VMware Fusion

Published on Monday, January 7, 2008

I’ve been busy since returning from vacation on getting my new iMac up and running. Aside from the machine being a physical work of art, it’s also been performing very well and runs so silent that I’m hearing all kinds of new noises in my house that I wasn’t aware of before. This doesn’t mean that I’ve completely forsaken Windows. In fact, the move to the Mac has allowed me to finally move to Vista on my home machine and install Visual Studio 2008, which is killing my work laptop. For those of you remotely familiar with the Mac, running Windows side-by-side with OS X has been possible since the release of the Intel-based Macs. This started with Boot Camp and gained serious traction with the release of Parallels. Most recently, VMware jumped into this space with their Fusion product for the Mac. I went with Fusion due to reviews on both Apple’s site and Amazon.com that seemed to indicate that Fusion was more stable and that there were far more converts from Parallels to Fusion than in the opposite direction.

VMware Fusion

I’m running 3 operating systems now on this machine, 2 of them under Fusion 1.1. Mac OS X Leopard came pre-installed with the machine and Vista and Ubuntu Linux are running under Fusion. Despite the 64-bit Intel architecture on the new Macs, both the Vista and Ubuntu installs are 32-bit. I didn’t hear enough good news about the 64 bit releases to convince me that they were worth pursuing. All of this is running on 4GB of memory. Only 1 GB was stock and you’d be crazy to pay Apple’s prices for memory. Other World Computing (OWC) will get you to the 4GB maximum for less than $100. The memory install took all of about 10 minutes and OWC’s service and delivery were nothing short of outstanding.

As far as the individual operating systems, they are all running fine. That said, everyone puts different kinds of stresses on their machines. Mine is software development and I require each of my operating systems to run at least oneIDE. That’s actually the reason for the existence of these VMs in the first place. Although my initial research prepared me for the worst, I’ve had no issues with running IDEs concurrently on all 3 operating systems. I’ve encountered some small quirks, which I’ve documented below for anyone who might find this sort of thing useful:

  • Mac OS X Leopard – I’m running NetBeans 6.0 with the Ruby-only configuration. Much to the chagrin of many Mac developers, Leopard did not ship with Java 6 even though it was included in some of thepre-releases. This proved to be a non-issue for the installation of the latest version of NetBeans. Obviously, running NetBeans in Ruby-only mode means that I’m not exercising the JDK and thus avoiding what could potentially be a lot of issues.
  • Windows Vista – Although I’ve had issues getting used to the Vista operating system from the Windows 2003 Server / Windows XP I’ve become so familiar with, I’ve had few issues actually running Vista. I’m running Vista with the 1 GB RAM that Fusion recommended and have had no issues thus far. The only issue I encountered was trying to install Vista in Fusion Easy Install mode with multipleCDs , as opposed to a DVD. This is a documented issue with Fusion that I didn’t become aware of until I ran into it head-on. Simply switching to a normal install solved all of my issues. On top of Vista, I’m running Visual Studio 2008. This runs pretty quick – even on 1 GB and builds of moderately sized solutions are pretty fast. TheIDE is really responsive and you really only notice that your running in a virtualized environment if you try to resize the entire Vista window to get more real estate for the IDE.
  • Ubuntu 7.10 – Despite the size of the operating system, this installation took longer than Vista. I chose not to use one of VMware’s canned virtual appliances and go with a fresh install. I would probably re-examine this decision if I had the chance to do it all over again. Ubuntu is running NetBeans 6.0 with the full Java EE stack. The install of NetBeans downloaded directly from netbeans.com went really well once the proper Sun JDKs were installed. Both the Java 5 and Java 6 JDKs were available directly from Ubuntu’s installation utility. I installed Java 5 first and, after realizing that it was a vanilla 1.5.0 release that didn’t meet the requirements for NetBeans 6.0, I installed Java 6. Things have been just dandy since then.