Mac users! Educate me!

My home PC died this morning.

It had been behaving increasingly-flakily for about three weeks, and this morning it refused to boot.

It’s a Frankensteinian home-built machine with its last motherboard upgrade four years ago. It has an 1800-MHs AMD Athlon processor, 512 MB of RAM, and a Radeon 9000 video card with 128 MB of video RAM. There is a total of 660 GB of hard-drive space split among four physical drives. The monitor is a 23-inch LCD of 1920 x 1200 resolution. I also have two DVD recorder drives.

Now, I believe there are hardware problems–the POST screen came up and complained of improper speed setting for the processor, for one thing–and it needs a cleaning and reseating of parts. And there was that power blip last week that rebooted it and can’t have done any good.

But it’s been more than a year since I reinstalled Windows XP, and what with the continual installing and removing of programs, it had gotten a little slow even before the flakiness started.

Now, my needs are starting to change. For some time, I’ve been working with a group of solar-house enthusiasts in the north country, and it has been apparent more and more to me that a laptop would be Very Useful. It would be very good to be able to bring my designs and tools with me on my visits across the province. Additionally, as I move into business, I need greater reliability than my home-built system.

Yesterday I was at TransitCamp Toronto and was very impressed with the wireless online wiki-hased model of activism in evidence there. (Among other things, they got the entire conference off the ground–sponsors, location and all–in three weeks.) There were dozens of laptops in evidence, and people were blogging and wikiing and taking pictures and making videos as the event progressed. It occurs to me that this model would be very useful indeed for the group up north.

I was looking at the models of Mac laptops, and I realised that all of the current MacBook offerings are faster than my home computer, and many of them have more memory. The iMacs and desktop machines are more powerful.

Now, I am just sick of the creeping flakiness that Windows XP seems to exhibit if you make many changes to the system over time. I don’t want to have to rebuild my system every year. In addition, I don’t want to upgrade to Vista, as with a new computer, as the DRM requirements seem to be becoming increasingly onerous, Vista is new and I don’t know whether drivers are out there for things such as Photoshop and Autocad, and it requires significantly more hardware than my present machine has.

Most of the software I use on a regular basis–Thunderbird, Firefox, Photoshop, Illustrator, Skype, Trillian–is either available for both Mac and Windows, or there are equivalents. However, there are some pieces, such as Autocad, that I may need Windows XP for. It’s time for me to upgrade my Photoshop and Illustrator anyways; my versions are so old that it won’t be hugely-more expensive to just buy new versions than to upgrade.

I have been very impressed with Apple’s design sense. This looks like one of the rare occaisions where I may be able to make a complete (if somewhat expensive) shift.

So, Mac people, I have some questions. [ul][]Can I dual-boot Mac OX X and Windows XP on the current Intel Macs? (I remember reading about a dual-boot utility, but I see no mention of it on Apple’s Canadian site.)[]Can I dual-boot Mac OS X and Windows XP on a MacBook?[]Will Autocad run on Windows XP dual-booted on a Mac?[]Is Mac OS X Unicode-based? I type in at least three languages.)[]Can I hook my existing LCD display (DVI connector) up to a MacBook and use both screens?[]Does the MacBook have a 10BASE-T Ethernet port for my cable modem? (I’d rather not use wireless as my default netowek connection at home.)[/ul]

The answer is yes to all of your questions. The utility you mention is called Boot Camp. You can also run XP while booted to OS X, through virtualization software such as Parallels.

Thanks! This is looking better and better. I had thought that maybe Apple discontinued the Boot Camp software, or made it unavailable somehow.

BootCamp is great and all, but really check out Parallels for Mac. It’s $80, then you just supply your own copy of XP. It allows XP to run natively and side-by-side with OSX. Not only that, but each version is getting more interesting. Pretty soon there’ll be native video card support. So that might interest you if you use AutoCad (or if you’re a huge gamer in your free time :wink: ).

You won’t regret getting a Mac! Enjoy.

Definitely get the Mac. You won’t regret it.

