May 31st, 2006  |  Published in old and busted

Parallels Desktop came out as a new release candidate today. There wasn’t much doubt in my mind that I’d be buying it once a polite query to the statsmeister at work about whether we’d be getting a stats package that didn’t need some unholy union of ActiveX and Java to run wasn’t even met with a nasty chuckle.

In honor of the occasion, I installed the additional tools they package, including enhanced video drivers and a mouse driver that lets you move off the edge of the display in which Parallels is running in full-screen mode (at a native 1440×900, 32 bit color) and over onto the OS X display without needing to even hit a hotkey.

I’d kept a lot of my thoughts about the product to myself despite using it a couple of times a week since my last lengthy entry because I was hoping it would get a little tiny bit better:

> It takes a bit for the VM to shut down, during which time the whole system is a little pokey. Since it’s writing to a 4GB file, I can see that making some sense. On the bright side, it does like any good VM product and brings the machine back up to where it was when you paused it, which means if I leave it open on the one thing I care about, that’s what’ll be there when I return to it in a week.

> The other things I noticed immediately are that it is willing to operate at decent screen resolutions. I sized it up to something that’ll fit on my second display with a little room around the edges (1280×800 or thereabouts … it’s a widescreen LCD). I got a little more responsiveness out of it by dialing down the display depth to 16bpp and turning off “show contents when dragging Windows,” the menu animations, and some other eyecandy.

The lag on the opening/closing is still there, though not as profound or beach-bally, and I still don’t think it’s a terrible flaw. A 4 GB file is a big chunk of stuff to process.

With the enhanced video drivers, however, it’s much more responsive in general. Just mousing around and typing into forms feels like it’s moving at native speed. UI elements are (teh) snappy. Web pages loaded in Firefox and IE render quickly.

Once the whole thing is loaded and sitting there, it’s not a burden to run it alongside a few other apps I tend to have open all the time (browser, mail, chat), so it isn’t one of those virtual computing situations where you might as well be dual-booting for all you feel like dealing with the performance hit competing OSs introduce.

General impression: Once running, it’s like having a media-crippled Windows box sitting under the desk. It’s smooth and as snappy as you need for Web browsing. I haven’t loaded Office 2003 onto it yet to see how it handles that, but I suspect it’ll be fine. Definitely worth the price considering my probable use.

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