Time for a new machine...

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simoncoverdale
Posts: 101
Joined: Mon Dec 10, 2001 2:17 pm

Time for a new machine...

Postby simoncoverdale » Fri Mar 08, 2002 12:55 pm

Hello All,Well, my P3 450 has reached the grand old age of 2, and despite the odd upgrade, is really begining to show its age.As I know virtually nothing of the Mac, I thought this would be a place to start.I've seen an ad for a new Mac, VERY thin screen, and the machine itself has taken the form of a bubble as opposed to the usual PC shape.Apparently it holds a DVD/CD burner as standard and has a G4 processor, whatever the #### that is?!?If anyone can enlighten me as to the pro's and con's compared with contemporary PC's available now, bearing in mind a 1.2Ghz machine fully loaded is available for around £1KCheers,SIMON COVERDALEwww.StarFleetDirect.comwww.TerrahawksDirect.com

Bradster
Posts: 542
Joined: Sat Feb 09, 2002 12:43 pm

Time for a new machine...

Postby Bradster » Fri Mar 08, 2002 1:00 pm

Aaaah, I'm the man to ask regarding any topic that mentions the Mac. :biggrin:I may be a Mac user and fan, but I'm no blind zealot. I can point out many of the pros and cons to owning a Mac. I'll post a long-winded response to this in just a minute, once I've gathered all my thoughts and info...(Edited by Bradster at 2:04 pm on Mar. 8, 2002)

AndyThomas
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Time for a new machine...

Postby AndyThomas » Fri Mar 08, 2002 2:11 pm

Meanwhile, I'll just mention that one of the new Macs was looking very angle-poisy and white in my local PC World last night - I didn't take a closer look. As Brad amply demonstrates, Macs are very well geared for video production and come with some decent software as standard, I believe. Firewire etc is far more common on Macs. So creativity wise they're superb machines, OS is... different but I can't really speak to the current version. Games are a bit slim, but as I recall you have a games room Simon so that may not be an issue! Don't know how easy it is to upgrade them - the new curved base unit must require quite bespoke components? Anyway, over to Brad...
Andy Thomas - SFXB Webmaster and Forum Moderator

Bradster
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Joined: Sat Feb 09, 2002 12:43 pm

Time for a new machine...

Postby Bradster » Fri Mar 08, 2002 3:02 pm

Quote Quote: from AndyThomas on 3:11 pm on Mar. 8, 2002one of the new Macs was looking very angle-poisy and whiteForgive my ignorance of British idioms, but is this a good thing or bad?Oh, and it's taking me quite a bit of time to write up my response. It'll be worth it once I'm finished. This is a complex issue that must be treated with the utmost delicacy. Either that, or I ramble a lot and don't know when to shut up...;)(Edited by Bradster at 4:23 pm on Mar. 8, 2002)

AndyThomas
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Time for a new machine...

Postby AndyThomas » Fri Mar 08, 2002 3:45 pm

Heh. You know the Pixar lamps that bounce round the Pixar logo in Monsters Inc etc? That's an "angle poise" lamp - which is very much what the new Mac reminds me of. I'm looking forward to this "merits of the Mac" response! I did use one way back in 95 for a Hypercard project...
Andy Thomas - SFXB Webmaster and Forum Moderator

Matt Darcy
Posts: 164
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2002 1:28 pm

Time for a new machine...

Postby Matt Darcy » Fri Mar 08, 2002 3:48 pm

Sounds like MAC's should be called Simon's as he seems to spend half his life video editing etc etc.

Bradster
Posts: 542
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Time for a new machine...

Postby Bradster » Fri Mar 08, 2002 4:35 pm

Well, I'm still pouring lots of details into this response. :biggrin: I'm hoping I'll have it ready before you all go to sleep since it's five hours later there from where I live. I think I might have to make this into an HTML page because I'm not sure if it'll fit into a post!Andy, it's funny you should mention that! Pixar made two cute shorts of the new iMac which look a great deal like the old "Luxo Jr" you are referring to. Check out the two movies on this page. The first one, well, I hope you notice the enuendo of the iMac "playing" with himself... heh...

Bradster
Posts: 542
Joined: Sat Feb 09, 2002 12:43 pm

Time for a new machine...

Postby Bradster » Fri Mar 08, 2002 7:59 pm

GOOD LORD... I'M FINISHED... I feel like I just wrote a dissertation or something! Actually, I did write a 12-page argumentative essay about Apple computers in my freshman English class at North Carolina State University... Okay, I'm pasting it into the next post. I hope it works...

