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Moving to a MAC - equivalent programmes?

Discussion in 'Pete's Computer Corner' started by Chris J, Dec 29, 2014.

  1. My PC is dying, it keeps freezing and windows keeps doing startup repairs and finding naughty sectors (perhaps they are bad sectors...) when it does a disc scan at a time of its own choosing. I don't care much for the reviews I hear about Windows8, which seems to be looking like a Mac, and I am heavily reliant on my iPhone and iPad - so a Mac is getting a serious consideration.

    Some of the applications that I currently use on the PC are (including the use I make of them, which may be a fraction of their potential):

    Midi-illustrator - to turn easily available MIDI files into dots on lines http://www.midiillustrator.com/
    Microsoft office scanning software - to control my scanner for sheet music (my scanner is otherwise old and unsupported in Win7)
    cutepdf - to turn the scanned music to pdfs for use on iPad http://www.cutepdf.com/
    Adobe audition - very early edition which easily allows editing of recordings from my Zoom, and overdubbing myself playing
    Audacity - occasionally used same way as adobe audition http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
    Musescore - free notation software to transcribe dots onto lines http://musescore.com/
    Smart score X midi - scan music using OCR to creat editable dots on lines (OCR not very good) http://www.musitek.com/smartscore-midi.html

    I know there may be Mac versions of some of the above - but what do you use to fulfill the functions above?

    Also I am interested to hear of experiences with VMware Fusion. It claims to be able to suck all the goodness out of my (ailing) PC including the operating system (Win7) and allow me to easily use my PC applications in the Mac environment. There are a couple of things I would like to do that with initially, one is my home accounting software (Quicken 2004) because it has a huge amount of current and historic information on, and may need time to find a programme that converts it all reliably - Quicken 2004 is the last version made for a UK market. The other is my SCUBA Dive Log software, though I think there are Mac apps that will convert what I have.

    For the VMware Fusion, do I get a choice about what comes across, or does it do everything on the HDD (in which case I would get the Mac up and running, then uninstall lots of stuff on the PC before installing the Win7 on the Mac)? I assume all files that are brought across with Win7 are available in the Mac OS too.

    Possibly too many questions for one thread!

    I am thinking of getting MacBook Pro with terabite of solid state memory, BTW

    Last edited: Dec 29, 2014
  2. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    No, you're not. You're thinking of getting a Macbook Pro with a 1TB Solid-State hard drive (SSD). That's your storage. 16gb is the maximum amount of RAM ("memory") available for the newest Macbook Pro. I'll give you a good reason why this is an important thing to note: if I owned a computer store and you told me you want a computer with 1TB of memory, I know that you're not that confident on what the specs mean and I will take advantage of that. You will pay more than what you intended.

    I'll work on the other stuff later/tonight. I've done Mac to PC and PC to Mac swaps and I've also worked with Fusion, as well as other VM solutions for both Mac and PC (Linux, too). You also didn't mention Apple's Boot Camp, which you can use to make your Mac into a (very decent) Windows PC. Not virtualized. A real PC.

    However, you could just get a new hard drive, transfer your files and stuff, and continue using your current computer. Provided you don't have other problems with it. That can easily be an under $50 fix, rather than a $3300 fix.
  3. Thanks Pete

    I am happy with RAM and ROM, and various other specs of computers, just sloppy with my terminology above. In my amateur way, I have been messing around with Windows and DOS for years. My first laptop had a 20MB hard drive! Might have had windows 3 perhaps? Can't remember, it was the early 1990s.

    My current laptop is 4 years old, and although I could transfer onto a new HDD, I have lost confidence in the other components now, irrational as that may be. I need something reliable. Of course I could buy a new Windows laptop and still spend a fraction of the price of a Mac.

    i would hope to move entirely to Mac environment, but it is attractive to know that while I am finding the Mac apps that will do my jobs, I can still use some windows applications. I understand boot camp access to Windows means backing right out of Mac and booting Windows, rather than opening Windows within the Mac environment.

    I think the main competitors for that is VMware Fusion and Parallels.

  4. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    Typing rapidly, before I give you the previously prepared statement, you can buy one of the 27" Retina 5K iMacs for $3300 -- and it's a 4.0ghz I7, 512gb Flash drive.

    Anyhow, if you don't need a laptop as a desktop replacement, you can still get a very decent laptop and a very decent desktop for $3300. You've got that iPad. For most folks, that's more than enough laptop. Heck, I think I could come up with a very decent desktop with a 39" 4K display for well under $2000. Or a desktop PC, desktop Mac and a PC laptop or a ....

    EDIT: You could even build a Hackintosh. That's a PC that runs a Mac OS.
  5. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    For the purposes of brevity, "VM" = "virtual machine." "SSD" = "Solid State Hard Drive." "OS" = "Operating System."

