MAC instead of PC

General discussion about Celestia that doesn't fit into other forums.
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Chuft-Captain
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MAC instead of PC

Post #1by Chuft-Captain » 22.03.2012, 23:14

Hi guys,

Thanks to all those who responded to my benchmarking thread.
Since then I have been doing some further investigation, and rather than building a new PC as mentioned in that thread, after years of using PC's I am now seriously considering taking the plunge and getting a MAC.

In the past, because all my work (professionally and otherwise) has been PC based, it was not an option, but these days with the advent of OS X Lion, Intel based MACs, there seems to be a better chance of making the switch without losing the years of investment in the PC space.

There are a number of ways to run Windows 7 on a MAC.
    Firstly, there is Bootcamp, which is basically the MAC equivalent of a dual-boot partition on a PC. This requires the OS (MAC or WINDOWS) to be chosen at startup, and therefore I assume it will be running Windows natively, so hopefully there shouldn't be too many issues with this approach. (Presumedly, it would also be possible to have a third boot partition with Linux installed).
    Secondly, there are a number of virtualization products available at extra cost, which allow you to switch between OS's at any time, and/or run WINDOWS apps directly from within the MAC environment. -- The products I'm aware of are "Parallels" (from Apple) and "Fusion" from VMWARE.

Personally, I like the idea of being able to switch between the two OS's instantly, and a MAC salesman assured me that running Windows with "Parallels" was "identical" to running it on a PC. However, you can never trust a salesman to tell you the downside, and I'm sure there must be a downside in the "virtualization" approach, either in performance, or compatibility with drivers, printers, USB drives formatted with NTFS, etc.

So I was wondering if anyone here runs WINDOWS on a MAC in conjunction with OS X Lion, in any of these configurations, either bootcamp or with "Parallels" or "Fusion".
If so, would you please describe your experiences regarding performance, compatibility, and any other issues you might have encountered.

The issues that might be deal-breakers for me would be:
    1. If performance (particularly 3D graphics framerates) is significantly compromised,
    2. If some legacy windows apps cannot be run,
    3. or if legacy data or peripherals (ie. NTFS format drives, network printers, etc) cannot be accessed
in any of these configurations.

The options for me are probably:
    MacBook PRO - portable, but may not perform well in terms of 3D graphics
    iMAC - Nice (although very glossy) 27" screen, but the graphics performance may be compromised wrt. 3D stuff, when compared to the PC spec I detailed in the benchmarking thread.
    -- The iMAC uses a Radeon mobile chipset (HD 6970M), which, according to Passmark is not at all bad as far as mobile chipsets go, but is still down on the Nvidea GTX 560 Ti. (score of 2,616 marks vs 2983)
    A MAC Pro is the other option (and will certainly have the best graphics performance), but probably a bit expensive for me.

Any descriptions of your experiences regarding any of the above would be appreciated.

Cheers
CC

PS. Please, no fanboy style "just get a MAC, they're superior" type comments.
I'm only interested in open-minded objective advice based on actual experience if possible. If I'm to fork out $thousands on a platform I've never used before (and risk losing previous work), I'd rather any advice received was based on fact, or at least a considered opinion, rather than emotion. :wink:
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John Van Vliet
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Re: MAC instead of PC

Post #2by John Van Vliet » 23.03.2012, 00:07

--- edit ---
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selden
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Re: MAC instead of PC

Post #3by selden » 23.03.2012, 00:29

CC, as you say, you really need to get information about such an environment from someone who actually uses it. I'd suggest asking on a Mac support forum.

I can't speak to how well Parallels works, but I do know that most of the other VM products provide very poor OpenGL support to the guest VirtualMachine. The VM software has to provide simulated graphics hardware and thus the VM vendor has to provide their own graphics drivers. I have some experience trying to run Celestia in a guest Windows VM on a Windows host using VirtualBox. It does not work very well. Although they try to provide "pass-through" access to the host's graphics hardware, it's very buggy. Dual-booting would be a better option so far as graphics support is concerned.
Selden

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Re: MAC instead of PC

Post #4by Chuft-Captain » 23.03.2012, 01:33

john Van Vliet wrote:you will be locked into using mostly apple purchased $$$ software ....
you are paying for a "brand name"
Hi John,
That's been the impression I have formed in the past, but I'm not sure that it completely holds true these days. There seem to be some signs that their pricing strategy is changing a little in order to capture/convert some of the traditional PC market (I guess because they CAN now with the Intel hardware). One way they seem to be doing this is providing some software only in download form, rather than boxed. eg. LogicPRO ~ $200 (previously boxed version was $700 - $900 I think.) Good price decrease, but pity it's D/L only.

