Parallels and FIRST Robotics

This entry originally appeared on the Parallels Consumer Tech Blog.

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As many of my readers know, I am on the FIRST robotics team known as the NorthernForce based out of Gorham/Falmouth Maine. I am the lead student programmer on our team. this leads to some headaches, but I'll get to that later on.

As a programmer for FIRST, we have two options for languages to program in. We can choose from either Java or C++. This year, we decided upon C++. Or i should say 'we' as in our mentors. I personally do not like C++, especially when we have that or Java as options. Our IDE for C++, WindRiver Workbench, only runs on Windows machines. As many of you know already, I am a mac man, and do not have a Windows machine. What did I do? Virtualize, that's what i did.

At first, I went the free way. Using VirtualBox for virtualization. This worked okay, I have to admit. Although the one feature of VirtualBox that I didn't like was the fact that my fans on my MacBook were running all the time, and there seemed to be no way to stop that. I used VirtualBox for a while, and decided my legs could withstand the heat of Windows no more. 

I had heard from my father, an avid parallels user before me, that Parallels was much better for Virtualization than VirtualBox was. So I tried it out. First installing Parallels 4, since we had an unused key for that. I tried to use the Migration utility in it to import my VirtualBox VM, but it wouldn't work. I exported the VM from VirtualBox in several different formats, all to no avail. For some reason Parallels 4 refused to import a VM from anything but itself. After finding that out, I had to take the plunge and install Parallels 5.

Once i got that installed, migration went much smoother. Everything just worked exactly as expected. I was surprised, and happy. So now i had all of my VM's imported, and everything was running smoothly, and our FIRST team was getting ready for competition. 

Now, I being the lead programmer on our team, I had to be able to compile code to the robot in order for me to be any use to anyone. I was able to do this with VirtualBox, but had never tried with Parallels. I tried to compile, and had success instantly. It was fantastic to be able to get things done correctly and quickly, unlike before. 

Our team went to competition at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, however did not come home victorious. We did not come in first, but we did end up in the final elimination brackets with some pretty decent teams as our allies. We did't do as well as we would have liked, but did come away with the team spirit award. So i guess we didn't do that badly. 

All for now!

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Arthur Rosa is an engineering manager based in Sunnyvale, California.