Bradster
Posts: 542
Joined: Sat Feb 09, 2002 12:43 pm

Time for a new machine...

Postby Bradster » Fri Mar 08, 2002 8:32 pm

Okay, I've tried to separate this into three sections: Myths, Pros, and Cons. Most of the "myths" section is copied from other sources, but I've edited it, added to it, and mixed in my own commentary. Well, without further delay...MythsEveryone uses WindowsMost do, but mostly where? If you work as an accountant or are a hard-core gamer, you probably are surrounded by beige Windows boxes. However, work in nearly any creative field and you'll undoubtedly run into Macs. In graphic arts, advertising, and publishing, however, Apple computers are a very common sight. Adobe creates all of their publishing and graphics programs with Apple computers first in mind, porting to Windows second. In fact, I have personally encountered some interesting bugs when using Photoshop on Windows that mentioned QuickDraw, the developer term for Apple's older drawing interface. Apple is also taking a big stake of Hollywood and the independent or beginner film makers. Final Cut Pro is a hugely successful professional-grade program from Apple that film makers are using everywhere. The bio-tech industry also uses Macs. When the new flat-screen iMac first came out, Genentech immediately announced their support with a purchase of 1000 of the top-end models. Apple computers have also been used in research for nuclear detonation simulations that would otherwise be impossible to test in the real-world. Back in the 90's, some 60% of all websites were created on Apple computers. In recent years, that number has obviously dwindled dramatically, but a significant number of pro sites are still designed on Macs. Heck, even US presidents use Macs. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both use Macs as their personal computers. In the education field, Apple and Dell have been battling it out here in the US, but Apple is currently on top holding just over 50% of the US's education market. Some 25% of America's lawyers use Macs as well. In all, over 25 million people use Macs in their homes, offices, and schools everyday.Macs don't work with PCsSimply untrue. Every day millions of documents, emails, and instant messages are sent between Macs and PCs. Office files such as Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations exchange with no hassles. E-mails are delivered and instant messages shuttled back and forth. This isn't news because it happens silently, regularly, with no fanfare. Macs are designed to work seamlessly with PCs and connect into PC networks to easily access files and folders. Networking technologies such as WebDAV and Samba are built into the core of the the Mac system software.The software I need isn't available for MacsNot likely. There are over 15,000 applications available for the Mac, in every category imaginable. There are numerous productivity programs from Microsoft Office to FileMaker, design programs from Photoshop to Maya, film-making tools from Final Cut Pro to After Effects, finance programs from Quicken to MYOB, and a variety of games from Starcraft to Return to Castle Wolfenstein to The Sims to Tony Hawk. If you do encounter that occasional program which isn't available for Mac, you can still run it using Virtual PC. Thanks to the FreeBSD (Unix) underpinnings of Mac OS X (the system software), ports of Unix and Linux software are being made more frequently everyday. Even I have taken the time to help port and compile some Open Source Linux projects.Macs don't run Microsoft OfficeQuite the opposite. Not only does a new version of Microsoft Office run on the Mac, but Office v.X for Mac OS X is actually better than its Windows cousin, with new features available only on the Mac. Microsoft Office documents are fully compatible between Mac and Windows. So when you create an Excel spreadsheet or a Word document or a PowerPoint presentation on a Mac, you can send it to someone with a PC and it will open perfectly and vice versa. Microsoft's MBU (Macintosh Business Unit) operates independently of the rest of Microsoft and has in recent years released product revisions before the Windows versions and, as I mentioned before, often with a feature set that doesn't make it into the following revision of the Windows version.No one uses Mac any more; Apple is dying!Oh! I wish I had a dollar (or pound) for each time I heard THAT! Seriously, though, Apple isn't going anywhere. They may only have 5% of the overall PC market, but consider that BWM only has 5% of the automotive market. Also, note that Apple has been the only major computer manufacturer to constantly pull a profit for the past several quarters the this worldwide economic downturn or whatever you call it. Plus, Apple has over five billion dollars in cash reserves. That's not going to disappear overnight. I'm no economist, but I know that it's a Good Thing that Apple is in the black when other PC manufacturers are choking and selling out to each other to stay alive. This is kinda off-topic, but my prediction for the next five years is that only IBM, Dell, Apple, and