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Mac vs. PC For Astronomy

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#26 inaPICle

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 10:40 AM

These day the only place a Mac loses is in support for heavyweight CCD control programs.

There is nothing as powerful and usable as the Software Bisque suite of apps or Cyanogen's MaximDL for the Mac.

There are ports of heavyweight scientific apps like IRAF but using that compared to using Maxim or CCDSoft is like having my teeth pulled compared to eating fine chocolates. That is the single biggest reason my astro computers don't run Linux either.

Other than that it it doesn't really matter any more.

#27 ClownFish

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 11:17 AM

Software Bisque has publicly ANNOUNCED that they will have Mac OSX versions of ALL their software.

CF

#28 inaPICle

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 12:29 PM

Software Bisque has publicly ANNOUNCED that they will have Mac OSX versions of ALL their software.

CF


Ohh, I'm having an announcment shouted at me!

How long will that take? They have annnounced no hard release dates for upgrades to CCDSoft and TheSky on windows. No doubt the Mac versions will follow after the release of the next major updates of the Sky and CCDSoft, or be released at the same time at best. You serve your largest installed user base first if you have half a brain.

I'll take a hambuger today against the promise of 2 tomorrow. My statement stands. If you want to image then there is no software available the quality of CCDSoft/TheSky or MaximDL.

Anything else is a commitment to vaporware.

#29 hfoster

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 12:34 PM

Re: USB hubs, I've used several brands on various computers and have not had any trouble with any of them. There are certain companies like Kensington, Belkin, and IOGear that are known for making products that work well with Macs; you likely wouldn't go wrong with one of those. Just make sure the package says that the device supports Mac 10.x.

If you check www.macmall.com and search for USB hubs you will find several that are meant for use with laptops. They seem to come in three types - 1. those that require a power adapter, 2. those that don't, and 3. those that can use a power adapter or not depending on the power requirements of the attached USB devices. (You can of course buy these things lots of places but if MacMall has it you can have some confidence that it's spec'd to work with Macs.

Since the USB ports are pretty close together, you might want to pick a hub that didn't obscure the unused port; that way you could plug your highest-speed device directly into the Mac.

Henrietta

#30 hfoster

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 12:38 PM

Melvy, I'm interested in knowing the nature of the problems you've seen with the new Intel-based Macs. I fear that my Powerbook might die at some point soon (separate Cat induced Coffee spill thread) and when and if that happens I'll be shopping.

Henrietta

#31 Patrick

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 12:58 PM

There is nothing as powerful and usable as the Software Bisque suite of apps or Cyanogen's MaximDL for the Mac.



Are you saying that the more powerful AP apps (Software Bisque and MaximDL) are not ported to the Mac? Even so, can't they be run on the Windows side of the MacBook? Are there negatives in doing that?

Patrick

#32 inaPICle

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 01:42 PM

Are you saying that the more powerful AP apps (Software Bisque and MaximDL) are not ported to the Mac?


Correct. They do not run on the Mac. The only native SBig camera control I am aware of for Mac OSX is Equinox 5, which is pretty limited.

Equinox is developing Equinox Image for release early in 2007. Software Bisque have said they will support OSX, but no timtable has been given.

Even so, can't they be run on the Windows side of the MacBook? Are there negatives in doing that?

Patrick


I imagine they they will run. But they will not be supported if you have issues. There are 2 other negatives I can think of.

Image processing tends to be very, very memory and CPU intensive, and also time consuming. Running anything under emulation will always be slower and have a higher overhead than running natively. As chips tend to get bigger and bigger we keep up with the gains in processor speed that would make this less of an issue. Remember when the ST-7 was the entry level camera of choice? It now seems to be the ST-2000 with many more pixels. SBig will be releasing a new single shot camera in 2007 with something like 6 megapixels for $3000-$4000. See the trend?

The last is that there are so many other apps out there like PemPro, CCD Inspector, CCD Commander, ACP, CCD Autopilot, Automapper II and Registar to name a few. All of these are windows only.

So the question to ask yourself if this is going to be primarily an imaging laptop does it make more sense to run OSX and everything astro related under emulation, or to run it natively with windows.

I'm not going to include running windows dual boot on a MacBook because that is the same as buying any decent quality laptop running windows when all is said and done. If on the other hand you want OSX for non-astro use for work or pleasure then it makes perfect sense. You then just have to buy a copy of windows.

I had a similar debate vis a vis windows and linux early last year went for windows because of things like CCD Inspector and PEMPro. Since it is really an appliance I use for pretty much one thing I made sense to take the path of least resistance.

#33 Patrick

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 08:09 PM

Running anything under emulation will always be slower and have a higher overhead than running natively.



I talked to the Mac people at CompUSA and found out that using Parallel Desktop does not run an emulation but is running native Windows. The cost of Parallel Desktop is $50 right now (normally $80). The cost of Windows is about $200 for home edition, $300 for XP Pro. That's in addition to the cost of the MakBook.

