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.
I’ve previously covered one issue here about overheating macs, but kernel_task is not the only process that can get out of hand. For example, there’s a known issue with some releases of Parallels that can cause a process called prl_disp_service to run up to 99% too, leaving your mac sweating on the desktop even on a cold Winter’s eve!
In general, ‘hot’ issues can be found by looking at what’s going on in your Activity monitor, and solved by quitting (or force quitting) the process. Also, don’t wait to discover these by how hot your mac feels to the touch. Download and install a free copy of smcFanControl and have it running in the menubar. Now you’ll have a reliable means of seeing exactly how hot your mac is.
However, some processes may not re-start correctly after being quit in Activity monitor unless you reboot the machine or work a bit of Terminal magic. In the case of Parallels, for example, if you’ve identified prl-disp_service as the culprit, the correct solution is to first stop your VM and quit Parallels. Then, open Terminal.app and follow this procedure:
1. Paste this command into Terminal
sudo launchctl stop com.parallels.desktop.launchdaemon
Press ‘Return’. You will be prompted for your password. Note that when you type it in, your typing will be invisible. Press ‘Return’ again.
2. Now paste this command:
sudo launchctl start com.parallels.desktop.launchdaemon
and press ‘Return’.
3. You need to check that the process has correctly restarted before trying to start up Parallels, so one last command:
sudo launchctl list | grep com.parallels.desktop.launchdaemon
The output should look something like this:
36468 - com.parallels.desktop.launchdaemon
The number on the left will be different, but so long as it is anything except 0, you are good to go!
4. Finally, in Terminal, hold down the ‘control‘ key and press the ‘c‘ key at the same time. Now you can quit Terminal and get back to a cool Mac and your Parallels VM.
You can use these same ‘stop’, ‘start’, and ‘grep’ commands for other errant processes, but you need to find the correct name of the process. You can do this by first noting its name in Activity monitor, then in Terminal, paste:
sudo launchctl list
Look for a launchdaemon that corresponds with the name you found in Activity monitor. Then use the commands above but replace ‘com.parallels.destkop.launchdaemon’ with the name of the process you want to kill.**
**Warning: The sudo command gives you root privileges to the computer and can cause irreparable harm to your OS if used incorrectly. Never mess around with the sudo command unless you have a recent bootable clone of your system.
If you’ve upgraded to Lion from Snow Leopard and you can’t live without your PPC-only apps, you have a couple of choices. One answer would be to partition your disk and install Snow Leopard as well, allowing you to boot between the two operating systems by holding down the ‘option’ key when you power up. Alternatively, if you don’t want to use up your internal disk’s precious space, you could install Snow Leopard on its own dedicated external disk. Have a look here for instructions.
A different answer could be to run Snow Leopard concurrently within Lion using virtualisation software such as Parallels or VMware, though there is some question about the legality of this move (more on that below).
Note that I haven’t tried this myself, but the word around the community is that it does work. Take a look here for guidelines on how to get going, or follow this excellent guide here.. If you have Parallels and your SL install disks already, nothing to stop you from giving it a go. If you don’t have it, you can download the trial and test it out for free. If you decide to keep it, you’ll need to pay for Parallels when the trial expires.
Now, about that legality issue. In the past, the End User license agreement that Apple supplied with its OS disks prevented you from doing something like this. However, the new agreement under the App-store downloaded Lion states that you are allowed:
to install, use and run up to two (2) additional copies or instances of the Apple Software within virtual operating system environments on each Mac Computer you own or control that is already running the Apple Software. <— source
Now that doesn’t necessarily imply you’re allowed to run SL under a virtualisation machine. This agreement comes with Lion when its downloaded from the App Store, but its unclear whether it refers to all iterations of OS X or just the latest one. That’d be one for the lawyers I guess, but it is probably safe to say that so long as you’re using licenced Apple software and authentic Apple machines, you are unlikely to incur Apple’s ire. That said, always remember that what you do with your computer and your software, you do so at your own risk!