Parallels Saves the Day…twice…

So whenever I get the question: “What’s better Mac or PC?” I always answer, “I use them both!” I really do. At home I have a P4 3Ghz PC on the desk right next to my 24″ iMac. I go back and forth regularly. And now at the office, I have a MacPro kicking with 8Gb of Ram and over 3TB of internal storage…and I’m fully immersed in Parallels Desktop. I mainly got the Parallels thing running because I need to access an Exchange Server through Outlook and I can’t get Entourage working. It works (for me) and I’ll never go back. I have to say that after 2 recent experiences of near disaster which my Parallels setups saved me, I’m a die-hard fan of the OSX, BootCamp, Parallels triple-threat combo – let me explain…

Parallels, for the uninitiated, is a third-party application that takes advantage of the new virtualization code that runs on the Intel CPUs now found in newer Macs. It is a light-years leap forward from the days of Virtual PC (with it’s emulated Generic CPU – not recommended). It allows you to run a virtual version of a Windows (or Linux) desktop simultaneously on your OSX Intel machine. It can be run in Full-Screen mode, Single Window mode (similar to remotely controlling a Windows box on your Mac using RDC) and the ultra-freaky Coherence Mode where you have application windows from OSX and Windows mingled together on the same screen – freaked me out at first, but now I’m used to it. BootCamp is the Apple-created application that allows you to dual-boot an Intel Mac into either OSX or Windows. Parallels was especially attractive to me because it allows you to use a BootCamp Partition as your virtual desktop partition.

I have begun using Parallels on a daily basis lately. My Windows Desktop died at my office and rather than replace it with a new Windows-only machine, I replaced it and an aging Mac G4 with a single MacPro setup with an OSX partition, a BootCamp partition and Parallels Desktop (using that BootCamp partition). The amazing thing here is that it all just works – at least for me. I’ve read that others are having trouble, but for me, it works really well.

Now, the Parallels-saves-day part: Two recent projects threw some curve balls that could have ground everything to a halt. With Parallels working, I was able to work-around the problems and keep things moving forward.

Roadblock #1: Client #1 needs 7 Webisodes posted to Brightcove. Trouble is each file is over 1 gigabyte and the Brightcove PublishPod application for OSX crashes if you throw <1GB files at it. However the PublishPod client for Windows does not have this “feature”. Solution: Install Brightcove PublishPod for Windows on the Parallels install and it works! One caveat is that PublishPod won’t pull a file from a network shared drive, this includes the shared folder that is your OSX Home folder, so you have to have a way of accessing the files on a drive that Windows doesn’t see as a share.

Roadblock #2: Client #2 gives me Quicktimes that are supposed to be Animation codec only they aren’t – they’re Avid DNxHD codec. This is a total show-stopper as my main production machine at home is an Intel Mac (no Avid Codecs supported on Intel Macs yet – really?!?) and the Avid Codec installer keeps crashing when I try and install it on my home Windows workstation (I think it has something to do with the Service Pack 3 for WinXP & to new a version of QuicktimePro). I had a clean install of Windows XP Pro SP2 and no Quicktime installed on the iMac Parallels, so I downloaded Quicktime 7.3 installer and the Avid Codec 1.8 LE installer and again it just worked! I was able to get the files open, re-export them as Animation Codec and get right back to work on the After Effects project I needed to get done before the shoot started at 9am on Sunday!


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