    I use a somewhat out-of-date version of Fusion on my iMac 2.9ghz i5 (late 2012). I use it for building images (that's an OS and a bunch of required software) for deployment through another server (no, Hyper-V doesn't work in my environment). I generally run no more than two VMs at a time. This isn't just because it's slow -- and it is -- but because I can only upload one image at a time to the server. This is probably because of way too much network traffic. Any running Mac applications also slow to a crawl, so I'm probably right with my diagnosis.

    You're probably more looking for something like, "It works as fast as a ____." If you're using only one VM, and you have a Macbook Pro at least as fast as my iMac, it's as fast as a decent Core 2 Duo. I think that my bottom-of-the-line I5-based machines are still faster. It also depends a bit on how you set it up: if you use a fixed-sized hard drive file on your PCI-based SSD, and you're using a 64-bit OS for the VM, and you throw a lot of RAM at the VM, I think that you might be able to edge up into the lower-level I5 machines.

    There is a completely free VM software that's called Oracle VirtualBox. I use it on a 3.4ghz I7-based Windows PC. I run up to 4 VMs, each of which has a different antivirus/antimalware product installed on it. The speed is acceptable.

    A couple things to note about any VM software:
    * There will be something/several things that won't work in a VM. A recent example, for me, is the BlueStacks Android emulator software.
    * You need to buy an operating system for each VM. You can use Windows trials (they're between 90 and 270 days; look up the command "slmgr /rearm").
    * You need a decent-sized hard drive and a good deal of memory to throw at a VM.
    * Your PC-only hardware will probably not work if it's connected to a Mac VM. Probably.
    * If you're planning on using a resource-heavy application in a VM -- say, Adobe Creative Cloud -- you're probably not going to get decent performance unless you have a system with really, really good specs.
    * You can build Macintosh VMs in Fusion on a Mac. You can't (last I checked) with WirtualBox. You can't -- without some shady software hacks -- create a Macintosh VM on a PC.

    Another option is using Apple's own, built-in, Boot Camp software. This makes your Mac into a PC. Yes, you can select whether to boot on the Mac-side or the PC-side. It does work quite well. However, again, some of your made-for-PC hardware will not work properly with Boot Camp.

    Allegedly, if you have Boot Camp set-up and you're running either Fusion or Parallels (I don't remember and I'm too lazy to look it up), you can use your Boot Camp stuff as a "VM" if you boot to the Mac side.
  6. Thanks for taking the time to go through all of that, some of which pushes me to the limits of my understanding!

    Speed is not crucial for me. Currently when i turn my laptop on, I tend to go away for 10 minutes rather than wait for it all to settle down.

    I had had a huge panic about 9 months ago when the thing would not start at all. After searching for things to try, I changed the SATA setting in the BIOS from AHCI to IDE (more trial and error than understanding) and it works with that setting.

    Although I am limited in technical knowledge, I have encountered many problems with windows over the decades, and I feel I know just about enough to know which stones to look under to find a way of making things work. Macs seem to have a reputation to just work, at least to the level of satisfaction I need.

    it sounds like I am trying to justify a decision to buy one to myself!

    i will put more thought to it

  7. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    The AHCI/IDE/RAID/IRRT thing is a big problem for a lot of folks that like to be as "updated" as possible and regularly update the BIOS. A lot of BIOSes reset this setting.

    FWIW, AHCI is the setting recommended by Samsung for the computers I have that have Samsung SSDs.
  8. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    I've mentioned this elsewhere: most people really don't need the world's fastest computer with a billion gig of RAM and 6 SSDs set up in a RAID and the most expensive graphics card available. It depends an awful lot on what you do. If you're heavily into Photoshop, CAD, databases, hardcore gaming, video editing, virtual machines, etc. you'll actually take advantage of the big-time horsepower. If you're just surfing the net and you might type a letter or two in Word, an I3 or a Core 2 Duo processor's going to be good enough. It might be better to invest in a better Internet plan. If you do that, you might even decide to get rid of cable TV and get Roku/AppleTV/Chromecast/Google Play device.

    I'm officially warming up to this topic. Let's see what I can get that's kewl.

    Apple MacBook Pro MC976LL/A 15.4-Inch Laptop with Retina Display. 2.3ghz quad-core I7, 8gb RAM, 256gb SSD. This is the first generation Retina. $1240, used. If you would rather have a refurbished 13.3", it's $995.
    23.4" Dell UltraSharp UP2414Q 23.8-Inch Screen LED-Lit Monitor. $450, used.

    You might wonder why this combo. First, the Late 2013 Retina Macbook Pros were the first to have support for 4K monitors. Second, the Dell monitor is the lowest-priced one that Apple recommends (see http://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202856). There are larger 4K displays out there for less $.