As for being locked in, I think that as long as as you can install Windows (and Linux) and there's no significant performance/compatibility issues, then theoretically you're not locked in at all. You can use the OS/software combination that's best for the task. eg. For music, this may be Logic PRO on the MAC desktop, for 3D graphics, it may be Windows. If the alternative OS, whether it's Windows or Linux, performs without significant issues on a MAC, then you have complete choice to buy software for that OS if you prefer it over similar MAC software. (But, this is all dependent on whether their implementation really does allow identical functionality to a PC based implementation).

selden wrote: I'd suggest asking on a Mac support forum.
Good idea, but I'm a little wary of the fanboys on MAC forums. :)

selden wrote:... most of the other VM products provide very poor OpenGL support to the guest VirtualMachine. The VM software has to provide simulated graphics hardware and thus the VM vendor has to provide their own graphics drivers.
I've seen some comments about that in the past, and this one of my main concerns. I am hopeful that Apple have worked with the graphics vendor to provide some sort of direct access to the graphics hardware from within Parallels, perhaps some sort of low-level API. This would still have an overhead, but would be a vast improvement over emulated drivers I would think.

Cheers
CC
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bh
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Re: MAC instead of PC

Post #5by bh » 23.03.2012, 07:34

Hi Chuft... you will love the mac experience...I can guarantee that.

You'll have no probs with soft... I use most of the regulars with no probs, Photoshop for my photography, Bryce and Vue for 3D, Dreamweaver for web, although I mostly use a text editor these days (must get my site fixed).

There are many free apps out there which can do the same as these.

My only niggle is with Celestia.

I bought a low end mac with only 1GB of RAM and a horrible built-in graphics chipset.

You'll be fine with what you're proposing...

Enjoy!
regards...bh.

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Re: MAC instead of PC

Post #6by Chuft-Captain » 24.03.2012, 01:01

bh wrote:Hi Chuft... you will love the mac experience...I can guarantee that.
I detect a subtle whiff of "fanboy" in your reply Bob, but thanks anyway. :wink:

Actually, I'm not at all concerned about the MAC side of things, as I'm sure any MAC based apps will run fine, the only concern I have is... how well windows apps will run on the MAC hardware. As Selden mentioned, virtual machines (at least in the PC world) are often crippled for graphics (and other) driver support. This is a concern for me if the same is true of the MAC VM's as I would still want to do openGL work (ie. Celestia addon development) in the Windows OS, rather than the MAC OS, so I'm trying to find out if anyone has any experience of using "Parallels" or "Fusion".
At the end of the day, bootcamp might be the only practical way to do so.

Aside from that, I've always wondered how Celestia installations are structured in the MacOS.
Can anyone tell me if you are free to put extras, executables, and config files anywhere you like, and then use custom shortcuts to control which extras foilder gets loaded, as described here: http://www.shatters.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=8336
Is this possible on a MAC or is it more restrictive?

Cheers
CC
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Re: MAC instead of PC

Post #7by John Van Vliet » 24.03.2012, 02:25

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Re: MAC instead of PC

Post #8by bh » 24.03.2012, 09:05

The Celestia directory structure is straightforward on mac... you have to navigate to 'Applications/Celestia' then right click 'Show package contents' then nav to 'Extras- standard' for add-ons for example...
regards...bh.

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Re: MAC instead of PC

Post #9by Chuft-Captain » 26.03.2012, 04:21

Sorry,
I think you've misunderstood me. I'm sure the standard configuration on MAC is quite straightforward as you say, but what I'm trying to find out is if it is possible to customise how you run Celestia and load addons on the MAC.

When developing addons, many restarts of Celestia are typically required between modifications, so it saves a lot of time to be able to load only those specific addons you're working on at each restart.

1. On PC, you can specify where extras are located with the following line in the celestia.cfg file:
ExtrasDirectories [ "extras-standard" "extras" ]
and addons can be located anywhere you like.
So, I would typically create a custom version of the celestia.cfg file with the directive modified to load only the addons I need at the time...