So I guess I'll have to decide if it's worth it or not. The cost of the MacBook itself with the 2.0Gz processer, 120GB hard drive, and 1GB of memory is $1500, plus another $125 for the 2nd GB of memory for a total of $1875. Add to that a USB hub ($30) and a wireless Mighty Mouse ($70) for a total of $1975. Anything else I forgot?

Patrick

#34 rboe

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 08:48 PM

A case so you can take it in the field - or on vacation (laugh, the little sucker will weasle into your life - mine did).

#35 Tom L

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 09:49 PM

MacBook Pro starts to look good at that price point...or a highend notebook from Dell or Lenovo that comes with WinXP already installed and ready to go.

Just because XP is running native, don't expect it to be tuned to that MacBook. With an OEM notebook, XP is tweaked to death for the specific design and is tuned for the hardware.

#36 hfoster

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 11:12 PM

"The cost of the MacBook itself with the 2.0Gz processer, 120GB hard drive, and 1GB of memory is $1500, plus another $125 for the 2nd GB of memory for a total of $1875. Add to that a USB hub ($30) and a wireless Mighty Mouse ($70) for a total of $1975. Anything else I forgot?"

You MIGHT want to get the Applecare extended warranty, take a look at the terms and conditions and see if it makes sense to you. It made sense to me since I was constantly schlepping my laptop around to client sites.

If you want to shave off a few dollars, you could look at a third-party mouse. Logitech has one for about $25. Downside is the receiver will probably use a USB port, and you may have to download OSX drivers.

When I got my powerbook I bought it from MacMall or MacConnection (don't remember which). All retailers will sell the computer for essentially the same price, but the online retailers will sometimes sweeten the pot in some way. In my case they doubled the RAM for the same price as the standard computer at Apple and CompUSA. I suggest pricing out the exact configuration you want at the various retailers to see which is the best deal. Don't forget to factor in sales tax if any and shipping if any.

You also might want to wait to buy until after Steve Jobs' keynote at the Macworld Expo on Tuesday in case he announces something that causes the prices to drop. Not likely, but since it's so close...

Henrietta

#37 hfoster

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 11:25 PM

A case so you can take it in the field - or on vacation (laugh, the little sucker will weasle into your life - mine did).


We take my laptop on road trips so my son can watch DVDs - we have yet to hear "Are we there yet?"

Henrietta

#38 rboe

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Posted 06 January 2007 - 12:15 AM

On our last vacation it served double duty for surfing and down loading digital pictures off the point & shoot.

It can be left off until you get near vacation time though.

#39 ClownFish

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Posted 06 January 2007 - 01:18 AM

If you have a friend who is either a teacher, professor, college student, or any federal government or military employee, they can use Apple's discounts to lower the price even more. The same setup you wanted was $1574 on Apple's discount store.

I have to agree that if you are only looking for a windows machine, then get one. A MacBook is for those who want to use OSX routinely - but occasionally want to use windows as well.

I would also note that if you really want Windows compatibility, and only for specific short duration (scope use for example), why not just boot into Windows with bootcamp? Then you are truly native.

CF

#40 inaPICle

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Posted 06 January 2007 - 01:19 PM

I talked to the Mac people at CompUSA and found out that using Parallel Desktop does not run an emulation but is running native Windows.


It's running real windows uder a virtual machine. Hence the BIOS, memory management etc etc are all emulated. It is a software version of the hardware chips on the board.

I run the Microsoft version "Virtual PC" all the time for testing software under different versions windows.

CompUSA is not a reliable place for hard core technical information.

#41 ClownFish

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Posted 06 January 2007 - 02:39 PM

It is a software version of the hardware chips on the board.


Except the processor, since the Mac already uses an Intel processor. Virtual PC for Mac also had to emulate the CPU, thus it was very slow.

CF

#42 Joe Bergeron

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Posted 06 January 2007 - 05:38 PM

You might want to check the online Apple store for refurbs. They are considerably cheaper, are current models, and have the same warranty as brand new units.

#43 Nick Cook

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Posted 06 January 2007 - 06:57 PM

Now I'm also facing this dilema. I use a PC to run my scope in the dome, but recently brought a 20" iMac. I'm now thinking about getting a Mac laptop as well, but I really don't fancy installing windows and then also all the necessary anti-virus software to protect it. So now I find myslef seriously comsidering getting a cheap PC laptop for the field to run ImagesPlus and the guiding software!

#44 inaPICle

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Posted 06 January 2007 - 08:36 PM

It is a software version of the hardware chips on the board.


Except the processor, since the Mac already uses an Intel processor. Virtual PC for Mac also had to emulate the CPU, thus it was very slow.

