Virtualization on x86 Computers
Virtualization technology is a longstanding technology in the mainframe world. And in the past decade, this technology moved to the Intel-x86-based workstation and server world thanks to companies like VMware (founded in 1998). Products like VMware Workstation, VMware ESX, Microsoft Virtual PC, Microsoft Virtual Server, Xen, and Parallels Desktop for Windows and Linux have allowed PCs and servers designed to run Microsoft Windows or Linux make use of virtualization to run multiple operating systems (or multiple instances on the same OS) simultaneously.
It does this by creating a virtual hardware configuration for video graphics, sound, network interfaces, hard drives, optical drives, and other components typical in a workstation or server. This virtual configuration is called a virtual machine and is what an operating system's installer sees during the installation process.
Figure 2. Ubuntu Linux 6.06 LTS running as a guest OS
Installing Guest OSes
Parallels Desktop for the Mac provides a New Virtual Machine Wizard to let you easily create the a virtual machine framework to contain your guest OS choice. The wizard provides three ways to create a new virtual machine: Typical, Custom, and Blank. As a new inexperienced Parallels Desktop user, I chose to use the Typical Virtual Machine wizard method. It asks for just a few simple pieces of information such as the type of guest operating system (it provides a list), the name of the virtual machine, and the directory location for the virtual machine configuration file.
Figure 3. Parallels Virtual Machine Wizard OS selection section
A more experienced Parallels Desktop user can choose the Custom or Blank wizard to create a more precisely tuned virtual machine environment. You can, however, modify the various virtual machine settings even after you install a guest OS on the virtual machine, by using the Configuration Editor.
Figure 4. Parallels Desktop Configuration Editor
One of the settings set by choosing the Typical Virtual Machine configuration option mentioned above is to have the virtual machine control the Mac's optical drive. This means that if you have a bootable installation CD or DVD, such as a Linux distribution or Microsoft Windows, it will boot inside of the Virtual Machine window when you start Parallels Desktop Virtual Machine. You will see installation routines' messages and screens in the window of the VM. If the OS you are trying to install is supported by Parallels Desktop, you can go through the installation procedure for that OS as you normally would on any x86-based PC. Parallels Desktop may work with your OS even if it is not explicitly listed as a supported OS. I, for example, wanted to install the recently released Ubuntu Linux 6.06 LTS. So I selected the Other Linux option from the list of supported Linux distributions, and found the installation proceeded successfully.
Installing Microsoft Windows XP SP2 (which is specifically supported by Parallels Desktop) went very smoothly, too. Installation for both Windows and Linux can be summarized by saying there were no surprises. And that is exactly what you want for any installation: smooth, unexciting procedural execution.