Parallels Desktop Mac Beta2 (Build 3094)

Oh boy, big news!

A new beta of Parallels has been released today, and is a free download for Parallels users. Coherence and BootCamp compatibility have been improved, along with a slew of other features.

Here’s the release notes for the Parallels Desktop for Mac (Beta2) page:

  • NEW! USB 2.0 support – “Plug and play” popular USB devices like external hard drives, printers, and scanners, and use them at full native speed.
    • NOTE! Current Build 3094 doesn’t support isochronous devices such as web cameras, microphones, etc.
  • NEW! Full-feature virtual CD/DVD drive – Burn CDs and DVDs directly in virtual machines, and play any copy-protected CD or DVD just like you would on a real PC
  • NEW! Improved Coherence mode – The groundbreaking feature that lets you run Windows applications without seeing Windows just got better! Now you can:
    • Place Windows applications on your Mac desktop or in your application dock. Just click to launch them directly from OS X!
    • Use Command+tab to cycle through Windows and Mac applications simultaneously, and “hide and show” Windows applications just like you would with Mac applications
    • View the Windows Command Console in Coherence mode
    • Use Coherence in Windows 2000, Windows 2003, Windows XP and Windows Vista!
  • NEW! Better Boot Camp support – Using your Boot Camp partition in Parallels Desktop is now easier than ever. Beta2’s Boot Camp support includes:
    • Full support for FAT32 and NTFS partitions
    • Easy offline configuration. Simply tell Parallels Desktop that you want to create a virtual machine from a Boot Camp Partition and click start. No complicated set up required!
    • No need to re-activate Windows each time you switch between Boot Camp and Parallels. Activate Windows only once inside Parallels and work in both environments
    • IMPORTANT! It is not possible to suspend a Virtual Machine that is connected to Boot Camp as it could result in an unstable system.
    • VERY IMPORTANT! Beta1 (build 3036) users must boot natively into Boot Camp and uninstall Parallels Tools for Boot Camp prior to running it in Beta2 (build 3094).
  • NEW! Parallels Transporter Beta2 bundled – migrate your real Windows PC, or existing VMware or Virtual PC VMs to Parallels virtual machines! Learn more about Parallels Transporter Beta2 >>
    • IMPORTANT! Beta1 users MUST upgrade their Transporter package on their Windows source machine before using Parallels Transporter in Beta2. Failing to do so may result in a system crash and loss of data
  • New Look and Feel – completely redesigned windows and easier to follow dialogues to make Desktop for Mac more user-friendly than ever
  • True “Drag and Drop” functionality – a long awaited feature that lets you seamlessly drag and drop files and folders from Windows to Mac OS X and vice versa
  • Read/Write Boot Camp partition – use your Apple Boot Camp Partition as a virtual HDD for Parallels Desktop for Mac
  • Virtual Machine Catalogue – now all of your virtual machines are available through a centralized VM catalogue which appears on each Parallels Desktop for Mac instance
  • One-click Virtual Machine Aliases – automatically create a desktop shortcut for your virtual machine with the OS Installation Assistant, by dragging-and-dropping from title bar, or by pressing Command-Option keys combination. Clicking on Alias automatically starts the Virtual Machine
  • Resizable Main Window – resize the Parallels Desktop for Mac main window as you do with any other Mac application
  • Auto-Adjusting Screen Resolution – Windows auto-adjusts its screen resolution to the actual main window size
  • Improved graphic performance – up to 50% faster!
  • Connect/disconnect USB devices schema improved – no more annoying “wait 5-10 seconds” message on USB device connecting to Parallels Desktop for Mac!
  • Up to 5 Virtual NICs – now each Virtual Machine can have up to five virtual network interfaces
  • Enhanced Shared Networking Mode – run Cisco VPN and many other complex networking applications in conjunction with Connection Sharing Mode

Design Useable Applications

I’ve been reading the IndieHIG (Independent Human Interface Guidelines) a lot lately, being a fan of Apple’s original HIG, and (to a lesser extent) the Sun Java HIG as well.

While it’s great that they are taking on the Macintosh apps that are not aligning to standards, they don’t really apply anywhere else at all, and that’s a real shame. What the venerable Apple HIG really had going for it was that it could be applied anywhere, and that’s why it was so popular.

I really think the new HIGs to be watching are those from Gnome HIG and KDE HIG as more app development experts are involved and the rules can be applied to all types of applications, and in many environments.

But hey, keep up the good work IndieHIG – just change your name to something more suitable like Indie Apple HIG.

Skip DMG verification by default in Mac OS X

I’ve been using OS X for a while now, and one thing that really irks me, especially on larger DMG files like a Leopard image, is that OS X automatically tries to verify the checksum of the DMG image file, which could take hours.

