View Full Version : Potential Convert Questions

2005-02-15, 14:12
I am considering trying out my first Mac since my Apple IIsi, and I could use some advice. My Thinkpad T21's motherboard recently died and I am now debating between going Big Blue again or perhaps giving Apple a shot (in particular the new PowerBook 15" w/ 1.5GHz G4 521MB RAM). If I do stay on the PC side, I will likely go with the IBM Thinkpad T43 (15" 4.9lbs, P-M 1.86 512MB RAM). The only OS on my T21 for the last year has been Linux, and so any experiences with dual booting OSX with Yellow Dog Linux would be appreciated.

I recently read the excellent article by Anand of anandtech.com on his recent adventures with the PowerBook, and I feel I'm in a similar situation. My primary concerns are the mouse (I will greatly miss the trackpoint, scroll wheel, and second mouse button) and software. The software I'm particularly worried about is PSPICE (a circuit simulator I'm sure most electrical engineers are familiar with); is there a Mac version available (preferably with a student price)? Also I noticed work on porting OpenOffice.org to the Mac isn't going as smoothly and I was wondering how well the standard word processing suite that comes with the PB integrates with OpenOffice (what my desktop PC uses) and MS Office?

Also how does the G4 fare against the Pentium M? I understand quite well the difference in architecture and know a straight comparison isn't fair. What is fair though is a practical comparison of how long it would take similar tasks to complete. I have been trying to find benchmarks on how long it takes iTunes (with error protection disabled) to encode a 5 minute arbitrary song (w/ a 1.5GHz G4 512MB RAM) . Another comparison I would love to see is how long it takes to compress an arbitrary 2 hour DVD to XVid (not counting time to rip, just transcode) say 1200Kbps with the audio passed through. I know how long it takes my PC to do such tasks so it'd allow me see the scale.

I visited my local Apple store but made the mistake of talking to a sales associate and not a "genius," after doing research I found half the stuff he told me was BS (as I suspected at the time). Also is there any good Apple newsgroups on USENET?

One last thing, I read the Apple wireless card is not supported under Linux yet (it uses the closed source Broadcom chipset), is this true? I have my old Orinoco Silver card, but that'd be a hassle to use every time I want to boot Linux.

I'll likely be making my decision in the next couple days, so thanks in advance for any help & suggestions.

2005-02-15, 21:14
Well, I can't answer many of your questions, so I was going to let someone else handle everything. Since you've gotten no reply yet, I'll tell you what I know.
First Issue: The mouse. Basically any USB mouse you currently own will work with a Mac. If you don't already own one...same deal, buy anyone you like, they'll work. As far as the trackpad, of course, there's not much you can do about that missing second button (but while using it, remember cntrl+click=right click)
Second Issue: Office. I don't know anything about Open Office, so I can't help you there, but AppleWorks, the included word processor doesn't play real well with Word (I don't have AW and don't ever use it, but this is the impression I get). Apple's new Word Processor, Pages, should integrate much better (and I think TextEdit, the basic text editing software included, opens and saves as .doc (I think)). Of course, MS Office is available for Mac, so if you're worried, you can just pick that up and should have no problems.

Those are the questions I can answer. I hope I've been some help, and I hope someone who knows more than I can answer your remaining questions.

2005-02-15, 22:19
MS Office works nearly perfectly cross-platform.

2005-02-15, 23:03
To answer with some linkage:

For PSPICE try: http://www.versiontracker.com/dyn/moreinfo/macosx/2671 or http://www.versiontracker.com/dyn/moreinfo/macosx/18712 If you're comfortable with the command line I believe there are SPICE tools available for UNIX.
For Open Office try: http://www.neooffice.org/

As far as encoding comparisons it's really hard to say. It depends on which encoder and application you are using, wether you enable 1 or 2 pass etc... I've never seen a Pentium M /G4 comparison of this kind, all things taken as same, so I'm not sure. That said here is a totally meaningless comparison chart: http://www.systemshootouts.org/shootouts/laptop/2005/0131_lt2000.html

The Airport Extreme Card is not supported by YDL. http://www.yellowdoglinux.com/support/hardware/breakdown/index.php?hw_cat_id=4 I've heard that Linux support for 802.11g is poor in general though. I don't know about other distros however.

I enjoyed that article over at anandtech, good, though he missed some obvious stuff...

2005-02-16, 00:42
Thanks for the responses thus far; I'm still considering the whole situation. The PSPICE alternatives are both interesting, unfortunately, the second link (MI-SUGAR) is no longer being developed (the developer is leaving the Mac platform). I had heard of Neo-Office, unfortunately I also heard the performance is sub-par (any first hand experiences?). As to the encoding tests, I'd say it'd be fair enough to compare MP3 encoding times in iTunes (again, a generic 5 min song w/ error checking off). I don't know what Xvid encoders are available for OS X, but on the x86 side I use transcode and would be happy to provide my xvid.conf file if someone has the time to test it out. I'm aware I can use an external mouse, but I don't like having to always carry it with me. Even with the keyboard button I can press to right click I'll still miss the convience of the scroll wheen and third mouse button. So I just want to be sure, there's no third party that offers a dual button mouse/trackpad that can be physically swapped for the one provided by Apple (seems like a fairly obvious product)?

2005-02-16, 01:02
OpenOffice on the Mac, unfortunately, isn't in such super shape. I hear NeoOffice isn't so bad -- at least in comparison to the non-Java version of OO floating around out there.... but having not used it, I won't comment.

Good Office alternatives: AbiWord, iWork (Apple's still-in-development but promising and very well-priced Office solution), TeXShop (LaTex). For basic .doc compatibility, even OS X's simplest text editor, TextEdit, can open and save .doc files, so it all depends what you need.

I don't know of any trackpad alternatives off-hand, but there's a popular piece of shareware called Sidetrack which adds a bevy of additions to the Powerbook trackpad, including designating areas of the pad for scrolling, contextual-menus, etc. Check it out. (It'll have to be updated for the just-released new PBs, but you can bet that's coming soon.) Either that and/or a two-button mouse is your best bet.

By the way, I've had a 1.25 15" PowerBook for the past year and a half, and I pretty much adore it. If Apple didn't exist I'd go with a ThinkPad in a heartbeat, but Apple does exist and thank goodness -- the PowerBook is gorgeous and OS X is a sheer pleasure. Good luck w/ your decision.

2005-02-16, 07:15
The new powerbooks also have scrolling trackpads built-in.

2005-02-17, 02:56
Sidetrack sounds like a great product, it's a shame that it doesn't work with the new PB's yet. Actually most of the features offered by it are available on the Thinkpad trackpad by default (though I'm still impartial to the trackpoint -- much easier to use & type simultaneously). I'm still a bit nebulous how the new scrolling trackpads work; hopefully tomorrow I can go back to the Apple store when it's not crowded and get some more first hand experience.

2005-02-17, 03:47
Apart from the advice above - you mention a mouse.

I was a single button user for years - used pc's as well with all different types of mice, trackballs etc; - finally I got around to forgoing Cntrl click, on the advice of another editor friend, and bought a M$ wireless tellisporer thingie, 6 button-scrolly-tilt the middle wheel doohickey mainly for use with FCP.

I freak'n love it - so don't worry about the mouse - you can program the buttons for specific apps - stable, never had an issue with it, apart from the simple fact that Apple should be selling these as well.

Dang it - still miss the hockey puck look, though ...