17 Aug 2007

On Revisits

Author: q | Filed under: Coolness, Mac, Tools, VMWare

Just a week ago, I had the notion to take a serious look at Fusion and Vista on my Mac and posted my initial observations about it. Those observations, as noted, were based on just a few hours work with the product. Over the next few days, I had an opportunity to really dig into different parts of the setup and get a lot of other experiences. So, a week later, I”m posting my next update to my experiences with Fusion and Vista.

In summary, it”s off the machine. I had trouble, I tried to fight through it, I gave up. I lost a lot of productivity Monday and Tuesday, so I went back to my tried and true Parallels and XP to get business back on track.

That doesn”t mean that Fusion and Vista don”t hold promise. It just means that in my opinion, based solely on these experiences,I can”t recommend Fusion and Vista as a viable,reliable platform for business use. The rest of the post will shed a little more light into the whys of it all.

First, the background. I had initially created a 20GB HD partition for Vista under Fusion, and after installing Vista, Office 2007, and some of the standard SBS tools, the disk was at 65% full. I knew that wasn”t going to hold water, and so I was planning on rebuilding the HD anyway.

Well, I got my opportunity earlier than I had thought/hoped. After a lengthy power outage on Sunday which knocked my Mac out of commission, I came in Monday and could not get Fusion to boot the Vista HD image at all. This was when I noted the lack of apparent disk image management tools in Fusion. As best as I can tell, if you have problems with a VHD file in Fusion, you”re toast. Granted, I didn”t spend a lot of time looking (then) for tools to repair the VHD, I decided that I”d go ahead and just reinstall into a larger VHD file and move on. So I blew away the Vista config setup and went on. I created a new profile for Vista with a 40GB HD, installed Vista, connected it to my SBS network, and installed Office 2007. I was in the middle of syncing my OST file for Outlook when my Mac crashed again. Normally I manage to only crash my Mac about once a year, and that was Monday (along with everything else that was going on Monday. After restarting the Mac, I again could not get Fusion to load from the VHD file. Again, I blew away the Vista config and started over. I left the Office 2007 install going and went home.

Tuesday I came in and first thing did a normal shut down of Vista and quit Fusion altogether. Then I did a normal restart on my Mac and restarted Fusion. Vista loaded just fine. *whew* Thought I was out of the woods. Then later in the day Tuesday I did something inside Vista that caused the Vista to lock up, and my only choice was to Force Quit Fusion to get back to a point to try to relaunch Vista. Guess what, Fusion wouldn”t load the Vista HD. That was the last straw. I nuked the VHD for Vista/Fusion and went back to XP under Parallels, because I just had to get some work done.

Second, I”m not sure about how Fusion implements the Unity display. Granted, this may be more of a Vista thing than a Fusion thing, but according to the info on Fusion, their approach seems to be to try to completely hide the task bar in Unity mode and just use the Mac Dock for application icons. That may be well and good, and I do still get the Start button in the lower left corner of the screen, but what about the system tray icons? I have several tools that have a visible presence in the system tray, anti-virus software among them, that I regularly access from the system tray. Those icons were nowhere to be found in Fusion. In Parallels, because I get the entire Windows taskbar displayed above the Mac Dock, I get my system tray along with my application buttons, so I can access what I need. Unfortunately, Fusion/Vista kept crashing too often for me to get in and really look at that given everything else I needed to get done, so I can”t say that it”s not possible to get that, I just didn”t see it on first glance.

I do plan on dong more testing with both Parallels and Fusion. Specifically, I”ll be loading Vista into Parallels and see if I observe some of the quirks I noted in Fusion”s installation of Vista. I”ll also be loading XP under Fusion to see if some of the oddities are related to Fusion or to Vista. I know where I think it”s going to be, but I”m reserving judgment until I can take more time with it.

In the meantime, to those who have asked me about Fusion and its viability as a production app, I have to issue a caution that right now I can”t recommend it for a production solution like I can with Parallels. True, this is the first version, and VMWare has a long history of turning out quality product, so I know that Fusion will likely be a very good tool down the road, but I just can”t recommend using it right now with Vista and expect to get any serious productivity out of it. Hopefully my experiences are in the minority and others have had better success with it, but being one who has to go on what I see with my own eyes, I”d say hold off a bit on Vista/Fusion. I expect that at some point in the future I”ll be able to publish another post that gives the thumbs-up for Fusion/Vista, but that”s not today. 

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