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Free Realms for Mac
I'll admit it, I'm an Apple fan, through and through.  It does everything I need it to for my development work does it well, but if there's one area in software that Macs lag far behind PCs, it's in gaming! The majority of gaming software titles never make it to OSX, and Mac users miss out.  
 
Since Apple changed to Intel chips a number of years ago, there are now programs that let you run Windows on your Mac, including one packaged with OS X 10.5 Leopard.  I tried two popular virtualization software titles and Apple's own Boot Camp to get Free Realms running the best that it could on my 2.4 GHz Aluminum Macbook and I'd like to share the details with other Mac users who want to play Free Realms!
 
I spent two days installing and re-installing Windows XP and Windows Vista using various configurations:
  1. Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit via VMWare Fusion 2.0
  2. Windows XP SP3 via VMWare Fusion 2.0
  3. Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit via Parallels Desktop 4.0
  4. Windows XP SP3 via Parallels Desktop 4.0
  5. Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit via Boot Camp
  6. Windows XP SP3 via Boot Camp
Out of all of the configurations I tried, #6 conveniently offered the best performance and lowest price of all!
 
Free Realms for Mac
I'll admit it, I'm an Apple fan, through and through.  It does everything I need it to for my development work does it well, but if there's one area in software that Macs lag far behind PCs, it's in gaming! The majority of gaming software titles never make it to OSX, and Mac users miss out.  
 
Since Apple changed to Intel chips a number of years ago, there are now programs that let you run Windows on your Mac, including one packaged with OS X 10.5 Leopard.  I tried two popular virtualization software titles and Apple's own Boot Camp to get Free Realms running the best that it could on my 2.4 GHz Aluminum Macbook and I'd like to share the details with other Mac users who want to play Free Realms!
 
I spent two days installing and re-installing Windows XP and Windows Vista using various configurations:
  1. Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit via VMWare Fusion 2.0
  2. Windows XP SP3 via VMWare Fusion 2.0
  3. Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit via Parallels Desktop 4.0
  4. Windows XP SP3 via Parallels Desktop 4.0
  5. Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit via Boot Camp
  6. Windows XP SP3 via Boot Camp
Out of all of the configurations I tried, #6 conveniently offered the best performance and lowest price of all!
 
 
Parallels Desktop and VMWare Fusion
For those who aren't familiar with Fusion and Parallels, they are programs for Mac OSX that allow you to run Windows while still running MacOS.  In other words, you don't need to reboot to Windows to play Free Realms, you just kick one of these on and load it up! Of course, performance degrades since you are effectively running two operating systems at the same time.
 
In my testing, Windows XP SP3 had better performance than Vista in both Fusion and Parallels, but was slower than a Boot Camp installation in all cases.
 
Parallels Desktop was noticeably faster than VMWare Fusion when playing Free Realms and may have been my initial recommendation for Mac users, except for one problem -- most of the text in-game is missing! Some of it is there, but there appears to be a conflict of some kind between the Free Realms client and Parallels Desktop.  VMWare Fusion was sluggish, in the 10 frames per second range, but everything worked properly.
 
Of course, there is also the cost issue: VMWare Fusion 2.0 and Parallels Desktop both run $79.99.
 
Boot Camp Saves the Day!
If you're running Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard and have a copy of Windows XP or Vista, you're in luck! There's a free option that offers better performance than the two listed above, at the inconvenience of having to reboot to Windows when you want to play Free Realms.
 
In my testing I found that, although my copy of Windows XP SP3 was 32-bit and couldn't address all of my RAM, Free Realms had better performance than in my 64-bit copy of Windows Vista.
 
All you have to do is click Applications -> Utilities -> Boot Camp Assistant and you'll see the following screens.  I recommend that you allocate at least 10 GB to the Windows XP installation, and 20 GB for a Windows Vista installation.
 
 
You'll go through the steps installing Windows, just like any other PC.  Once the machine comes back up in Windows, insert your Leopard CD and it will automatically install all of your Mac drivers into Windows and you should be good to go! Please make sure that you install some form of virus/spyware protection, as well!
 
 
There's one more thing you need to do to ensure that OSX is the default operating system.  Restart your computer and hold down the "option" key.  You'll see two drives pop up -- your Macintosh HD and your Windows installation.  Choose Macintosh HD and let it boot.  Once it comes up, open System Preferences -> Startup Disk, then select Mac OS X as shown above!
 
Hope this helps you Mac users out there dying to try Free Realms.  It works great on my little Macbook using Boot Camp and Windows XP -- See you in-game!

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