maybe Gateway will still be selling computers. Compaq is gone and HP is showing serious signs of giving up the PC market and sticking to imaging devices and other goods. Gateway is bleeding money left an right, but I'd take them over HP.ProsSoftware and hardware integration Because Apple sells "the whole widget" you can be sure that everything is going to work together flawlessly. You shouldn't have to worry about drivers for various devices or setting options for various apps to work with specific parts because they simply work as-is. You'll never have to worry about configuring or changing drivers because Apple builds its system software to work specifically with the hardware they sell. This is one of the major advantages of not having hundreds of different hardware clones and thousands of different configurations: you only have to concentrate on support for a small, core group.The "i" suite and the "Digital Hub"When Apple released the iMac, they also started a trend of easy-to-use software that work with the computer. Apple totes the new iMac as the "digital hub" thanks to the four "i" apps: iTunes, iMovie, iPhoto, and iDVD. Apple computers now can truly act as hubs for your digital devices. You truly have to see these apps in action or or try them first hand to understand how elegantly they do work, but I'll explain the basics anyway. You can find plenty of pictures, information, and movie clips of them at With" target="_blank">http://www.apple.com/software/With iTunes, you can import your CDs to MP3s and arrange playlists for your listening pleasure. Unlike Windows Media Player, there is no restriction on MP3 quality. You can specify options for VBR, channels, sample rates, low frequency filter, and bitrates up to 320kbps. iTunes can automatically get ID3 tags from CDDB when you insert a CD. It also allows you to manually edit ID3 tags and sort playlists by any of the ID3 tags. There's also a box to enter a dynamic list "filter". iTunes also includes a 10-band and preamp equalizer with the option to save custom equalizer settings for specific MP3s. There's also a nice visualizer that plays either in the window or full-screen and allows for third-party plugin visualizers. Want to make a CD? Drag files around a list and just click the "Burn" button; the app asks for a CD and then takes care of everything automatically, allowing you to go about listening to other music or do other work while it makes the CD. Or if you prefer, plug in an MP3 player and transfer your music there, all with a simple, drag-and-drop interface... all self-contained in iTunes' one window.With iMovie, you can become an amateur movie maker. Just plug in any FireWire (or Sony i.Link) capable video camera or capture device, and you are presented with anoth
er simple interface to completely control the capture to your hard drive. Once you've grabbed some clips, you drag them from the Clips "bin" into the timeline below and you can choose from an array of wipes, slides, texts, and other effects to apply. When you're done, you can export the movie back to the video camera, to any size QuickTime movie, or prepare it for burning with iDVD.With iPhoto, you can import and arrange your digital photographs into libraries with the same ease as iTunes rips MP3s and arranges playlists. When you plug in a USB digital camera, iPhoto automatically comes up with a one-button "import" interface and transfers the pictures into the main library, which can be arranged in a variety of ways including by "roll" which groups photos by when they were imported. You can also perform basic rotating, cropping, and editing functions without the need of other tools like Photoshop LE. iPhoto also takes advantage of Apple's ColorSync, built-in color management software, to ensure consistent color from photo to web to print. Oh, you want professional-grade prints? Directly from iPhoto you can order Kodak prints or even a linen-bound book of your pictures printed on acid-free glossy paper. Still want a different way to share your photos? You can simply export them to JPEG if you want. Or you can use iPhoto to run a full-screen slide show with background music and OpenGL-powered crossfades. Or you can use iPhoto to export the slide show to a QuickTime movie. Or you can use iPhoto to create and publish a web page with thumbnails and descriptions. With iDVD, well, let me begin by saying that I don't have a DVD-burner in my one-year-old Mac and thus I haven't used iDVD. Here's what I understand about it, though. iDVD is a one-window program (like the other i-apps) that lets you create custom menus for your DVDs. You can choose from a variety of built-in templates with features such as animated backgrounds, animated buttons, and sound effects or you can make your own custom template. Whenever you want to add the content, you can simply drag movies, folders of pictures for slideshows, or other content to the window and thumbnails are generated for you. You can click a preview button to test everything as if you were playing the actual DVD and when you're ready, simply click the Burn button. All of the MPEG compression