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MacBook Air - Oh What to VMware

OK, I have to admit that this post is a bit of a hesitation. I wrote a while ago about my not so pleasant experiences with Parallels and the MacBook Air...see MacBook Air, Parallels...I hear that not only is Parallels running better, but they have a version specifically for the Air. I hear that, but will not try it at this point.

I have installed VMware Fusion the Beta 2 version on the Air about 1 month ago...and, even after one complete update, it is still performing extremely well...now that I write this, it will, of course, stop working and revert to more corrupted state...kidding. Even if it did, I have two back-ups of previous working versions that I can just copy over...

I ended up completely removing the Bootcamp install as it was taking up more space than I wanted to afford...After removing Bootcamp, I still had the challenge of reinstalling XP yet an additional time. It seemed easier this time. There were actually only a couple of updates needed before the wonderful Windows XP SP3 initiated itself. It was much easier installing the 196+ updates when they were a part of a service pack than the individual ones were. Everything went in...with only a couple of hours lost instead of numerous weekends and more harddrive space.

Microsoft Office 2003 went in with no challenges. There were more updates for office than expected. Since I wasn't using it within the XP install as much, I let them go in over the next week. Windows Live components such as Messenger, Writer, and the lot installed quickly. Live OneCare was the only program that provided any challenges being installed. As it turns out, it was the slipstream version of XP I decided to use for this install. It did not activate Terminal Services which OneCare needed. After making some minor registry changes, all is well.

With this install of VMware Fusion and Windows XP, I was also able to attach to Windows Live, pull down items from my Skydrive, and add the MacBook Air to Windows Live Mesh. I can access the folders in the cloud whenever I am connected, and simply drag them to the Mac desktop. I am also able to connect seamlessly with the NAT bridge to my office's VPN and the shared corporate folders, dragging and dropping files when needed.

Civilization III and Railroad Tycoon II run fairly smoothly on this installation that runs in its own space on the MacBook Air. When I want to really multi-task, I attach an external monitor and run XP there with 1 GB and OSX with 1GB using the Air's beautiful screen. There are moments when MobileMe decides to sync and the VMware Fusion install slows down, but it is not as annoying or as painful as a crash or restart. The only challenge I have noticed is a longer than expected boot and shut down process, but I was noticing that with a previous XP machine after the SP3 update as well.

Lastly, I was so impressed with the beta that is free until October or so, I purchased a license within a couple of weeks. The upgrade to this version is supposed to be free for those with current license, so this made sense. Good luck...enjoy.

OK, some other items that I thought of after the original posting...

First, the bad pieces...connecting and disconnecting usb devices is not always as simple as plugging it in and unplugging the device when XP is running. Sometimes, you have to tell Vmware that there is something there. Another slightly annoying piece is the fan is constantly running. It is noisy, but too bad. Last item on the negative, unless you are just going to go in and do some quick things in XP, plug in the Air. It sucks up battery life quicker than the MacBook Air usually does.

Second, the better additions...the snapshot and shrinking worked better on the second version of the beta. I don't think I gained much space, but the tool worked well and sped up the load time a little. I have not had any crashes of the operating system...touch wood...when it looks like it is about the crash, it is a system resource issue...which I wish the MacBook Air could accept more memory...Also, two-finger scrolling, right-clicking with the CTRL key, and basic mouse functions from OSX all work splendidly within this environment.

Lastly, the one reason I forgot to mention about moving to even try VMware Fusion was that with the update that Apple provided to BootCamp, I lost some of the mouse functions on the trackpad and the environment kept crashing after that update. While I am sure the makers of VMware Fusion can thank Apple for the additional revenue stream, it is annoying that functionality was impacted by an upgrade...no worries. This method is much better for multi-tasking and balancing workload.



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