    Also, be sure to tack on an extra $100 if you want to get a copy of Windows 7 and use Boot Camp.

    So, let's try the PC side:

    Dell Inspiron i7737T-4994sLV 7000 Series, 17-Inch Touchscreen Laptop. 2ghz (3.1ghz burst) quad-core I7, 16gb RAM, 1TB mechanical HDD. $1230 new. $860 refurbished.
    39" Seiki Ultra 4K display. $360, new.

    $200 difference in price. Hey, if I want, I could by a 20" Core 2 Duo iMac for around $400 :). You can send me the difference between these prices and $3300.


    I haven't tried putting together a desktop system. I did some spot checking and it looks like I could build a 4ghz I7 system that's fully Hackintosh compatible for around $1100, then buy the 39" Seiki.

    I'll look at your software in a bit. Most music programs were originally made on the Mac. You're probably going to need a new scanner, tho.
  9. Now I'm going to sound ungrateful!!

    Just reading your your descriptions of what is possible gets me excited with itchy fingers to put something together. But last night, when my laptop died yet again only to be recovered by a disc check, self repair and startup repair, the first thing I did when it started up was to buy a MacBook Pro.

    I love taking king clarinets and saxophones apart, making them work, restoring them. It would interest me to have a classic car, maintaining it, keeping it working - but I buy the newest and most reliable I can afford, because all I have time for is to put fuel in it.

    The number one priority for me in a computer is that I have minimised the risk that it goes wrong. I have no doubt that those last few and probably unnecessary percentage points of risk reduction are the most expensive!

    I would like like a computer with a bit if grunt. The thing that slows down my PC most is working on photographs, and as a standard RAW photos has been getting larger over recent years, I can see the difference. I also have some old home video I want to digitalise and work on.

    So I have a shiny new MacBook coming my way sometime soon

    did I say shiny out loud?
  10. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    Well, good for you. The Macbooks have always been nice machines.

    To minimize your risk further, I'd recommend that you get an external hard drive for backups. The MacOS has a backup/restore feature baked in that's called Time Machine. It's easy to set up: you just plug in a new external drive and you're immediately asked if you want to use it with Time Machine.

    There is an annoyance that we've seen where I work: if you have OS 10.10 Yosemite, which you might, it can have difficulty connecting to Samba shares (read that as "mostly Windows servers"). There's an easy work around: you'd generally connect to these shares by typing "smb://computer/share." If you have problems, try "cifs://computer/share." Another way of looking at it is to always wait until the .1 release (e.g. 10.10.1) before upgrading :).

    Another factoid: MacOS upgrades are currently free. 10.9 was the first. This has trickled-down to Microsoft and they're planning on making Windows 10 free. Well, last I heard.

    I also recommend that you get Sophos antivirus for the Mac. It's free. Macs do get viruses. At the very least, install it and run a full scan once a month and then remove it. "Macs can't get viruses" isn't true.
  11. Thanks again.

    For backups, I already have a 3TB HDD attached to the wireless router at home which 3 computers back up to on a regular routine. I think I can use that with Time Machine.

    Regarding antivirus, I still have 9 months of a subscription to McAfee antivirus to run. It looks like I can use that for either PC or Mac so I am interested to know how you rate that compared to Sophos. It is a 3 user license. It might be useful to use in the virtual Windows as well as the Mac.
  12. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    In addition to a backup like a Time Machine or a dedicated hard drive, I would recommend backing up to DVDs/CDs for critical files. Stuff like your financial system (if you use your computer for same - writing checks, investments, etc.), your music projects, your music library (mine has been backed up on tiny little 'thumbnail' drives for a couple of years now, one of which stays parked in the the right hand USB port, the other of which goes to the safe deposit box at the bank) and so forth. That way, if your house gets burglarized and all of your electronics (computers plus anything else looking electronic) get lifted, you don't lose the critical stuff.
  13. All good advice. I do back up my financial system onto CD every time I use it. I also back up files to Dropbox too. My photos are indexed in date order, and a year of photos goes onto a separate DVD.

    I am reliant on my backup HDD for my music library, though, and will have to think about another location safer from fire or theft.
  14. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    DVD/CD/Blu-Ray/Tape all used to be good ideas for backup. However, these media are now way too slow and expensive, not to mention the fact that the new Macbooks don't come with an optical drive. The USB "SuperDrive" is an $80 add on. You can buy an external USB 3.0 dock for $25 or less (Thunderbolt ones are still very expensive, but are waaaay fast) and buy a 1TB hard drive to put in it for under $50. This setup also allows for backing up multiple times and doesn't use up that much storage space. Each backup onto DVD (if you're assuming a 1TB hard drive you're backing up), would take 22 discs at about $7.50 a pop.