There are a few applications out there that will disable this for you, but if you want the quick and dirty method, and don’t mind using the Terminal once in a while, use this one-liner to disable the verification easily:

defaults write com.apple.frameworks.diskimages skip-verify true

Connect to a Mac Remote Desktop using VNC

This will be a quick howto as it’s mostly a settings issue, but here goes:

Macs have come with a Remote Desktop server for quite some time now, and it’s great for using macs to manage macs remotely, though maybe not as nice as an NX or XMing solution.

When trying to manage an Apple computer using a Windows or Linux computer it’s a different story. When you attempt to open the connection the authorization works, but the window will close very quickly, with no apparent error.

The problem lies in the actual implementation of VNC in Apple’s Remote Desktop server (not to be confused with RDP – it’s MUCH slower). Apple has decided to only support one type of tiling, whereas most VNC clients will attempt to find the best solution in order to connect. Specifically, Apple uses HexTile, and if you specify this in the options or properties of your connection, it will work with no problems whatsoever.

If you’d like to make a .VNC configuration file in order to connect to your Mac server using a Windows VNC client (RealVNC used here), just take the following code and save it as a *.VNC configuration file, being careful to change the host from (null) to the remote Apple Remote Desktop server’s IP address (for example: 10.10.10.10).

[Connection]
Host=(null)
[Options]
UseLocalCursor=1
UseDesktopResize=1
FullScreen=0
FullColour=1
LowColourLevel=1
PreferredEncoding=hextile
AutoSelect=0
Shared=0
SendPtrEvents=1
SendKeyEvents=1
SendCutText=1
AcceptCutText=1
DisableWinKeys=1
Emulate3=0
PointerEventInterval=0
Monitor=
MenuKey=F8
AutoReconnect=1

I have tested this method on many Windows and Linux machines, using RealVNC, TightVNC, UltraVNC and even Chicken of the VNC for Mac OS X. It works fine, though I’d like to pound home again that I would really like to have the option to either tunnel application over SSH, or have some type of locally-accelerated RDP-compliant protocol (heck why not use LTSP 5.0?)
One can only dream…

Disco Disc Burner App Public Beta for Mac OS X

Why is it that I always find myself ponying up the small amounts of cash it takes to purchase Mac shareware applications? Black fire and a disco ball? I gotta have it.

Today I fell victim to MacZot‘s current promotion (ends in 23 hours!) that saw me gobbling up the public beta of the Disco CD/DVD burning application for Mac OS X, and boy am I content with this lil 700KB number.

Firstly, the hype: when you purchase the beta at the silly-low price, you also get the opportunity to send a free license to someone else. So here goes – the first person to leave an intelligent comment gets the license! (I’ll need a real email address) This is a great marketing idea that see people not only using the beta of a terrifically designed piece of software, but also spreading the word to others so they can try it as well. Good show.

Disco Windows

Next, the features: Disco copies discs in two clicks. Say that ten times fast. Disco can span CDs and DVDs automagically. They call it Spandex, I call it dead sexy. This is extremely handy when backing up iPhoto or iTunes, trust me. Disco can burn VIDEO_TS folders by just dragging them onto the application, which makes it great for burning your DVD backups. Disco has realtime 3D interactive smoke that actually wafts up from the application as you burn discs. If you blow into your microphone, the smoke will dissipate, and if you move your cursor around the smoke itself, it reportedly moves accordingly – but I didn’t get to see this on the low-end test box. Disco has an amazingly simplistic interface that is very easy to follow as it prompts you at every step. Last, but certainly not the least in terms of features, and should really be in caps: Disco remembers every single burn and keeps a catalog of the burn sessions using what it calls “discography” so that you can easily do things like print labels, disk jackets, or simply keep handy for when you need that dot release or the pre-altered code that you can never find. Let Disco be your personal sherpa.

Disco runs very well for a beta application. I have yet to see it crash under Panther, Tiger, or even Leopard (WWDC or the 9a ADC build). Oh, and it worked fine in Tiger server as well. Unfortunately the test box is a 1st generation Mac Mini (PPC), so there was no “smoke” to speak of (anyone have screenshots?), so that will need to be tested later. I burned some mix audio CDs, a backup copy of the disk image for Disco public beta itself, an ISO image of Ubuntu Edgy Eft Beta, and a bunch of Gentoo releases, for good measure. No hiccups. I erased a very old scratched CDRW. I even inserted a scratched blank CDR to see what would happen… Well it wouldn’t burn correctly but Disco kept on keepin’ on – like some sort of Disco inferno – no bouncing beachballs of death here. And you call this a beta? I expected flames, not smoke. No crash and burn here.

picture-1.pngpicture-2.pngpicture-3.pngpicture-4.pngpicture-5.pngpicture-6.pngpicture-7.pngpicture-8.pngpicture-9.pngpicture-10.pngpicture-10.pngpicture-11.png

In these screenshots you see the Disco app in full swing, from installation to a test burn, and a view of all the windows it provides. I really like the design of this app, and it was well worth the 15$ pricetag. If you’re new to MacZot, and need a referrer, feel free to use “blandname”. Now go write some optical media and dance around like a schoolgirl.