goes on in the background so you can work more efficiently. Once you've made your DVD, it will work in nearly all set-top DVD players and computer DVD Video drives. Apple's website has a list of compatible players. If you have a DVD player that is less than 2 or 3 years old, it should work fine.Did I mention that these "i" programs are all free? The Mac communitySome call us fanatics, some call us zealots, but no one can say that we're uncooperative or pessimistic! The Amiga also once had a very tightly-knit community as did Be, Inc. I don't know why, but the online Mac community is friendly, to say the least. If you ever visit a Mac-related bulletin board with a question, you'll likely get a dozen responses offering to guide you step-by-step to a solution. Online discussions also often lead to the development of great new applications as well (because Apple offers a huge suite of developer tools for free). I once personally initiated an effort to write a tool for permission management that I had found some people needed. With the help of the community, excellent quality software can be forged. One such discussion that's still going on is currently working to patch a rare PPP bug in Darwin, the core of Mac OS X. That brings me to my next point...Darwin: the evolution of UnixThe low-level base of today's Macs isn't anything like Apple had a few years ago. Darwin is the core of Mac OS X, the current system software that runs on Apple hardware. Darwin is an Open Source project that allows developers anywhere to take the code, make and run their own versions of it, contribute fixes or updates, and all the other goodies of an Open Source project. Darwin is a variant of Berkeley's FreeBSD and the Mach 3.0 microkernel. You can find a brief family tree of Unix here. What does Unix bring to the Mac? Rock-solid stability, modern memory management, and an open door to all other *nixes. An open door? Well, by that I mean that software written on just about any other *nix (meaning a flavor of Unix or Linux) can probably be reconfigured and recompiled rather easily to run on a Mac. If anyone here is a Linux user and if familiar with Gnome, you might be interested to know that I too run Gnome with a couple other *nux apps such as XMMS, the IceWM, The Gimp, that cute little fortune-telling fish program, AbiWord, and some others. Surprised? I know I was when I found out I could do that! What's also great about having a Unix-backend is that you have access to the advanced shells such as tcsh and bash. When I say advanced, I mean that these shells put DOS to shame. For example, I can search a folder for files that start with "Great" and end in ".mp3" and then copy them to a new directory, rename them, and open them... all in one command. But you thought Macs shunned on command lines with their "superior" interface? Well, yes, that was a big selling point for a long time. However, the competition then was MS-DOS and that's not exactly a CLI to be proud of. The command line on Macs today is there only if you want to use it. It's there basically for advanced users and *nix converts who are still addicted to a CLI. You will never see a program drop you into a CLI like some Windows apps still seem to do. In fact, you can just delete the "Terminal" program so you never have to even think about seeing a CLI.G4 and AltiVecAh, it's time to talk processors. Before reading this, you need to forget everything you think you know about "MHz" or "GHz" driving the raw power of a computer. First, ask yourself: what is a Hz? It's a cycle, nothing more. When you hear about x86 processors now, all you hear about it GHz. Well, there's more to it than that. What Intel doesn't advertise is how much processing exactly goes on during a cycle. When Intel released the P4, I think it was clocked at about 1.2 GHz. Would you believe that it's P3 brother at 1 GHz outperformed the P4 in a number of benchmarks? True. The hard-core PC community was up in arms about this, but accepted that once Intel reved up the speed even faster, it'd make up for it. There's your first bit of evidence to consider. Next, have you noticed how AMD has changed their marketing strategy? Rather than pushing GHz, they've labeled their processors with names like "XP1800" and "XP2000"... numbers that are hundreds higher than the clock frequency. Why? Because a 1600 MHz AMD actually performs like a 1800 MHz Intel Pentium 4. Bingo! There's your second bit of evidence. Third, consider the 64-bit Intel Itanium. This chip is performing on-par with Intel's P4 BUT are only clocked up to 800 MHz. Another processor mega-powerhouse, the Sun UltraSparc only clocks up to 900 MHz. Fascinating, huh? So, what's my point? Different processors have differing efficiency. Some processors handle more data per clock cycle than others, even in the PC world.There are a LOT of factors involved here including cache, die size, chip material, instruction set, execution branches, and number of pipelines, but I'd probably lose you if I went into any more detail!(hopefully I haven't already!!) :biggrin:Enter Motorola's PowerPC G4. Currently this processor only clocks up to 1 GHz (though some people have already successfully overclocked theirs to 1.3 GHz). Understanding the "MHz Myth" I just debunked above, you should rest a bit easier now knowing that it's okay that Apple's computers ship with processors running a
