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Mac vs. PC For Astronomy

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#1 azsrr

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Posted 26 December 2006 - 12:27 PM


Please! Please! I am not trying to start a MAC vs. PC religious debate.

My real question is does either platform have an material advantage over the other for pure astronomy work -- mainly astrophotography? Assume that I am going to buy a new laptop, either a Macbook Pro or a Core 2 Duo-based PC laptop, including all of the software I will need including Photoshop.

Does it really matter or does this come down to personal preference? If I go the Mac route, can it handle the heavy image-crunching necessary to stack images, etc.?

I have owned PCs all along, but the new Macbooks are intriguing.

#2 Tom L

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Posted 26 December 2006 - 01:55 PM

We don't like that debate around here either and you won't find it here...just discussion about pros and cons...

At this point in the game it depends on which platform is supported for the software you want to use...both designs have their pluses and minuses and it doesn't really matter that much anymore.

#3 rboe

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Posted 26 December 2006 - 02:00 PM

If you go the PC you will have more choices, choices are always nice.

Go the Mac route and you also have tools, just not as many. On the otherhand, you could boot a virtual session of Windows while running OS X and run the Windows program you have to have.

On those grounds then the Mac gives you more choices as you can choose from both worlds. You would have to buy a license for Windows though.

For every day use I think the Mac is the way to go, especially after I bought a mac strickly for astro work then the darn thing took over our household. It's now our main email and couch surfing computer. Even got sucked into iTunes along the way. iWorks allowed me to do some work in PowerPoint in seconds for work that PowerPoint did not.

Being an old Unix geek has biased me for the Mac anyway. Working and supporting Windows all day has soured me on Windows - not that OS X doesn't have its' issues.

Hardware wise, my powerbook is the older G4 and it handles the workload just fine - could be faster. The new dual core machines will scream!

#4 hfoster

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Posted 26 December 2006 - 08:03 PM

If I go the Mac route, can it handle the heavy image-crunching necessary to stack images, etc.?


Macs have been popular with users of Photoshop and other creative tools for many years; if I remember correctly Photoshop originally ran on only the Mac. My brother in law runs a video production company and all of their post production work is done on Macs. And the newest Macs have the very same Intel chips that PCs have now, anyway.

Here are a couple of places with info on Macs in astronomy/astrophotography:
http://homepage.mac....hotography.html
http://tech.groups.y.../macastronomer/
http://www.macintouc.../astronomy.html

There isn't as much software available for Mac but you may find that the software that exists meets your needs very well. And you will find the hardware/OS platform itself to be very stable and reliable.

Henrietta

#5 llanitedave

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 12:43 AM

Sure there's not "as" much software for the Mac, but the higher-quality applications are available.

I've had three iBooks since they first came out, and I've put them through the wringer. I've used them in the field, at home, underground, outdoors, on the bus, and in the car. I've dropped them, twisted them, scraped them, had a kid bulldoze through the ethernet cable, frozen one (literally), and treated them generally roughly.

I did have one hard drive failure, but it was covered under warranty, and quickly replaced with no data loss.

My wife has had an eMac for the past four years, and while she's not as rough on a computer as I am, she uses it quite intensely, and it's never had a problem.

From a hardware perspective, I think Apple is hard to beat. For hardware/software integration, it's probably impossible to beat. For flawless wireless connectivity, the Mac is hard to beat.

That said, I use Linux most of the time these days. But my iBook runs that quite well, too.

#6 jterry94

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 01:36 AM

I do all of my image collection and processing on a Mac. If you want to get a Mac, do it. If you don't, get a PC. Local telescopes, remote telescopes,etc. can all be controlled. You don't get to use MaximDL or any of the other big name programs (excepting Photoshop) but the end result is what matters to me, not how you get there.

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#7 azsrr

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 08:32 AM


Thanks for the responses. Sounds like there is plenty of software to use a Mac as an astrophotography computer, which makes it really personal preference.

I think a trip to the Mac store is in order.

#8 hfoster

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 09:22 AM

You might want to wait to buy until after the Macworld show next week. Apple traditionally announces new products twice a year, and there are rumors of new products coming next week. Quite often they will announce changes to their current products as well around the same time; those changes are generally faster processor/larger disk/etc. for the same price. I believe that Apple made some of these changes to their MacBook line before Christmas, but since Macworld is so close I'd suggest waiting to actually purchase something.

Of course Steve Jobs may announce something completely unrelated to computers such as the rumored iTunes phone - you never know.

If you're going to be schlepping a MacBook around, you might want to consider whether the Applecare extended warranty makes sense to you.

I have no connection with Apple other than being a satisfied customer since 1984.

Henrietta

#9 azsrr

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 11:15 AM

You might want to wait to buy until after the Macworld show next week. Apple traditionally announces new products twice a year, and there are rumors of new products coming next week.


Good advice, thanks. I was over on the insideapple.com website this morning, but the only hints they gave were maybe a phone and an 8-core desktop. The MacBook Pro was upgraded fairly recently and so it may get skipped for now, but it will be fun to see.

