VMWare has finally jumped on the Intel Mac virtualization bandwagon by releasing VMWare Fusion, a program that competes with Parallels' previously released Parallels Workstation for Mac. VMWare has previously had virtulization products available for Linux and Windows, but this is the first time that they've released the workstation product for Mac. They're currently offering a free beta download so that you may test out the software.
Features promised on the VMWare site are 64 bit support, increased ability to run hardware-intensive processes, and USB 2.0 support with even products that aren't Mac-compatible.
How it worked
This launch didn't seem that much different from the Parallels launch, other than timing, so I decided to test-drive it to see really how well it stacked up against Parallels. My test machine is a MacBook Intel Core Duo @ 1.83 Ghz, 512 MB of RAM, and a 60 GB hard drive.
You're forced to input a whole page of data about yourself before you're allowed to the download page, where it provides you with a serial number and a download link. The download was a hefty 110 MB dmg file, so depending on your internet connection, it may take around 20 minutes on a 1.5 megabit connection. Once it was finally downloaded, the installation was relatively straight-forward. You'll need about 140 MB to install to whole thing.
The program starts with a nice glossy window allowing you to setup virtual machines. It has a nicely laid out wizard that guides you through the steps of creation of a virtual machine. Due to time constraints, I decided to use an Ubuntu Live CD to test out the virtulization.
When the machine was started, it issued a warning about a Debug option in effect and that actions may be slowed due to logging. I inserted the Ubuntu Live CD and clicked "start". However, this resulted in a problem of VMWare being unable to access the drive because the CD was mounted by OS X. Ugh. However, on the third try, amazingly GRUB loaded and I saw the Ubuntu loading screen. As with all virtualization on my MacBook, programs began acting slugishly, and I soon ended up quitting iTunes and Firefox to be able to operate properly.
Using Ubuntu was still painfully slow, but this can be attributed to the fact that it was a Live CD that I was using, and I imagine that performance improves substantially when run from a install instead of a disc.
Ubuntu Linux loading
Full screen mode was nice, although it was merely a different way of displaying the already-800x600 window. A bigger problem, however was that I was unable to use my keyboard to input text. When keys were pressed, no response happened, even when the mouse was "active" (inside the window). I tried a couple of drivers, yet there was no response, which is odd since the input worked before in the early stages of booting, such as GRUB.
Playing nibbles in Gnome
Internet access worked well, although I was restricted to sites available from the Bookmarks menu on Firefox due to my inability to input a web address with the keyboard.
VMWare Fusion has a good interface, and has features that allow it to compete nicely against Parallels Workstation. It's very responsive, and just as fast if not faster as Parallels Workstation. However, unless the keyboard issue is not sorted out, there will be little use for it for me.