t half of the "speed" of the common PC processors. Regardless, the G4 is currently about even with the average Intel and AMD processors. It excels in some benchmarks, but falls behind in others. Where the G4 really shines, though, is with a unit called "AltiVec" that processes vector operations in 128-bit chunks, as opposed to 32-bit in most processors. It's similar to Intel's SSE and SSEII units, but a lot more robust. What good is this? Well, when software is properly optimized for AltiVec, it flies. Hmm... let me find an example... okay, video processing. Thanks to the AltiVec unit, you can do real-time effects with video on a Mac. Normally, if you make changes in video by adding effects or wipes, you have to render it to a cache before you can watch it. Depending on the effects, you could have to wait twice as long, 3 time as long, or even more before you can scrub through the timeline. With AltiVec, you can apply several effects live without rendering. Some of these real-time effects include: opacity, scale, center, offset, crop, aspect, cross dissolves, iris transitions, wipe transitions, and color corrector 3-way filters. AltiVec makes huge advances with nearly any graphics application. Some of the "big name" programs you might recognize (aside from nearly all of Apple's software) that take advantage of AltiVec include Adobe After Effects, Adobe Premiere, Adobe Photoshop, Alias|Wavefront Maya, id software Quake III, id software Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Discreet Logic Combustion, Netscape Communicator, DCES RC-5, Digital Origin EditDV, Metrowerks CodeWarrior, Sorenson Video Codec, Qdesign Music Codec, Strata 3D Pro, Maxon Cinema 4D, Steinberg Cubase VST... the list goes on... These apps, when properly coded to take full advantage of the AltiVec unit, can run much faster than on other platforms.Add to this that Apple's new Mac OS X uses symmetric multiprocessing and the *nix priority system. On dual-processor Macs, well, everything flies and is just so smooth. You really have to try one to know what I mean. Umm, I could discuss this along with the operation of multithreaded apps, but I've probably said enough here for now...ConsPriceAs you probably have already noticed, Apple computers are a fare bit more expensive than their PC bretheren. There's really no way around it. You can't "build" a Mac like you could a PC and because there are no clones, you're pretty much stuck with what Apple offers. I've heard plenty of arguments on either side regarding the price, but I'd just simply say you're paying a premium price for a premium product. It's like paying a chunk more for a BWM or Jaguar because you like the style.Growing PainsAs with anyone changing to any operating system, be it Linux, Windows, or Mac, there are going to ge some "growing pains" where you'll have to learn to reorient yourself for the differences in the way things work. None of this is fatal, of course, but some people can easily become frustrated if they aren't open to learning some new ways. GamesWhat can I say? There aren't a lot of games for Macs. The ones that are on the Mac, though, are usually great ones. There are a couple of companies that work feverishly to port games to the Mac, but it's sometimes too little too late. Besides, I say if you want great games you're probably better off with a console like the GameCube (also uses a PowerPC processor, by the way) or Playstation 2.Upgrades (with regards to the iMac)The iMac was not built to be upgraded, plain and simple. When you buy it, you will be stuck with the monitor, video card, CPU, and DVD-R/CD-RW. The RAM and hard drive are upgradeable, but that's all. The iMac is not target at a hard-core audience that plans on upgrading everything on a regular basis. For that, Apple makes the tower G4s. However, most "average" people never upgrade anything anyway. They usually wait a couple years and just buy a new computer. This is exactly what Apple expects for iMac users. For what it's worth, you'd probably not need to upgrade some parts anyway because the iMac already comes with some pretty good stuff. There are three USB ports, two 400-mbps FireWire ports, a v.90 modem, 10/100BaseT ethernet, and a built-in AirPort Card for IEEE 802.11b wireless networking at 11 mbps. Audio is handled by software rather than hardware, unlike PCs, so you don't need an audio card. The tower-style Macs, however, offer a 4xAGP slot, 4 PCI slots, an upgradeable CPU in a ZIF socket, up to 1.5 GB of RAM, and room for 5 or 6 hard drives. The towers also have 10/100/1000-BaseT ethernet, v.90 modem, 2 400-mbps FireWire ports, 2 USB ports, AirPort, and audio all on the motherboard, so that leaves all 4 PCI slots open for expansion.Availability (also with regards to the iMac)Currently, there is an extreme shortage of new iMacs. Some third-party retail channels