If you have Parallels or VMFusion, you can download and run Ubuntu as a guest OS for free. Ubuntu has some nice features including a Spaces-like desktop switcher and loads of free software available in the Ubuntu App Store.
For those still on Snow Leopard but wishing they could have the benefits of iCloud, Ubuntu provides an interesting option: the open source OS comes with its own Cloud service and 5GB free space. You can sync it with Windows, Android and iOS, and it even allows you to stream music from the Cloud to your devices. If you run Ubuntu in Parallel’s ‘Coherence’ mode, you can take advantage of Ubuntu’s mail, calendar and music apps and have all your other devices synced to your Mac.
If you want to read more, go to the Ubuntu website. When you’re ready to give it a spin, it couldn’t be simpler:
1. Go to the Ubuntu download page, and choose either 32-bit or 64-bit depending on your current Mac OS (if you’re running SL 10.6.8 or later, go for the 64-bit). Ignore the advice about creating a CD or USB stick (it doesn’t apply to us as we’re going to install it via Parallels).
2. Click the big red/orange ‘Download’ box, and make a cup of tea while the .iso file downloads to your computer.
3. After the download has finished, start up Parallels. From the Parallels Desktop menubar, choose File > New.
4. From the resulting dialogue box, click the drop down menu and select Choose an image file…. Browse to your downloads folder and choose the .iso file you downloaded in step 1.
5. From here on in, Parallels will pretty much take care of everything else for you. Your virtual machine will restart a couple of times and you will get asked to choose a couple of options (like setting a language, region and password), but it’s all fairly self-explanatory. Accept the default options for now.
When the install finishes, the first thing to do before trying it out is to set the amount of RAM available to the Ubuntu install. You’d want to set this to at least 2GB, but 4GB is better to get a really fast machine.
6. To set the RAM, first shut down Ubuntu. Do so by going to the Parallels menubar and choosing Virtual Machine > Shutdown.
7. After the OS has shutdown, go back to the Parallels menubar and choose Virtual Machine > Configure. Click on General and set the slider to as much RAM as you can spare…
8. Finally, go play! Depending on your download speed, the whole procedure shouldn’t take much more than an hour or so. If you need documentation, just go back to the Ubuntu site and you’ll find plenty of resources there.