4 Cores and 7 Gigs ago…


Whereas the title of the this blog is a little misleading, it’s both a nod to my Junior High history class and having to learn the Gettysburg address, and a “celebration” of sorts because I’m finally running a virtual machine on an Intel based Mac the way it apparently it should be run. For those of you who read my blog when I first went on this bi-polar journey, thinking Mac, working Windows, you know I went this direction because I needed some specific workplace tools that are not available purely on the Mac OS.  So, I simply went to the nearest Apple store and selected an off the shelf 15″ MacBook Pro, discussed my options for running Windows on it with one of the Geniuses (VM, Parallels, or the easiest, Boot Camp), and then decided that VM Ware would do the trick. I installed both the virtual machine, and Windows Vista with all of the “fun” Microsoft Office applications I use on a weekly basis. Exciting titles like Outlook, PowerPoint, Visio…well, you get the idea.

At first, the laptop seemed to handle MicrosoftVista without issues. I was able to do my work in the Windows world and running the virtual machine in unity mode, switch over to the Mac side of the laptop and use it for Safari, Mail, ichat, Skype, etc. But, about two months into running it this way, I started to encounter significant issues in the way the laptop responded. It would take up to a minute to start a Microsoft application, emails with attachments would crash Outlook, and in some cases, the laptop would just freeze.  Needless to say, after losing work countless times and feeling like I was booting up my old Commodore 128 in terms of processing speed (I’m using a Mac right!?), I needed to make some changes. It wasn’t apparent at the time which OS (Snow Leopard or Vista) was causing the majority of the pain, but I decided to do a little research.

Amongst the myriad of blogs and tech journals I reviewed, I stumbled upon a few that provided details on what the virtual machine settings should be to perform best with the combination I was using.  Things like suggested Memory allocations, how you partition the hard drive, how you tweak the core processor, etc.  And of course, this other nugget “without a minimum of 4GB of RAM available for memory, just for the virtual machine, we suggest turning off the thumbnail view feature and other graphics intensive Vista features”. Aka, my poor little Mac with the 4GB of RAM total, allocated across both environments wasn’t going to cut it. So I could either decrease the capabilities of Vista (oxymoron, I know), or go get some more memory installed.  Which in my mind, at the time, was too much of a hassle.

So I followed the helpful suggestions and VOILA! I had resolved most of the performance, albeit creating a watered down version of Vista along the way. Imagine running Windows 2000 on your home computer and remember what limitations in terms of “graphics” I’m talking about. Mind you, I was now trying to work this way in 2010. And then came Windows 7 about six months later. In my mind, and from what I read, this was the panacea. All of my issues were Vista related (obviously) and with the improvements that both Microsoft and VM Ware had made to their respective software, I would be able to run a more modern implementation of a Windows OS. Wrong. Same issues, same problems. Fast forward to the end of 2011, it’s time for me to replace my Mac and I decided to ask people who know about these things; the same Geniuses at the Apple store.  They laughed when I told the story and told me to beef up to 8GB of memory and that would do the trick.  Not to mention the 4 cores in the new model could be allocated as I wished.  The new Mac Book core wasn’t available the first time, but I’m not sure why they RAM discussion wasn’t made more clear in 2009.

From the moment I started up this new machine, I’ve been astonished. It’s like I stepped into 2012 or something. Remarkably faster on both the Lion OS and Windows 7, except for a few items caused by the transfer of data from the old to the new, this thing flies! I know, does it really matter how fast I can switch between Visio and PowerPoint…well, maybe not. But I’m still elated at the fact that 4 cores and 4 more GB of RAM did the trick. Again, maybe it’s not 4 additional cores and 7 more gig than before, but a person can dream big, right?