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VMware Fusion 4.1 aims at Parallels, returns Rosetta to Lion

Monday, November 21, 2011

Late last week VMware released VMware Fusion 4.1, an update to its virtualization package for Mac OS X that aims to play catch up to Parallels Desktop 7 in some respects and surpass it in another. The free update brings performance increases and better Lion host compatibility, as well as the ability to run non-server versions of Mac OS X 10.5 and 10.6 in virtual machines-something Parallels can't do.

Graphics performance is one area where VMware Fusion has lagged behind Parallels Desktop. MacTech showed this a few weeks ago when it tested VMware Fusion 4.0 against Parallels Desktop 7. VMware Fusion 4.1 improves 2D and 3D graphics, according to two (different) VMware release notes page (here and here). Windows 7 (with the Microsoft hot fix KB 2522761) benefits from faster screen size changes. Graphics under when using Mac OS X 10.7.2 as the host OS is improved. VMware said that users of version 4.1 will see a six-fold increase in performance of HTML5 graphics with Internet Explorer 9 in a virtual machine. VMware Fusion 4.1 also improves the speed of transitions into Unity and full screen modes and improved startup time. Graphics bugs in the Mac Pro and non-English copies of the software have been fixed.

For Windows virtual machines, Fusion 4.1 will automatically resize NTFS partitions on resized virtual hard disks to take over new space. The update also fixes a bug with using the migration assistant to move Windows to Mac OS X 10.7.2, as well as some other bug fixes.

The ability to install and run the client versions of Leopard and Snow Leopard in virtual machines enables Lion users to run older PowerPC Mac OS X applications, an ability that Apple abandoned when it dropped its Rosetta technology from Lion. For some Lion users, running Mac OS X 10.5 or 10.6 in VMware Fusion 4.1 gives them access to software no longer available in an Intel version, such as Quicken Deluxe for Mac. For others, it means not having to spend money replace software that meets their needs, such as older versions of Adobe CS or FileMaker.

Parallels Desktop 7 will only allow you to install the server versions of Leopard Snow Leopard non-server versions. Both Parallels and VMware enable you to run Lion and Lion Server in a virtual machine.

VMware Fusion 4.1's improved Lion host compatibility include a full-screen mode that works like Lion's built-in full-screen mode. Although version 4.0 had a full-screen mode, it now works the same way it does with other Lion applications, by clicking Lion's full-screen button at the top right of a virtual machine window. The full-screen virtual machine moves to a new space, as do other Lion applications when put into full-screen mode.

VMware Fusion 4.1 also includes improvements for running Lion in a virtual machine. File Vault 2 disk encryption (of the virtual hard drive) is now when using Mac OS X 10.7.2 or later. Mouse movements in the Lion guest OS are smoother. Virtual hard drives for Mac OS X guests now appear as internal hard drives and not external hard drives. You can now also re-install OS X 10.7 in a VM from the Lion Recovery HD, a feature that Parallels Desktop 7 has. (In both cases, this requires re-downloading Lion.)

The 4.1 update also restores a version that was available in version 3.x but which was removed in VMware Fusion 4.0 - the ability to automatically start a virtual machine when Fusion is launched. This is now a setting in a virtual machine's Settings menu, under General.

UPDATE: VMware flip-flops on Leopard, Snow Leopard in virtual machines

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

VMware has turned about face on the issue of running Mac OS X 10.5 and 10.6 in a virtual machine on a Mac, an ability made possible in Fusion 4.1, released last week. Yesterday, the company issued a statement saying that it will issue an update to VMware Fusion to prevent it from running non-server versions of discontinued versions of Mac OS X.

Previous versions of the virtualization package, as well as competing product Parallels Desktop, check the operating system you are installing in a virtual machine. Previous to version 4.1, VMware Fusion would stop the installation process if it detected Mac OS X 10.5 or 10.6. (Parallels Desktop does the same.) If the software it detects Mac OS X Server 10.5, 10.6, or 10.7, or the Lion client, or Windows, Linux, the installation is allowed continue.

A VMware blog post says merely, "in VMware Fusion 4.1 the server edition check was omitted. We are preparing an update." Note that it doesn't say the server check was "inadvertently" omitted. VMware apparently had second thoughts--perhaps after a call from Cupertino.

The issue is Apple's user license agreement. Although Apple permitted a user to run Mac OS X Server (and the Lion client) in a virtual machine, the old user license agreements for the desktop versions of these discontinued versions did not allow them to be virtualized. Although the Mac OS X user license applies to the user, and not VMware or Parallels, the virtualization developers have blocked the user's ability to install Mac OS's that Apple didn't want installed. Whether VMware originally thought Apple wouldn't mind enabling old versions to be installed, or whether there was a miscommunications, VMware has made it clear it will now enforce Apple's old user license agreements.

The retraction will come as a disappointment to users who hoped to make up for the elimination of Rosetta in Lion by running Leopard or Snow Leopard in a virtual machine. However, users who keep version 4.1, and don't upgrade, should be able to continue running Mac OS X 10.5 or 10.6 in virtual machines.

VMware yanks support of 10.5, 10.6, blocks download of v4.1

Monday, November 28, 2011

VMWare has issued the VMware Fusion 4.1.1 update to its virtualization software for Mac OS X, removing the ability to run the non-server versions of Leopard and Snow Leopard in a virtual machine. VMware also blocked the download of the previous version, 4.1, from its download page--clicking the Download button brings up an error message, "Invalid Download Group."

VMware recently released version 4.1, which added the ability to run the non-server versions of the discontinued Mac OS X 10.5 and 10.6. Within days after shipping VMware Fusion 4.1, the company announced that it would be updating the software to remove the new features. Version 4.1.1 is that update. The removal of the feature is the only change. The company said that if a user installed Mac OS X 10.5 and 10.6 in a virtual machine in Version 4.1, it would no longer boot after updating to VMware Fusion 4.1.1.

VMware referred to the ability to run Leopard and Snow Leopard in virtual machines as an "omission," but many have speculated that Apple asked the company to remove the feature. Although Apple allows users to run Lion in a virtual machine, the old user license agreements for these discontinued OS's don't allow it. Apple has always allowed users to run the server versions of Mac OS X 10.5 and 10.6 in virtual machines.

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