More iMac, Windows and VMWare

Its been a few weeks since my last iMac post – so here’s a little more about my progress with integrating my various web-life-computer strands.

Basically, its looking good. I running Win XP with all my usual, familiar Windows tools inside VMWare Fusion on the iMac. VMWare allows me to let the Windows session take over the whole screen – which seems just like running Windows natively (with a few little exceptions I’ll discuss below). But it also allows me to reduce Windows to running inside a window on the OS X desktop, or even to run in “Unity” mode where any Windows apps which are already running appear on the OS X desktop as if they are Mac applications. Now that is the kind of integration that is really worth having. And these modes are all switchable via simple key combinations – without having to shut anything down. Great!

Well yes - a bit messy I suppose, for now.
iMac desktop with Windows apps in "Unity" mode. Well yes - a bit messy I suppose!

One minor annoyance is that when reducing Win XP from the entire screen down to a smaller window, any apps running inside it get pushed around a bit so that they fit inside the smaller window size. This in itself is actually very useful – but the problem is that when you resize Windows to take up the whole screen again, the apps do not spring back, and you have to re-adjust them manually to their original positions. I suppose this is understandable, as it might be presumptuous of an app to do this kind of thing automatically, although it would perhaps be reasonable to do automatically if you hadn’t manually readjusted any of the positions yourself after it was first sized down. I guess that this is a Windows issue – not VMWare, though.

The other, bigger, issue I’m having is keyboard shortcut assignments. For example, when I first started coding in XCode on the Mac (iPhone app development), every time I hit the end key to extend my selection to the end of the line, instead I found myself jumping to the end of the document. Dang! Despite wanting not to do it, I kept doing it out of sheer force of habit. The other ones that I kept tripping over were using Ctrl+C and Shift+Del to copy, Ctrl+V to paste. Having used these for years, I suspect they are hardwired into my neuronal circuitry. In contrast, on the Mac you need use the Command key with C and V to copy and paste. Fortunately XCode allows you to re-assign keyboard shortcuts – and there are literally hundreds of them – so I was able to “get back” my most deeply entrenched combinations, and could resume a more normal level of productivity whilst coding.

But of course these reassignments don’t carry through to any other applications on the Mac – so perhaps my XCode solution will only cause me more grief because I’m delaying an inevitable relearning process. Hmm – will just have to see how this goes.

The final issue I will mention for now is one of screen real-estate. Although the iMac boats a very impressive 24″ screen (well ok, just diagonally, I admit), when you’re running two operating systems each with their own set of apps simultaneously, you’re in a situation that multiple monitor setups were invented for. (As evidence I proffer the screen shot above.) Well the iMac does support multiple monitors, but presumably as an aesthetic design consideration (ie. avoiding big ugly connection sockets) they only offer a Mini-DVI socket (not to be confused with a Micro-DVI socket, which Apple uses on its slimmest laptops). So I’ve just sent off for a Mini-DVI to DVI adapter, and hopefully within the next day or two, I will have a 24″ / 22″ dual monitor setup – with which I can run VMWare/Windows in one, and OS X in the other.

So although I’m not quite “there” yet, I am still dreaming great dreams of a perfectly integrated world – and geting there bit by bit.

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