CF


True, but it is still slow as heck. The disks are virtual filesystems on a filesystem (unless you run a dedicated hard drive which is not practical on a laptop). Real hardware interrupts are translated into their virtual counterparts. Virtual interrupts for things like faulting page memory need a lot of handling with the actual underlying OSX. Memory the emulated OS thinks is loaded may actually be paged out by OSX.

All this takes CPU cycles away from allowing the software to just run.

So while it may be a lot better than the PPC emulators it is still very slow.

For a word processor you wouldn't notice. But to align and stack 30 odd subs, then you will notice very much.

There are OSs out there that are highly optimized for running virtual machines. Sun have a very good one. However neither OSX nor Windows are even remotely optimized for this sort of thing.

#45 Joe Bergeron

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Posted 06 January 2007 - 10:41 PM

Now I'm also facing this dilema. I use a PC to run my scope in the dome, but recently brought a 20" iMac. I'm now thinking about getting a Mac laptop as well, but I really don't fancy installing windows and then also all the necessary anti-virus software to protect it. So now I find myslef seriously comsidering getting a cheap PC laptop for the field to run ImagesPlus and the guiding software!


If you run Windows on a Mac, and use the Windows side only to run your astronomy equipment, and don't use Windows to connect to the Internet, I don't see why you would need to worry about viruses. As long as you access the net using only OSX, you should be safe.

#46 Joe Bergeron

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Posted 06 January 2007 - 10:56 PM

I have read quite a bit about Apple's Boot Camp, and the one thing I have NOT read is anything about Windows running slowly on a Mac. To the contrary, everyone seems to be impressed by how fast it runs. Most people seem to think it runs as well as it would on a dedicated Windows machine with similar hardware. A quick Google search reveals many such evaluations. Here's one:

Boot Camp Even Better Than the Real Thing

Here's a guy who was very happy with the performance of PC games on his Mac:

Boot Camp

CNET says Boot Camp runs Windows nearly as fast as a PC:

CNET Review

So, I have to ask: have you actually tried or seen this for yourself, or are you just speculating based on what makes sense to you?

#47 Joe Bergeron

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Posted 06 January 2007 - 11:02 PM

The disks are virtual filesystems on a filesystem (unless you run a dedicated hard drive which is not practical on a laptop). Real hardware interrupts are translated into their virtual counterparts. Virtual interrupts for things like faulting page memory need a lot of handling with the actual underlying OSX. Memory the emulated OS thinks is loaded may actually be paged out by OSX.


I don't think this is correct. Windows is installed on its own disk partition on Intel Macs. When running Windows using Boot Camp, that's all you're doing; OSX is not active and has no part in it. You're using the real Windows file system. OSX is not involved in parceling out memory. It's not even running. I'm not sure how Parallels Desktop, which lets you run both OSes at once, differs in that respect.

#48 inaPICle

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Posted 07 January 2007 - 12:11 AM

The disks are virtual filesystems on a filesystem (unless you run a dedicated hard drive which is not practical on a laptop). Real hardware interrupts are translated into their virtual counterparts. Virtual interrupts for things like faulting page memory need a lot of handling with the actual underlying OSX. Memory the emulated OS thinks is loaded may actually be paged out by OSX.


I don't think this is correct. Windows is installed on its own disk partition on Intel Macs. When running Windows using Boot Camp, that's all you're doing; OSX is not active and has no part in it. You're using the real Windows file system. OSX is not involved in parceling out memory. It's not even running. I'm not sure how Parallels Desktop, which lets you run both OSes at once, differs in that respect.



Re-read the thread. My comments are aimed explicitly at Parallel desktop, which will be slow for all the reasons mentioned.

Boot camp is just a boot manager.

Parallel desktop != Boot Camp. Very, very different animals.

#49 ClownFish

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Posted 07 January 2007 - 02:40 AM

Joe, as inaPICle stated, we are discussing the Parallel virtualization system, not boot camp. Yes, you can BOOT up in windows and you'll be running a true window's machine. Parallel allows you to have both OSX and Windows running at the same time, but at a speed cost.

InaPICle, I didn't mean to suggest that Parallels was as fast as a normal PC, just that it was significantly faster than the old emulator's that also emulated the CPU. I would do all the hard core number crunching stuff under OSX if I was using a Mac, or boot up in Windows with bootcamp.

CF

#50 inaPICle

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Posted 07 January 2007 - 09:44 AM

InaPICle, I didn't mean to suggest that Parallels was as fast as a normal PC, just that it was significantly faster than the old emulator's that also emulated the CPU. I would do all the hard core number crunching stuff under OSX if I was using a Mac, or boot up in Windows with bootcamp.

CF


I figured you would know, but someone who is less familiar may not, and could have mis-read the intent of the reply.

My reply was not for you per-se, but using your comment to make a statement for a wider audience.


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