Turns out that you don't have to pirate virtual machine software to be able to run a virtual machine. I just came across a great FREE virtual machine program for the Mac Desktop developed by Sun Microsystems called Virtual Box that does the exact same thing. It even has support for expandable virtual machine drives, and provides virtual machine tools (so all you have to do to use the mouse in the virtual machine is hover your mouse over the VM window, and to go back to your Mac just move you mouse away from the mouse window).
All you need to do start using VirtualBox to take the place of VMware Fusion or Parallels desktop is your Windows/Linux/Solaris/etc. DVD/CD or even just an iso image (so you can technically test out Windows 7 on your mac too although Aero won't work!). When VirtualBox opens up it'll give you the opportunity to create a new hard drive for your VM and allow you mount your .iso image or use the CD drive to install windows onto the virtual hard disk.
On top of that VirtualBox supports other features too that parallels does. For example, you can use Fullscreen mode and increase the size of the window to increase the resolution of the screen. You can also share folders between your Mac and the Windows or Linux virtual machine. Beware of viruses though, because they can still infect your mac partitions through the shared folders (provided they were written to take advantage of this). So you'll still have to keep your virtual machine updated and tuned up.
The only feature that VirtualBox does not support is 'Unity' mode or 'Coherence' features that allow you to run Windows applications just like a mac application without having the ugly windows desktop behind it. So you can minimize Windows applications to the dock and move them around just like a mac application. However, for the price you are paying (nothing!) I think its a great trade off. Besides, I was never a fan of that feature anyway.
If you want to run Outlook, Photoshop for Windows or any other windows specific application, or just want to test out things on the windows side, Virtual Box should be able to handle anything you can throw at it. In fact the configuration screen looks just like the VMware Fusion or Parallels configuration screen. The only downside is that if you ever upgrade to VMware or Parallels, the applications will not recognize the virtual machine hard drive created by VirtualBox, and you'll have to start from scratch.
So if you are looking for a great free (and karma free too) way to get Parallels Desktop/Parallels Workstation/Parallels Workstation Extreme on your desktop, look no further than VirtualBox - the ultimate free VM solution!
Got a question, tip or comment? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll try to answer it in a blog post!