Edit: oops I meant www.appleinsider.com



#10 pollux

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 11:44 AM

I too am not going to start the Mac vs PC flame war here as I use both and they all have strength and weakness.

But I do want to point out if you are getting a Mac (intel base I assume) you should get a copy of Parallels Desktop

I have run some PC only software on my MacBook under the virtual environment and so far have no problem. Very close to native speed. I am able to use my aunt's PenPower tablet (the one she lends me is only for PC) to do handwriting in Chinese without any problem.

The latest Parallels beta allows the windows desktop/environment to be hidden so all PC apps runs so "seamlessly" (but the bar is still windows bar).

I soon will try to ask my friend to let me try his DSI Pro to see if I can get it work too or not

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#11 hfoster

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 01:33 PM

But I do want to point out if you are getting a Mac (intel base I assume) you should get a copy of Parallels Desktop


Never heard of this; sounds interesting. You also have to buy the Windows OS of your choice, right?

Henrietta

#12 pollux

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 02:43 PM

Yes you need to have your own copy of Windows. But you can use the older ones. I personally prefer Win 2K over XP.

Parallels works with pretty much any x86 base OSes


Here's the list


Microsoft Windows Guest Operating Systems:
• Windows Vista Beta, RC1, RC2
• Windows 2003 Standard Edition SP0
• Windows 2003 Standard Edition SP1
• Windows 2003 Enterprise Edition SP0
• Windows 2003 Enterprise Edition SP1
• Windows 2003 Web Edition SP0
• Windows 2003 Web Edition SP1
• Windows XP SP2 Professional
• Windows XP SP2 Home
• Windows XP SP1 Professional
• Windows XP SP1 Home
• Windows XP SP0 Professional
• Windows XP SP0 Home
• Windows 2000 Professional Edition SP4
• Windows 2000 Server SP4
• Windows 2000 Advanced Server SP4
• Windows NT Workstation 4.0 SP6 • Windows NT Server 4.0 SP6
• Windows ME
• Windows 98
• Windows 95
• Windows 3.11
• Windows 3.1

Linux Guest Operating Systems:
• Xandrox Linux 4.0
• Red Hat Enterprise Linux WS4
• Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS4
• Red Hat Enterprise Linux WS3
• Red Hat Enterprise Linux ES4
• Red Hat Enterprise Linux ES3
• Red Hat Linux 9
• Red Hat Linux 8
• Red Hat Linux 7.3
• Debian Linux 3.1
• Fedora Core Linux 5
• Fedora Core Linux 4
• Fedora Core Linux 3
• SUSE Linux 10
• SUSE Linux 9.3
• SUSE Linux 9.2
• SUSE Linux 9.1
• SUSE Linux 9.0
• Mandriva Linux 10.1
• Mandriva Linux 10
• Mandriva Linux 9.2
• Ubuntu Linux 5.04

FreeBSD Guest Operating Systems:
• FreeBSD 5.4
• FreeBSD 5.3
• FreeBSD 4.5
• FreeBSD 4.1

OS/2 and eComStation Guest Operating Systems:
• OS/2 warp 4.5
• OS/2 warp 4
• OS/2 warp 3
• eComStation 1.2
• eComStation 1.1

Sun Solaris Guest Operating Systems:
• Solaris 10
• Solaris 9

MS-DOS Guest Operating Systems:
• MS-DOS 6.22

#13 llanitedave

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 04:47 PM

You might want to wait to buy until after the Macworld show next week. Apple traditionally announces new products twice a year, and there are rumors of new products coming next week. Quite often they will announce changes to their current products as well around the same time; those changes are generally faster processor/larger disk/etc. for the same price. I believe that Apple made some of these changes to their MacBook line before Christmas, but since Macworld is so close I'd suggest waiting to actually purchase something.

The downside to that is that even when the new products are on the shelf, the older "clearance models" don't get much, if any, of a discount.

One of the reason's I went to Linux is because of the "planned obsolescence" of so much of "last-year's" hardware and software. It was the last straw when iWorks new "Pages" application stopped supporting the old AppleWorks graphics documents that I had, they stopped supplying AppleWorks with their latest OS, and they wanted me to pay extra for "Pages" anyway.

From now on, when I upgrade, I want to do it without orphaning all my previous work. Both Apple and Microsoft will do that to you, if you let them.

(See? That wasn't a Mac vs PC statement!!!) :p

#14 pollux

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 05:02 PM


(See? That wasn't a Mac vs PC statement!!!) :p



We should call this thread "Be more multi-OS savvy" ;)

#15 Tom L

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Posted 28 December 2006 - 12:27 AM

You know what I hate? I hate when the manufacturers load applications (like MS Office for the MAC) on your new system with the 30 day trial....take it off the hard drive and off my system! I removed all that junk from my Macbook when I bought it since I know I will never use it...it is one thing to have it available on the CD (where X11 is, and you have to install it from the CD in order to put it on the system). Apple and all the OEMs do this...