expect they may not get new iMacs for another two months. Basically, they're selling faster than Apple can make them... hey!! Isn't that a good thing? It may not for you, but it sure is for Apple. ;)G4 and AltiVecWait a minute, didn't I say that this is a good thing?? Well, as most things regarding computers are, this too is a bit complicated. Motorola makes the PowerPC G4 processor. The G3, G4's predecessor, is made by both Motorola and IBM. Motorola, however, owns the patents for AltiVec and is being extremely stubborn to share them. IBM can already produce the G4, but it lacks that awesome AltiVec processing unit. If you've been following tech news regarding Motorola, you should know that they haven't been doing very well. They've been cutting jobs from many areas. Some people fear that if Motorola tanks that Apple will die soon after. Also, because Motorola is the sole producer of G4s, Apple is stuck whenever Motorola is stuck. For example, some time ago, Motorola got stuck at 500 MHz with the PowerPC. It was stuck at 500 MHz for a whole year. No progress was made with PowerPC chips for 18 months! Apple's computers stagnated briefly, but grew again when Apple started to offer dual-processor configurations of the 450 and 500 Mhz chips. That was a terrible time for Apple and was a direct result of the 100% dependence on Motorola for the G4. Now, I'm going to give you another little history lesson and some conjecture; the predictions at the end are NOT official. Back in the 90's, there started something called the "AIM" alliance between Apple, IBM, and Motorola. Together, AIM developed a RISC processor which later became the PowerPC 600 series. Over the years, PowerPC has undergone upgrades and changes to what is now the fourth generation, or G4. Well, the public details of the alliance are sketchy, but some sources say that after a ten-year period, Apple is open to buy out all of the technology for a set price. If this is true, then Apple could buy out the PowerPC division at Motorola and use IBM to manufacture the chips. Unfortunately, IBM is literally the world's most expensive foundry. Thus, the price of PowerPC chips might be pushed up even higher, but at least it wouldn't be dead. Another interesting bit worth noting is that Darwin is a cross-platform operating system. That's right! You can run Darwin on your PC right now! The only catch is that it's just the core OS, a textual shell like most *nixes. However, rumors are abound that because Apple keeps both the x86 and PPC versions of Darwin up to date, that they are also secretly writing the rest of the Mac OS to run on the x86 architecture. If sometime in the future Apple chose to move to x86, they would instantly break compatibility with all software, especially anything that relied on AltiVec. Developers that kept their code up-to-date and don't use any assembly or AltiVec optimizations could simply recompile for the new processor and release an update to their software in a matter of days. However, this is only a distant possibility. Right now, nothing like that appears to actually be happening any time soon.Virtual PCRemember w
hen I mentioned this before? This is supposed to be the end-all solution for people who can't find Mac equivalents of all their software and still must run some Windows programs. Well, the way Virtual PC works is that it emulates an actual Intel chip. It takes the two-byte "word" instructions from PC programs and translates them into commands the PowerPC processor understands. A lot of it is rather simple ADD, SUB, and other basic math instructions. However, because the PowerPC is a RISC-based chip (reduced instruction set) and the x86 Intel chips are CISC-based (complicated instruction set), there's a LOT of translating to be done. Thus, there's a lot of overhead in running Windows programs through Virtual PC. If you plan on using Virtual PC for CPU-intensive things like 3D rendering or games, you're probably going to be a lot better off with a Mac port of the program or just another real PC. Virtual PC works fine for office-type apps, custom accounting/database software, and a variety of others, but it isn't a "perfect" solution. For example, I use Virtual PC just to test cross-platform HTML code and run the occasional exe someone want's to show me, like those Star Fleet games at the Star Fleet Project's web site. Also, if you use Virtual PC you DON'T want to use Windows XP. Why? Simply put, XP is a resource hog even on real PCs so it'll be even worse in a Virtual PC. Windows 2000 works great, though, as well as Windows 98 and ME. You can also run DOS and most *nixes such as Red Hat Linux (though, as I said before, a lot of *nix software can be configured and compiled to run native on Mac OS X)."Girly" ComputersSome people don't like Apple computers because they aren't beige boxes like PCs. Some people say they're girly or "artsy-fartsy" and won't touch them simply because of that. Some people, however, absolutely love the hardware/case design and consider it like a work of art.Can you tell I'm running out of ideas yet?*gasp* need... fresh air... *wheeze*

