me absolutely miserable and frustrated. I can’t run the software programs I need, write or respond to e-mails in Outlook Exchange – I have spent HOURS AND HOURS attempting to troubleshoot what would have been simple in Windows XP world. I am just a real estate broker. And clearly, not very bright. I have been unable to find ANY help via the Microsoft web sites (which they charge for amusingly enough.) Do you have any advice? I would rather poke myself in the eye with a knitting needle than arrive at another Vista roadblock.

It never seems to end, but I suppose you could say that about any widely-used product anymore? I’m not claiming that Vista has cornered the market on operating system frustration, but I believe the average user’s expectations for Vista have yet to be met. Cathy McLaren, for instance:

I’d bought a brand new Vista-ready media centre computer and was sooooo looking forward to all those bells and whistles. But, I still had work I needed to do. Sharing between pc’s on my network was nearly impossible. No, it WAS impossible. 90% of my mp3’s wouldn’t play – denied. Loading games that previously played on XP was a real challenge. After the first month I found I’d had enough and wanted to wipe it out completely and reload XP… I had an image so that wasn’t a problem. The problem was Vista had taken my 2nd hard drive and denied me all admin rights to it!! I’m an admin!!! That 2nd drive was storage and backup. The only thing I could do was find other places to dump all that storage and backup, delete the partition, reformat. Sheesh!

I’m back on XP Media Centre and loving it. Wishing I could get some of those neat upgrades like the better media centre software, and that wonderful intuitiveness when saving or searching for files, but hey. if I want cute things on my desktop, there’s Yahoo Widgets. I also took an image of the Vista install just in case some day I forget why I was so unhappy and feel the need again. That day will be a long time coming.

Honestly? I just installed a review copy of Vmware Fusion on my 17″ MacBook Pro (the unit was notably sponsored by Blue Sky Factory for Gnomedex events). While I’m quite fond of Parallels for what it does, I fear that its buzz is about to be overshadowed by Vmware’s product. Why bother to bring up the Apple threat now? Because Windows XP is running beautifully, seamlessly, quickly on my Mac right now – which might appeal to users who don’t really like where Windows “is” today.

More to the point, this is the future of your desktop experience – in a platform-neutral environment. All I need now is a pre-built, fully-stocked Linux VM (with Compiz Fusion)…