Solar Fire on the Mac

Solar Fire on the MacNOTE: In this document, “we” refers to Astrolabe, the distributor for Solar Fire in the USA and most other countries. AstroShaman is authorized by Astrolabe to sell Solar Fire.

We do not officially support Solar Fire on the Mac, but we have many customers who do successfully use Solar Fire on a Mac equipped with an Intel chip, Windows, and a Windows emulation program like Boot Camp, Parallels, Virtual PC or VirtualBox. Besides doing emulation, these virtualization or “bridge” programs isolate the Windows environment from the Mac environment so viruses can’t jump from one side to the other.

Putting Windows on Your Mac

All of the Windows emulations on a Mac require that you have a Windows disk and a license key (serial number) for Windows that you are not currently using somewhere else. An old Windows installation disk from an old derelict computer should work. Solar Fire Gold v. 7 or V8 will work on any Windows version from Windows ME and NT onwards, so you can use an old version of Windows with Virtual Box or Parallels. See below for details about the Windows requirements of the various emulator programs.

Here are notes on using each emulation program, and also on getting the Mac keyboard and mouse to function more like the way they do in Windows.

Using Boot Camp

We recommend using Boot Camp, which comes free with newer Intel OS-X Macs (or can be downloaded free from the net) and is simpler to use than Parallels. On our office MacBook laptop, Boot Camp runs Windows programs as fast or faster than they run on a regular PC. Boot Camp’s only drawback is that you can run either Windows or the Mac operating system, but not both at the same time. To switch to Windows, you need to close the Mac op system and open Windows, making it hard to share files between the Mac and Windows parts of your computer. If necessary, you can copy the files generated in Windows onto a flash drive before rebooting in the Mac op system and using the files there in applications such as email. For more info on Boot Camp, visit: http://news.com.com/FAQ+Windows+on+Macs/2100-1016_3-6058163.html?tag=nl

You’ll find instructions for installing Boot Camp by selecting your Mac’s Help menu and searching for “Boot Camp”. There are also instructions at this site: http://manuals.info.apple.com/en/Boot_Camp_Install-Setup.pdf. It’s easy to make a Windows partition, and you can change your mind later and easily take Windows off again in a couple of minutes.

With Boot Camp you need to load a full version of Windows XP, Vista or 7. If possible, we recommend getting XP or 7 rather than Vista. If you are installing an upgrade version of Windows, you can’t eject the upgrade CD when you are asked to insert the older Windows CD. (However, if you have an external CD drive you can insert both CDs at the same time and it will work. Put the older Windows disk in the external CD drive and just press Enter when the Windows install program asks you to insert the old CD.)

By the way, Boot Camp will make a Windows partition and format it for you, but you still have to let the Windows installation program format it again or it won’t install properly. If you don’t use Windows much, then let it make the default a small-sized Fat32 partition (which OS-X can also use). If you use Windows a lot, you might want to make a bigger partition and let Windows format it with ntfs.

Using VirtualBox

Our second recommendation would be to use VirtualBox. Sun Microsystems sponsors this free emulation program which lets you set up Windows inside a file on your hard disk, thus enabling you to run Windows on the Mac desktop. It is fairly fast, and it also works on Linux. We have tried it on the Mac. It’s only a little harder to set up than Parallels and it works quite well. There’s more info on VirtualBox at http://www.virtualbox.org/. There is an overview on the VirtualBox site here of how well VirtualBox supports various operating systems. There is also a good introduction with a screenshot of VirtualBox running Windows 7 on a Mac in the beginning of the online VirtualBox manual.

The VirtualBox emulator will work with older versions of Windows other than Win XP, but it doesn’t have drivers for hi-res video. The video driver that we used to load Windows ME and Solar Fire on VirtualBox is no longer available, but you can try this beta version from MajorGeeks.com: SciTech Display Doctor 7.0.

Using Parallels

Parallels lets you run Windows inside a window on the Mac desktop, and you can run other operating systems on the Mac without rebooting. You can find more information on Parallels at http://www.parallels.com/ and http://news.com.com/Windows-on-Mac+software+gets+virtualization+update/2100-1012_3-6162485.html.

Here’s a page that shows how to get to the necessary settings in Parallels: http://www.otakatik.com/optimize-parallels-desktop-configurations/. With the current versions of Solar Fire Gold (v. 7.0.1 and higher) Parallels users MUST turn off Shared Profiles.

Specifically for Parallels version 6: http://download.parallels.com/desktop/v6/docs/en/Parallels_Desktop_Users_Guide/22694.htm

Specifically for Parallels version 7: http://download.parallels.com/desktop/v7/ga-locales/documentation/en_US/Parallels%20Desktop%20User%27s%20Guide/

There is a setting in Parallels called ‘shared folders’ and/or ‘shared profiles’ that needs to be turned off. It’s in the Parallels settings under virtual machine / advanced or something similar (the menus keep changing from version to version). Parallels tries to share your documents folder with the Mac, but it’s not compatible with a lot of programs and Solar Fire can’t find any user files when it’s turned on.

For those using Solar Fire version 6 and earlier, you can leave on File Sharing.

Parallels users report that they can simulate a Windows right mouse-click by pressing Control and Shift as they click.

Using VMware

There is a setting in VMware called ‘Shared folders’ that needs to be turned off. Be sure the virtual machine is open in Workstation and click its tab to make it the active virtual machine. Choose VM > Settings > Options and make sure ‘Shared folders’ is turned off. More information on shared folders in VMware is at: http://www.vmware.com/support/ws5/doc/ws_running_shared_folders.html

Using Virtual PC

The main problem we have had with this older emulation program is with printers, especially Epson printers made for the Mac. I think that there are fixes for those problems on the Virtual PC website.

When the Windows software says you need to press Control while you click, in Virtual PC you have to instead press Control and Option while you click.

Using Crossover or Wine

Nova Chartwheels will work on a very limited Windows emulator called Crossover which you can review at http://www.codeweavers.com/. The same is true for Wine; you can look at the Wine website for more information http://www.winehq.org/.

However, Solar Fire will not work – probably because Solar Fire makes such extensive use of all of the graphics, font, and internet capabilities of Windows.

Adapting the Mac’s Mouse and Delete Keys in Boot Camp

Using the Mouse

If the wireless mouse made by Apple doesn’t work in Windows, you might have to use a wired USB mouse instead. Most of the time I plug in a PC USB mouse, simply because I love my mouse wheel. This isn’t as much of an issue as it used to be, especially since Apple has begun offering two-button mice.

Adapting the Delete Keys

On the Windows keyboard, the Delete key deletes the next character, and the Backspace key deletes the previous one. The Mac keyboard has only a Delete key, and this deletes the previous character. If this bothers you, you can get a keyboard hotkey program and reprogram the Mac’s right-hand Command key to be a Delete key that works like the Delete key on a PC. (The Command key on the Mac is the same as the Windows key in Windows, but there are two of them and you need only one.) Here’s a link to a free hotkey program called Keytweak: http://webpages.charter.net/krumsick/.

If you use this program, click on button #62 and change it to say ‘Del’.

For workarounds in emulators other than Boot Camp, see the websites for those programs.

Return to the Solar Fire info/order page.