Oh and on the topic of Disco, and in the name of Halloween here’s a joke:

“Why didn’t the skeleton dance at the disco?”

“He had no body to dance with”

9 Great, Free Applications that Work with Vista

This is a list of my favorite Windows applications that I honestly couldn’t live without that also work on Microsoft Windows Vista RC as well, much to my surprise. All of the software is free to download and use, and in fact most of them are open source.

ConTEXT – ConTEXT is a free and lightweight editor for programming or can be used as a notepad replacement. ConTEXT supports find and replace in multiple files at once so changing one method in loads of files is no longer an issue. Works in Vista with no problems whatsoever.

Synergy – Synergy is like a software KVM, but only shares keyboard and mouse capabilities. Synergy is multiplatform, and I currently use it to have my keyboard and mouse work in Ubuntu, Vista, and my Mac Mini running Leopard with no problem at all! This way I get to use my favorite keyboard and mouse and get to free up some space on my desk at the same time.

VLC – VLC has been my favorite media player for years now. VLC comes with most of the codecs you will need to watch videos on your PC already. VLC is very lightweight, and JUST WORKS, something that can’t be said about many media players. The only issue with VLC in Vista is that it turns Aero Glass off while it is playing.

FileZilla – I use FileZilla to interface with clients that still haven’t moved to SCP. FileZilla is an open source FTP client that gets the job done, supporting drag and drop, SSL, and NAT to NAT connections. The only thing it is missing is FXP support, but that’s not really a big deal in my case. Works fine in Vista with no problems at all.

IMGBurn – I love IMGBurn. This is hands-down the easiest way to burn .IMG, .ISO and BIN/CUE disk images to backup CDs or DVDs. Free, open source, and awesome. Works a treat in Microsoft Vista Beta 2 as well.

WinSnap – I use WinSnap to make many of the screen shots you see on blandname. WinSnap supports full screen and windowed screen shots, and also allows for rotation and drop shadows if you feel the need.

Electric Sheep – I often refer to Electric Sheep as “the best screensaver ever”, but truth be told, it’s really a collection of computer-generated screensavers that allow users to vote on them using a Digg-like system. On Windows, Electric Sheep uses bit torrent to transfer the sheep data. Again, working just fine in Vista!

Xming – Xming is my prefered interface to remote Linux boxes. Xming is for Linux what RDP is for Windows – you get a local X server and acceleration that displays data from remote applications running on Linux machines. Tested more than a few times to a remote Ubuntu computer, and one Gentoo box with no caveats.

WinSCP3 – SCP is now my preferred file transfer method. Luckily my favorite client also works on Vista, or I may not have used it at all. Much like FileZilla, WinSCP3 has a very simple, streamlined interface that is feature-rich and gets the job done, even on Vista.

So there you have it: 9 free applications I couldn’t live without that work just fine on Vista, and make it easy for me to do my day-to-day tasks. Hopefully someday this list will include F-Spot and Amarok, but I’m happy with this as a start considering neither of them work on Windows XP SP2 either!

Write Without Distraction

With computers being as powerful as they are these days, I often find myself distracted by the many applications I have running at the same time, even though I really want to be writing, or at least should be writing.

Enter WriteRoom (now in 1.0), a full-screen text editor that reminds me of WordPerfect 5.0 – what used to be my favorite text editor back in the day.

WriteRoom

As you can see from the spartan screenshot – in zoom or full-screen mode WriteRoom completely abolishes taskbars, menus, popups and other things that will get in the way of your writing tasks and the best part is it actually works.

WriteRoom supports cut, copy, paste – you know standard stuff. It also can spell-check as you write, and you can perform manual spell-checking in the case that automated spell-checking gets in your way. Rounding off the list, the minimal editor supports AppleScript, right-to-left writing, and speech-to-text, and of course printing. Pretty full-featured for a free editor, and encompasses most of the features that have Mac users scrambling for a copy of Microsoft Word.

For you Windows people out there, you can always download DarkRoom, the Windows equivalent of WriteRoom that is also totally free.

Copy Files From a Mac to Windows Using SCP

Whenever you start adding funny-flavored operating systems to a network, you eventually run into filesharing problems. Even if you only have a few machines, coming to a consensus on how to get files from point A to B can be quite taxing – especially if there’s work to be done.