For example...in this case, the standard extras that ship with Celestia, plus those addons which I always load, followed by my Quake addons:
ExtrasDirectories [ "extras-standard" "C:\\Celestia 1.6.0 extras\\_always" "C:\\Celestia 1.6.0 extras\\Quakes" ]
This is then saved with a unique name such as "celestia-quakes.cfg".

2. The second thing you need to do is to make sure you have a windows shortcut which will start Celestia using this configuration file, rather than the default one.
The standard shortcut has the following properties:
celestia-shortcut.PNG


All that needs to be done now is to take a copy of the shortcut, and modify the target specification by appending a "--conf" tag, in order to specify the location of the custom config file:
"C:\Program Files\Celestia\celestia.exe" --conf "C:\Celestia 1.6.0 config\celestia-quakes.cfg"

So, I can now click on this shortcut to start Celestia while loading only a specific set of addons (without having to drag addon folders in and out of the standard extras folder).

So, the question I have is whether MAC allows an analogous re-direction of application-shortcuts, widgets?...(or whatever they're called in MacOS) to a custom config file.
(Note: I'm assuming the MAC version of the CFG file also allows the use of the ExtrasDirectories directive.

CC
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Re: MAC instead of PC

Post #10by John Van Vliet » 26.03.2012, 08:12

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Re: MAC instead of PC

Post #11by Chuft-Captain » 29.03.2012, 10:22

Thanks John,

It looks like the same capabilities are available in the MacOS, just a different way to achieve the same result (which may be more or less difficult to do in one platform over the other).

At this stage, I'm leaning towards staying with a PC for the folowing reasons:
An i-Mac is really just a big laptop, so comes with diminished graphics performance and less future expandability/flexibility. I was tempted at first as it comes with a nice big 27" screen... Unfortunately this is very glossy, and not available in a matt finish, so for apps with a dark background like Celestia, my impression is that it is difficult to see what you are doing for all the reflections.
The other big thing in favor of the i-Mac is being able to have all three platforms on the same hardware, but I'm not sure that I can live with the lower performance.

.. So that leaves only one other option: a full Mac-Pro tower which would probably come close to the PC in performance, would give the option of all 3 OS's ...Mac/Windows/Linux by using bootcamp, but also comes at a great $cost (probably 2x the cost of an equivalent PC)
That's hard to justify.

Cheers
CC
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Re: MAC instead of PC

Post #12by Cham » 29.03.2012, 18:16

Chuft,

you're wrong about the video capabilities of the current iMacs. I run Celestia on an already old Mac mini (2010, with a 20" screen) and on a 13" MacBook Pro (2010), which are using lower video cards than on the current iMac. And yet, my version of Celestia is running perfectly, without a glitch (with HUGE textures and 3D models, FSAA, etc).

The current Mac mini is using a better video card than in mine.

By the way, we write "Mac", not "MAC".
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Re: MAC instead of PC

Post #13by selden » 29.03.2012, 18:27

(MAC = Media Access Control; used to designate low-level network protocols. As in "My computer's ethernet MAC address is 12:34:56:78:90:12")
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Re: MAC instead of PC

Post #14by julesstoop » 07.04.2012, 19:01

Please stop saying that people who prefer Mac OS to Windows (or Macs to other PC's) are fanboys. It makes me a little sad. The trade is actually very simple. Apple doesn't make 'cheap' products and that's something you pay for. In return you get a balanced out system which is a pleasure to use. The adage 'it just works' is mostly true. The fact that I enjoy this experience and would actually care to recommend it to people, doesn't make me a 'fanboy', it shows that I'm empathetic.

Anyhow. A vanilla Mac OS install is generally slightly behind the curve with regards to 3D speed (compared to Windows, I don't know about Linux), but my iMac can run Celestia just fine on OS X. Secondly.. How long does it take for a Windows install to show it's not 'vanilla' anymore? OS X ages very gracefully, if at all, whereas Windows tends to ask for quite some maintenance (in my personal experience).
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Re: MAC instead of PC

Post #15by Chuft-Captain » 21.05.2012, 14:23

Mac guys...
I'm sure that you're right. I'm certain now that the poor performances that I experienced in my investigations was due to the use of emulated drivers when running Windows in a VM.
In the end, as I've always developed addons in the PC environment, I decided to stick with what I'm familiar with. If the VM (Parallels) had offered better driver support, I may have been persuaded to go the Mac route, but it was not to be.

Thanks for all the helpful feedback guys.
Cheers
CC
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