I have a MacBook that I jammed 2 gigs of RAM into, and the thing is super-fast for everything I do. Photoshop and Illustrator don’t run natively (yet), because they were developed for the PPC processor, but with the RAM upgrade I don’t even notice the slow-ness of it at all. I do video editing and all sorts of crazy stuff on my MacBook, and it’s plenty fast and ultra-portable. I can’t say enough good things about it.

And yes, it’ll run Windows. It’s unfortunate you can’t get an OS X version of your CAD program… I suspect after a couple days playing with OS X you’ll hate booting into Windows.

Well, Autocad is (among other things) architectural software. It’s also pretty pricey ($5000), so I won’t be getting it soon. But I can see that I will need something like it down the road (within a year or so).

If there’s an equivalent 3-D program that does modelling and volume calculations and quantity takeoffs and such, and exports views to 2D, I can fake the rest with OpenOffice Calc, my HP48, and Illustrator. :slight_smile:

And Parallels looks good!

I’m starting to get excited about this.

Another question: is there a tablet-style Mac, where you draw on the screen?

I just got a macmini and am pleased with it. Has everything I need.

Now, I am looking at selling it and getting a MacBook because of various reasons. I’ve been watching their Refurbished deals and am suitably impressed. You can save a bunch of money on those, and they are probably better than new because they’ve been fixed and checked over thoroughly. I’ve seen savings of 45% on some models.


Unfortunately, there isn’t a tablet style Mac. There’s only the MacBook and MacBook Pro.

No such tablet-style Mac. Also, keep this in mind: If you’re thinking of installing Vista instead of XP, you can’t legally do it with the Home versions via Parallel. Vista’s license forbids virtualization (except on the Enterprise or Ultimate editions), which is how Parallel operates, but Boot Camp installs the OS natively, so evidently it’s OK. Read more here.

Have a look at Architosh

ACAD running through BootCamp is apparently quite pleasant as it’s running Windows natively on the Mactel hardware. Parallels will be slower as it’s a virtual environment, but being able to pop back and forth between the XP desktop and the OSX desktop seamlessly is pretty seductive. OTOH, ACAD is probably enough of a resource pig to overwhelm the neatness of that feature and the need for performance will win out.

No tablet Macs yet. You can simulate a tablet PC with a Wacom Cintiq, but at $2500, that’s some pretty serious cash, and it needs to be plugged in for power, so it’s not portable.

I believe the current official word is that BootCamp is a free beta until August or so, then it will be part of OSX 10.5.

Sort of. There’s the ModBook, but it’s a third-party modification and not supported by Apple.

Is that even released? It says “Pre-reserve your copy now”.

Oooo… maybe I won’t need Autocad after all, for now. Which is fine, as I’m trying to do this on a budget.

Get the most RAM you can afford - I learned the hard way that 1 GB (upgraded from 512 MB base) isn’t enough on an Intel iMac. It is slooowwww. I wish the folks at the Apple store had said something about that - even after I told them which apps I ran all the time.

Well, I’m at home. I limped onjline via an Ubuntu Linux live-CD from a computer that was barely booting. I had to unplug the Windows boot drive to get anythiong else to happen. I don’t dare turn it off; I don’t know whather I can get it to go again.

I want a Mac.

…and, three clicks after I posted that last message, it crashed hard, and wouldn’t reboot. I am now posting from work, the next day.

I want a Mac.

Buy the most RAM you can afford, but I’d not buy it from Apple if I were you. I bought my MacBook with the stock 512, then went to Circuit City and bought their RAM. I think it was $180 for 2 gigs. Installation took all of about 10 minutes. Just remove the battery, remove a thin piece of metal (3 screws held it on, if memory serves), then there’s a lever that pops out the old RAM. Insert the new and you’re up and running. Much cheaper than buying the stuff from Apple.

Just be sure to arm yourself with the right tools - you’ll need something like a #0 or #00 Philips to open the memory hatch. Not a particularly rare tool, but the screws are small, and easily boogered.

And get good RAM. If you don’t know good RAM from bad RAM, get it from Crucial, I’ll vouch for them.