I've considered putting WinXP on my Macbook since I have an orphaned copy (I installed ubuntu linux on one of my XP notebooks and said adios to MS on that system!) but I don't want to taint the Mac and waste the HDD space. Maybe if I get bored some day I'll do it.

#16 llanitedave

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Posted 28 December 2006 - 12:57 AM

Agreed, Tom. I consider that stuff parasitic.

#17 basel10

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Posted 28 December 2006 - 06:50 AM

Sure there's not "as" much software for the Mac, but the higher-quality applications are available.


I strongly disagree. On the PC side we consider Starry Night a toy and not a valued app for used at the Telescope. Skytools Megastar, Guide Deepsky and Skymap Pro are top quality tools.

#18 rboe

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Posted 28 December 2006 - 11:31 AM

You may have misunderstood the term "higher-quality applications" as Starry Night was not mentioned. Also not mentioned: applications that run on UNIX/Unix work-a-likes that the Mac can run, that are used at your larger obseratories (I've seen RedHat in use on Mauna Kea, a buddy uses Red Hat at the Fairborn Observatory to run all his scopes). Not that the average Mac or Windows user would want to use those apps, but they are available if they so choose.

Skytools, Megastar etc. are very good tools - and I am a Starry Night user too.

So Steve, you can see there are personal reasons for choosing one or the other. :whistle:

By the way, I tend to use my desktop W2K machine for stacking as it's a faster machine than the old G4 and the laptop gets very very warm when stacking as it's working pretty hard. The desktop does too but the fans are bigger so I don't notice it. :D The new dual core laptops would eat my desktop for breakfast.

#19 imjeffp

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Posted 28 December 2006 - 01:03 PM

I soon will try to ask my friend to let me try his DSI Pro to see if I can get it work too or not


I never got the DSI to work in Parallels, but now that Nebulosity and PHD Guiding support it in OS X, I quit trying. I couldn't stand Envisage anyway.

#20 Nick Cook

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Posted 28 December 2006 - 04:26 PM

I am a very experienced PC user, having built five of my own systems over the years. One of my older system (six years now) sits in my dome and controls everything in there.

I am, however, the proud owner of a new dual core 20" iMac which I simply love. Am I about to rip the PC out of the dome to install a Mac, well no. As much as I love my Mac for creative work, I'm not sure I would want to have one living outside permanently in my dome. All the software I could want runs quite happily on my 'ancient' 1.6 Mhz PC. It is utterly reliable, never crashes (yes really) and I know it inside and out having built it.

I love the Mac's architecture and its general elegance. It is a bespoke built piece of hardware that the software is designed around. It simply exudes quality. However, there is nothing wrong with a PC, it is a good solid work horse.

Just my random thoughts on this debate! :)

Regards,

Nick

#21 ClownFish

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Posted 29 December 2006 - 12:53 AM

These days, ALL Apple computers are PC's. There is no difference other than what OS comes pre-installed. If you want to use OSX, then a Mac is the most reliable way to do it. If you want to run ANY other operating system, then a Mac will fit that bill too. The old argument that Mac's don't run as much software as a PC is a dead argument. The machine will boot into any OS you want.

CF

#22 azsrr

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Posted 29 December 2006 - 11:03 AM


Thanks for all the advice. I knew the hardware was really not the issue, and the OS is the big difference, but I was unsure whether the astronomy application side favored one or the other, or at least allowed use of the Mac.

I'll wait and see if Apple announces anything next week, and go ahead and buy something then.

Only on CN could a Mac vs. PC discussion like this have taken place. Thanks

#23 melvy

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 12:45 AM

I support hundreds of mac's and hundreds of pc's at work. I have noted a 300% increase of warranty work and helpdesk calls for mac laptops in the last 6 months. This will be short term; however you may want to look for an older mac (non Intel) or wait a bit for the bugs to get worked out of the newer ones.

#24 Patrick

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 09:55 AM

I'm interested in this topic also since I'm considering a new laptop purchase for imaging.

What I haven't seen directly addressed yet (or perhaps missed) is whether or not the MacBook would make a good computer to use in the field as a data acquistion tool. I have noted for example that the MacBook only has 2 USB ports and I reckon that I'll need at least three, one for the camera, one for the guide scope and one for the mount (not to mention a mouse which I may also want to use). I think that means I'll need a USB hub, but I've heard that sometimes the hubs can cause problems (true or false?).

I'm also interested in knowing if the common guiding, focusing, and camera control programs will run on the Mac. Are there separate programs that will run on the Windows side and others available that will run on the Mac side? Are there any preferences to which guiding programs will be better?

Am I more likely to be using the Windows side of the MacBook for AP? Will I have any difficulty in using data acquired thru the Windows OS when using programs using the MAC OS?

Sorry, I have lots of questions, but any advice/help is appreciated.

Patrick

#25 ClownFish

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 10:17 AM

Here's some links that may help:

http://www.microprojects.ca/index.html
http://www.adpartner...net/ScopeDriver
http://www.astromart...sp?forum_id=613
http://homepage.mac....age1/page1.html
http://www.stark-labs.com/index.html
http://groups.google...ur (Mac Thread)


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