Lukewarm Fusion

I must be getting old, I told the clerk at the computer store, because I was paying for software. This one seemed potentially worth it, though: I bought a program today that allows me to run Windows on my Macbook at the same time as Mac OS X. Boot Camp is free and allows you to boot right into Windows, but it requires a 10 gig partition that I really wouldn’t want to have eating up space all the time. This seemed a good alternative, given that all I want to do is play PC-only indie games.

First, the good: This is fun. I like that I can download stuff in Camino and Safari and just drag it into Windows when I need to install it. I like that my Macbook’s home directory appears as a shared folder on my Windows desktop. And I like that I can make Windows applications appear in my dock alongside Mac apps when I open them, making it feel like a more integrated UI experience. This last part is a bit misleading, of course, as the keyboard shortcuts are different (and kind of a pain sometimes) and the XP windows are still rendered in the blue, plasticky style of their native OS. Still, Windows turns out to be super easy to customize with new themes for free, including Mac-style themes (which, I was amused to notice, typically change your start menu to an Apple icon). Plus, Fusion cost $40 at the campus computer store, whereas its main competitor, Parallels, sells for $80. (Fusion seems to be $80 too, with a $20 rebate online dropping its price to $60, so I’m not sure why I got it so cheap.)

And now, the bad: I bought and installed this program for pretty much one reason alone, and that was to allow me to play indie games. I don’t expect high-end games to run well in an emulated environment off a Mac, but I do expect simple stuff to run okay. And so when my long-awaited trial case—Jenova Chen’s Cloud—fails to run properly, I get severely irked. The audio is good, but the video is so choppy that it was a chore just to get the cursor onto the “Start” button. My video card (Intel GMA 950) doesn’t seem to have any particularly recent drivers that need downloading, so I’m not quite sure what I’m missing here.

So, if all I want to do is screw around in Notepad, fiddle with XP themes, and watch stuff in my Movies folder from Windows rather than from the OS I like better, Fusion works great. But I’m going to need some input before I have any idea whether it can be used for the purpose I actually bought it for.

Update: Long story short, Macbooks share VRAM with system RAM, and running a virtual machine is demanding on RAM. Thus, I can’t run Cloud (or other video-semi-intensive applications) through Fusion. It took me a decent chunk of the day to install Boot Camp, and I’m still not done due to complications with activating Windows. Everything (including Cloud) seems to run fine when running through Boot Camp, at least. In short, Fusion seems kind of cool, but it looks like I’ll need to reboot to run pretty much everything I wanted to use it for.

[…] and in case you were wondering how things went with Fusion, I’m going to try getting my money back, but I will probably fail. Running it off a Boot Camp […]