ask a scatterbrain: parallels

A PC user is thinking about making the switch to Mac. Because all the qualitative analysis software, such as Nvivo and Atlas, works only on Windows, this person is planning to use Parallels to run Windows on her Mac. Any insight out there about how well this works, whether there are unforeseen oddities or headaches? On the quantitative side, she is used to running Stata on a PC. Should she switch to Stata for the Mac or plan to run it through Windows like she’s always done?

20 thoughts on “ask a scatterbrain: parallels”

  1. I have Parallels on my work iMac (2.0Gz, 4GB of RAM) and it’s actually kind of a pain, because it beachballs the computer regularly. I have a colleague who has VMWare Fusion, and he’s been much happier with it. If you don’t need BootCamp support with your VM solution, you might consider Sun’s VirtualBox, which is free. I use it on Linux (it’s also available for Mac and Windows), and it does the job for me when I have to run Windows for something.


  2. VMWare Fusion is definitely the way to go. There’s a performance hit associated with all of these virtualisation software, so expect a slow down if there’s serious Stata number crunching going on, and don’t expect to do any 3D realization work (unlikely, but you never know).

    Also, load the machine up with RAM, so it can run both OS’ comfortably at the same time.

    Virtualbox is pretty decent on the Mac, but the integration is not as nice as VMWare or Parallels.


  3. I’ve been using parallels for about a year and never had an issue (MacBook w/ 2.16 Ghz, 2GB ram, OS 10.5.6). I’d be much more concerned about Atlas than Parallels– why oh why can’t someone make decent qualitative analysis software!


  4. I use NVivo with VM Fusion. Slow enough. I’ve been meaning to try a Bootcamp partition (where you basically start up as either OSX or windows, whereas with vm it’s pc-within-a-macOSX), but I’ve got finals, theses, dissert’s, own deadlines, and whatnot.

    But Nvivo/VM Fusion will definitely work. Macbook pro running 10.5+ w/2GB ram.


  5. I’ve been using VMware on one machine for a while now and it works great. Very well integrated and very stable, though sometimes it can interact weirdly with the Mac screensaver. If you’re making the switch I think I would recommend going as much as possible to Mac native software, if only to avoid the CPU and RAM overhead associated with virtual machines. The Mac version of Stata, however, works very nicely.


  6. I recommend VMWare Fusion. You can use it (as I did) with a pre-existing bootcamp partition, or VMWare will create a Windows disk image for you (with your copy of XP or Vista). I’ve never had any trouble with VMWare whenever I’ve used it. I have a recent MacBook Pro with 4GB of RAM, which I’m sure helps a bit. I am happy to say I don’t need to use it anymore. With a few exceptions (concerning really specialized bits of software) many of the people I know who used bootcamp/vmware/parallels as a safety net while migrating from Windows ended up leaving Windows behind altogether in short order.

    I am not a statahead — is there any particular reason someone would prefer not to use the mac version of stata?


  7. I hate to confess this, but I don’t use any coding software. I basically make photocopies and use different color highlighters. I like having pages in front of me. I then have an elaborate filing system. It works for me.

    As for Stata, I basically log into a UNIX server and run stuff from there. So yeah, I’m not helpful. But that’s how I deal with things. My computers are for word processing, email, going on-line, and little else. Perhaps I’m a luddite?


  8. I second drek’s comment–native software is the way to go. Stata for Mac is basically identical to the windows version, so she should definitely get a license for OS X. I’ll throw out another option for running windows software: CrossOver. It allows you to run a lot of windows software natively within OS X. The downside is that it doesn’t always work. Or it might take a little futzing–I was able to get HLM up and running nicely with a little work. It was so nice to stop running Parallels/windows for that. There’s a free trial, so you can check it out with the software you’d like to use–just follow their guide for installing unsupported software.


  9. i’m with the consensus on this. of course i’m assuming that you’re using reasonably large datasets (>5 mb) and/or doing reasonably intensive analyses (xt, st, bstrap). on the other hand, if you’re only doing OLS regression on tiny datasets you won’t much notice the performance hit. even then though you might miss the full integration, things like being able to push your scripts from a text editor.

    when i first got my mac i tried to install my Windows Stata license using Crossover but i gave up. on the other hand, i’ve found Crossover works perfectly with some other sociology software like Pajek. unfortunately Crossover has yet to be tested with the major qualitative programs. in general Crossover runs really smoothly with fairly simple programs but can run into hitches with more complicated software (especially software with a lot of razzle dazzle, like games).

    i’ve tried using virtualbox to run xubuntu (mostly so i don’t have to bother with fink to use unix software) and it worked well for me, though i wouldn’t use it (or any VM software) regularly unless i had at least 4 gb of RAM.


  10. The benefit I see of parallels over VMWare is that you can still access your Mac side (hard drive, etc) through Parallels and save there, not just to the PC side hard drive. It’s possible you can actually do that in VMWare, but in conversations I’ve had with colleagues comparing the two, that seems to be the key differentiating feature.

    I use Stata on the PC side (through parallels). It runs fine for me there, although the hit to processing speed is noticeable. I had some trouble with Stata for Mac, namely with graphics features, but I’m not sure that was necessarily the fault of running Stata on Mac. I’ve had other idiosyncratic trouble with Stata on Windows, so I suppose it’s a toss up.


  11. I basically make photocopies and use different color highlighters. I like having pages in front of me. I then have an elaborate filing system. It works for me.

    That basically sounds exactly like what I do with NVivo, actually.


  12. This may be a silly question… but why move to the Mac in the first place, if all your software is working fine on the PC? Isn’t the computer just a tool to get your work done?

    It’s that little apple logo, isn’t it…


  13. thanks for posing this question, and for all the responses. I’m considering making the switch for my next computer, and this software problem is one of the main things that concerns me.

    and, #15, it’s not the little apple logo, it’s the fact that every PC I’ve had has so many weird and unresolved issues…


  14. why move to the Mac in the first place, if all your software is working fine on the PC?

    I see you have built a key assumption into the question there.


  15. I bought a mac and ended up having to run parallels so I could run WinBUGS. I agree with the comment earlier that it really functions as a safety net while you switch over to mac.

    I’m not really a pro with these things and I ended up screwing up my windows installation somehow when windows crashed while running parallels and I ended up just removing the whole windows partition recently.

    If you do use something like bootcamp/parallels don’t allocate too much hard drive space to the windows side of the partition. I split my hard drive in half and basically was wasting all the space I had reserved for windows. A few GB’s would have been sufficient since I wanted to store all my documents on the Mac side where they would be easy to access without loading windows.


  16. “I hate to confess this, but I don’t use any coding software. I basically make photocopies and use different color highlighters. I like having pages in front of me. I then have an elaborate filing system. It works for me.”

    Same thing, using LaTeX with makeidx.


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