Over the years I’ve tried FTP, Samba, NFS and a host of others. When configured well they work like a charm. However, when a new node joins the network (that shiny new Mac Pro of yours), things need to be reconfigured and can generally be a royal pain that´s why i always chose the best web hosting.

That has changed, though. We now have an acceptable solution that is free, easy to use and above all, secure. Introducing… SCP.

SCP has been around for a while now, and is gaining quite a bit of traction in the hosting world where it is (albeit slowly) starting to replace FTP for upload and download tasks. SCP stand for Secure Copy (CP being Copy on *nix variants). SCP works a lot like FTP in that you require an address to connect to, a username (login) and a password (we won’t get into stored keys today).

Now that we’ve decided what to try in our ad hoc network, how do we set it up? If you’re blessed with any variant of Linux or Unix, the work has been done for you already – the tools come with the operating system, and are generally found under the network tools in your fancy menus.

Fugu on OS X Server

It’s a different story on Apple Macs and PCs, though. For example, Tiger comes with an SCP server, but no client. Right, about the Mac server. In order to activate it in Panther, Tiger and even Leopard, head on over to the System Preferences pane, and choose the Sharing applet (the folder with the caution sign on it). Once it has opened, check the Remote Login checkbox. This will enable SSH, and in turn, SCP. We’re halfway there. You can connect to an SCP server by using the Terminal on a Mac, but from what I can tell most Mac users are frightfully scared of it. But that gives me the oppurtunity to tell you about one of my favorite applications – Fugu (japanese for blowfish – and sporting a suitably cute icon to boot). Fugu allows you to connect to an SCP server to both download and upload files. Fugu is quite easy to use, so we won’t get into that, but will save it for another time if need be (just like stored keys). Oh, and as the screenshot shows you, it works with Mac OS X Server 10.4.7 too! (as well as Leopard)

WinSCP Screenshot

In the PC world, WinSCP is Fugu’s sibling. You get an extremly easy to use interface, complete with drag and drop. Installation is a breeze, and best of all it’s free as in both beer and speech. Just like those soapbox ramblers. Getting a Windows SCP server is a bit more difficult, but currently exists in the form of BitVise WinSSHD. WinSSHD is slightly complicated, but most of the configuration is done during the installation procedure. They supply you with the needed variables, and one you have finished you will have set up an account you can use to test from your other workstations. The screenshot above was taken with the wonderful WinSnap – it comes highly recommended.
Let the cross-platform filesharing begin!

If you have any questions, or would like to suggest a topic for a future article, head on over to the blandname contact page and we’ll see what we can do!

Oh, and by the way, since you’ve noticed I always talk about virtualization, this certainly applies to getting files to and fro from your virtual machines in VMWare Server, Virtual Server (Virtual PC if need be) and Parallels – I have even found it to be faster than any other technique!

Quick Tip: Eject your CD on an Apple Mac

If you don’t have an Apple Macintosh keyboard, you miss out on the “eject button”. This is a shame really. The easiest way to eject the CD is to drag it to the recycle bin, or if you have a Windows mouse as well you can right-click and select eject. Should you have a Macintosh mouse, option-click and select eject. If all else fails, reboot the computer and hold down the left mouse button (or only mouse button), and the CD will eject for you. If this STILL doesn’t work, you can go into OpenFirmware and tell the Apple computer to eject using the command:

0 > eject cd

Hope that helps!

Where’s my Mac BIOS? (How to get into OpenFirmware Easily)

A lot of people these days appear to be under the impression that Macs have a BIOS, which is unfortunate because they actually have something much better – Macs have OpenFirmware. This is true for G4 Mac Minis, PowerBooks, iBooks, iMacs, eMacs, and Dual G5s… I could go on and on.
I got most of this info from experience and the Apple Developper Connection – if you’re not a member yet, sign up, it’s free.

You can get into OpenFirmware using this key sequence:

CMD-OPT-O-F

In detail, this means using two hands, holding “command”, “option” and “f” on the left and “o” with your right hand. Do this while booting your computer and you well hear two chimes. At the end of the chimes you will be greeted with an

On my G4 Mac Mini, for example, I can hold down the power button for roughly 10 seconds and I will hear the chimes – this should work for iMacs as well.

The OpenFirmware prompt that looks like this:

ok

0>

Congratulations, you’ve accessed your “BIOS” you switcher!

Now that we’ve passed this glorious milestone, we have some work to do. After all you came here for a reason right? (and not just to click on the ads, wink-wink nudge-nudge)

Some useful commands that save me time and time again, and enable reparation of the G4 Mac Mini:

Boot your Apple computer using the default boot device:

0 > mac-boot

Boot your Mac using the inserted CDROM at the yaboot directory for linux CDs:

0 > boot cd:,\install\yaboot

To eject a CDROM from your Mac:

0 > eject cd

If you have any other OpenFirmware tips to share, feel free to comment!