Bradster
Posts: 542
Joined: Sat Feb 09, 2002 12:43 pm

Time for a new machine...

Postby Bradster » Fri Mar 08, 2002 11:28 pm

I can't believe I forgot this one!Aqua and QuartzThis is a very touchy subject for a lot of Mac users. Experiences seem to vary widely across different hardware with some people saying it's fast and "snappy" whereas others report it as slow and "sluggish". What is wrong here? I'll try to explain.The GoodFirst, Quartz is a vector-based display layer. A "display layer" is an operating system's interface used by programmers to draw to the screen. I strongly recommend you at least read this page from an article by John Siracusa that explains display layers in layman's terms. What's great about Quartz is that it allows programmers to use graphics in a way that would be extremely difficult before. Here's an example of Quartz at work. This is a picture of a small demo app that lets you scale, rotate, move, and so forth. Is it a mini version of Adobe Illustrator? No, it doesn't have to be. Rather than having to create ways of manipulating the graphics, the programmer lets Quartz do everything for him.Transparent drop-shadows are added and the transparency of the "factory" image is adjusted with the slider. All of the things demonstrated in the movie are possible right now in popular vector graphics applications, but Quartz moves these operations from the realm of the application into the core of the operating system.It gets better! First, these vector images are rendered to the screen fully antialiased. Second, the antialiasing is done in real-time, as is the transparency in both the antialiased shape edges and the drop shadows. Several years ago, calculations like these took a couple of seconds to render in Photoshop. The ability to do them in real-time is quite a testament to the effects of Moore's law.Now, this may sound great, but what does it have anything to do with using a Mac on a normal day? That's where Aqua comes into play. Aqua is Apple's new interface that fully takes advantage of Quartz. Thanks to Quartz's features, windows have drop shadows, menus are partially transparent and fade away, "sheets" slide out of windows, text is anti-aliased everywhere, dialogs actually stretch when automatically resizing, icons bounce, buttons throb, and more. Below is a second example of Quartz at work. I'm playing a QuickTime movie and decide to minimize it to the Dock (a Mac tool somewhat like the Windows taskbar). While the movie is playing, it is being warped and resized in real-time as it shrinks into the Dock.It may sound overwhelming, but it reallly isn't. When all these additions come together, they bring a seamlessly "fluid" feel to using a Mac. Everything usually happens with subtlety so that it's not "in-your-face" extravagance.The BadOf course, some of this power comes at a price. Older computers are seriously taxed by some of Aqua's "eye candy" but those are usually the bottom-line of the "supported" systems. Some of Aqua and Quartz is accelerated by the AltiVec unit on the G4. But wait... isn't this type of work usually handled by a graphics card? There's the catch. Apple had a "chicken and the egg" problem when they created Quartz. Today's graphic cards accelerate the second generation display layers (you did read that article, right?), handling all the primatives and blitting without making the CPU work with on video display. There is no graphics card, however, that will handle the vector data that Quartz uses. Thus, Apple relies on the actual CPU to composite all the graphics. Eventually, when Microsoft Windows and other systems start using third generation layers, graphic cards will be make to do the work. Until then, Apple is stuck.How much does Quartz tax the CPU, though? In most cases, not much. Under normal use, you'll never notice a glitch. However, if you open two or three large semitransparent windows and start dragging them around, the CPU will get pegged to process all that data. Fortunately, though, Mac OS X has a priority system that can set different processes to demand more or less from the CPU. Also, you must realize that no one will be dragging transparent windows around all day. Usually Quartz is doing nothing. It only briefly spikes usage of the CPU when it needs to, like when you drag a window.Another catch is that Aqua uses double-buffering for all elements on the screen. This means that the contents of every window, visible or not, are cached into memory so the Quartz effects can be applied without needing a program to refresh the contents at every tick. This is a very good thing because it makes effects such as live window dragging extremely smooth. However, this requires a LOT of memory. In second generation displays, each window only took a few bytes of memory. Usually it was the type of window, the position, and the size. The contents were never stored into real memory, but only blitted to the screen when a program was told specifically to refresh it. With double-buffering, however, each window is stored with that info plus a bitmap of its contents. That means a single 400x800 window takes 1.2 MB of memory. That adds up when you have a lot of windows!!Thus, RAM is absolutely crucial to having a pleasant experience with Mac OS X. Most people say 256 MB should be the "real" minimum for Mac OS X. Fortunately, though, Mac OS X also brings along a modern *nix memory managing system. Between shared memory, resident memory, allocated memory, real memory, and virtual memory, it all gets very complicated... but it works very well. In any case, though, it's best to have as much RAM as you can possible get.(Edited by Bradster at 1:46 pm on Mar. 9, 2002)


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