In the operating system world we all know that Microsoft Windows has the lion share of the market. However, the usability of Apple Mac OS X trumps the status quo for some. After many decades of using and many years programming with Microsoft Windows I switched to Mac OS X in 2010. My main computer is now an Apple MacBook, and I love it. I could go on and on as to why I love my MacBook, but we don’t want to get distracted right?
Okay, so back on topic. Now that my main computer is a Mac this can cause some compatibility problems with the software that I need to run. As you guys know a majority of the software out there is Windows only. In addition, certain software packages that are on both platforms like Intuit’s QuickBooks just seem to run better on Windows. Others, like Microsoft Office can only run in their full glory on Windows.
If you’re like me the reality is you need Windows for certain applications, but you can easily work on a Mac for the majority of your day. Whether your mix is mostly Mac or mostly Windows we have a few options.
One area where Microsoft excels is in rendering their desktop remotely. Using the Remote Desktop Protocol or RDP it is possible to connect to a Windows machine from almost any computer, smartphone or tablet. Whether you are rocking a Linux rig, a Mac OS X machine, iPhone, iPad, or even a lowly Android phone (I kid, I kid…) there is most likely a Remote Desktop Client for you. Often times, the client is even free. The only downside is that for those not technically savvy there are a few options you need to know to get things working. A little elbow grease and some Google juice should get all your questions answered though.
Since less than 10% of my workweek is spent on a Windows PC I use this option. The price is right and the performance is acceptable. One thing I will note is that setting this up on your local internal network isn’t too bad. You don’t have to worry about security much. However, if you want to remote desktop to your work PC from home there are some serious security considerations to consider. Don’t just open up your firewall without learning them. Otherwise, you could invite some unwanted hackers in.
If you’re looking for a client for your Mac. I like Microsoft’s own Remote Desktop Connection Client.
What the? Wasn’t that some industrial band in the 90’s? I think you are talking about KMFDM. I’m talking about Keyboard, Video, Mouse aka KVM. A KVM switch is basically just a box that helps you use one keyboard, one video device (a la monitor), and one mouse for multiple computers. Genius right? Heck yeah. There are all sorts of devices for this. The big daddies allow one geek… err… computer user to control legions of computers. I’m thinking you just want to control a couple… maybe four if you are a hoarder and can’t get rid of your old computers.
In any case, Amazon has lots of models made by Belkin. I’ve had good luck with their switches in the past. There are other manufacturers too. In this day and age though I would recommend looking for a model with solid USB support and the ability to switch monitors with DVI connectors. Hardly anyone uses legacy VGA connectors for their monitors anymore.
Apple Boot Camp
We all know Apple switching their processor from IBM’s PowerPC to Intel’s x86 processor was epic. Yeah, I know the word is overused, but I’m using it. Think about infinity for a minute. Then think about infinity plus one. I’ll use epic again and again and it will be as insignificant as infinity plus one. Let’s move on… 😉
So Apple Boot Camp takes advantage of the fact that underneath the operating system the hardware at the circuit board level isn’t that different. We could literally format our drives and run Windows only on Mac hardware, but that would be crazy. How about we share instead?
Apple Boot Camp allows us to choose which operating system we want to run when we first boot up the computer. Want to get some Windows tasks done? Reboot and jump into Windows. Return to Mac OS X? Reboot… you get the picture.
Pretty slick. The price is right too. Apple doesn’t charge anything for this. Except if you have to do this alot, rebooting gets very, very, very annoying. If you’re like me you’ll find yourself just ignoring the other operating system. For me, it’s just too hard to take 15-minutes out of my workday to shut down one operating system and jump into another.
The concept behind virtual machines is awesome. You use software to emulate hardware. They’ve been around for decades in various forms, but the two you will be concerned with are most likely Parallels Desktop by Parallels, Inc and VMWare’s Fusion. Both have reasonable prices. Both emulate an x86 computer while running Mac OS X. That means you can boot up Windows while your Mac OS X desktop is up. Genius.
In addition, both have matured greatly and are very fast on modern hardware. Certainly fast enough for office applications if you have a decent amount of RAM. You might even be able to get good frame rates on your favorite game if you have a fast desktop Mac.
The best part is they allow you to run Windows and Mac OS X applications side-by-side. You can have Apple Keynote up in one window and Microsoft’s Visual Studio up in another. The virtual machine solution is a little bit techie, and you’ll need to remind yourself that you’ve got two completely different operating systems running side-by-side. As long as you can compartmentalize that you’ll be in good shape.
The choice you make here will depend on the hardware you have, how often you use Windows, and personal preference. In all cases you’ll need to keep up with virus updates, software updates, and general maintenance for your Windows operating system in addition to the Mac. That’s pretty easy to keep up with these days though. So if you can’t choose between Mac or PC it’s pretty easy to choose all of the above.