    The company I work for is a mostly Dell and Mac shop. We install our own image via Thunderbolt, which takes about 3 minutes (really). When I use an external USB 3.0 drive for our Dell images, it takes about 30 minutes. (Also, the Dell computers are no longer coming with emergency/backup DVDs. USB stick, baby!
  15. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    Oh. A safer location from fire or theft? Safety deposit box. About $25 a year. Of course, my bank is only a couple miles away :).
  16. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    * I think Musescore could probably take the place of Midi Illustrator. It's available for the Mac, too.
    * There are now quite a few "scan to notation" software packages. Check out this. That Musitek software you have is available for the Mac. There's also this for the iPhone/iPad, which might be kinda kewl.
    * As far as a scanner is concerned, there are lots. I use an all-in-one sheet-feed scanner/fax/copier/printer, the Epson WF-3530. I bought it specifically because it had the best balance between initial price and ink price. I also *think* I can print from my iPads and Android to it. It's wireless. It was about $130 new and the ink is around $80, for CMYK -- but you can replace each cartridge individually. Those are about $18 each.
    * Mac has a built-in "print to PDF" function, so you don't need CutePDF. Editing PDFs is something different :).
    * Adobe Audition is part of Adobe's Creative Cloud suite. That's $20-$30 a month. Audacity is listed as a free Mac alternative at alternativeto.net.

    Or, of course, get a copy of VirualBox and run whichever app in a virtual machine.

    Also, give some thought to getting one of those AppleCare warranties. IIRC, you can get one up to 60 or 90 days after you buy a Mac. The warranty on the Macs are only a year. Yes, they're expensive, but might be worth it. Take a peek at PowerBook Medic to get an idea of how much each part costs.
  17. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    One thing that I enjoy about the Time Machine is that it keeps doing the backups automatically, whether you remember to do it or not. I've got backups running back to 2009, although I do tend to ditch them from time to time.

    I rotate two "wart" USB drives through the right hand USB port on my Macbook Air. One stays on the computer all of the time, and anything that I'm concerned about gets dumped on there as I create it. Once a week, while hitting the bank to drop off checks, I switch the warts into the safe deposit box, putting the one previously in the box back into the computer.

    And, my Time Machine is pretty well hidden, even in our two bedroom apartment in which we are currently resident. Much of the stuff on the computer network (my four (four, count them) primary printers, the DVD/CD burner, and all of the specialty printers (postage, label, and a couple of miscellaneous ones) is out in the open, but the Time Machine and all of the wiring to it save a single, non-descript Ethernet cable is stashed away in the corner of a closet in the next room. (Snaking the cable under the carpet wasn't all that complicated, surprisingly enough.)

    I'm having a "network closet" built into our new house, a place to put all of the wired and wireless crap, out of sight and out of mind, but with shelves and easy access to it all.

    When we built our first house, I slipped the electrician a couple of double sawbucks and had him string the wire for a Appletalk/Localtalk network. It cost all of about eighty bucks to put it all in, and every room had a double phone outlet, with the bottom one reserved for the network.

    (The biggest problem was getting the punchdown block, a piece of hardware that was common in telephone circles but otherwise quite rare in 1990. All that it is is a terminal block that allows for easy and quick connection of the wiring. You just put the wire over the V shaped slot, then push it down (either with a $60 punch-down tool, or (if you are smart, with a screwdriver) into place. Presto, a solid, solder free connection.)

    The networking facility has been built into Macintosh machines from the get go, requiring only that you purchase little $10 plugs and a telephone cable to do the hookup, and it was great to be able to work with a laptop in one room and send everything to the printer in the office. We also used it for wargaming, with two laptops to handle a lot of the bookkeeping (NB) and intelligence stuff. All of it obsolete now, of course, but it gives the new owners something to wonder about.

    Now, with the wireless stuff, wires are so 1990...

    Nota bena: One of the great things about the word "bookkeeper" is that it is the only common English word with three sets of double letters in a row. My wife actually got to use it once in Words With Friends, taking the breath of her opponent away with her audacity.
  18. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    You should also know the only words in the English language that has fewer syllables than vowels, then. Answer without Googling :p.

    re: LocalTalk, I'm extremely glad I don't have to worry about terminating nodes anymore ....

    I'm definitely considering stringing some cable from the router in my office to the computer and TV (Roku box) in the living room. However, the wireless router's doing quite dandy and I also have another wireless router that I could convert into a wireless repeater. If I wanted. Those Ethernet-over-power adapters are also pretty snazzy.
  19. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    The neat thing about the little plugs (from some third party vendor) was that the plugs did all of the terminating. It was a little plastic blob, into which you plugged the phone cable used as the network cable.

    Of course, all of that is long time gone these days. Now, with the wireless stuff on just about every device, no more wires, no more hubs, all just electrons flowing through the air.
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