As a Mac user who is also a full time Windows Developer, being able to run Windows on my Mac is pretty important. While Intel Mac’s do have Boot Camp which allows you to boot into Windows or OSX, I much prefer using a Virtual Machine (VM) instead.
Luckily there are multiple options for running a VM on the Mac. When I first got my Mac and started to look into getting a VM I ended up getting VMWare Fusion 1.0. I was generally quite happy with it. But it only supported displaying on one monitor. They later made the 2.0 release free for owners of the first version and it supported multiple monitors along with being faster and much more integrated into the Operating System. For the most part I was pretty happy with VMWare Fusion 2.0 which allowed me to use Visual Studio and other programs for development tasks. Though sometimes screen redraws were a bit off.
On the Mac platform there are lots of software bundles such as MacHeist which offer multiple programs at a low price and in one of these Bundles I got I got a license to Parallels 4.0. At that time I had read an article comparing VMWare Fusion 2 and Parallels Desktop 4 and shows that Parallels beat out VMWare Fusion speed wise. When I started using Parallels I found that to be my experience that it was much faster, especially in displaying graphics. VMWare 2.0 had some better interface choices and was easier to setup a VM, but Parallels 4 was the superior program overall. I especially liked that the filesystem of the VM was treated like another drive so accessing folders in the VM from OSX was very easy.
When VMWare Fusion 3 came out with support for Windows 7, I switched back to it. My experience with it was pretty solid and there were many improvements made – though the redraw of some windows – especially smaller popup ones in Visual Studio would lag or not redraw properly. Before my beta of this ran out Parallels released version 5 that also had Windows 7 support. For one thing they really improved setting up a VM and the process is much faster now. Graphic wise though it is stunning in that it is easy to forget I am running in an VM in the first place. The integration with OSX is matchless and you really have the best of both worlds in running Windows and OSX side by side as if it was all natively part of the OS. So I ended up buying the upgrade for Parallels.
Parallels pricing and upgrade pricing is certainly higher than VMWare Fusion and I do wish there upgrade pricing was more competitive with VMWare Fusions pricing. Though I guess you get what you pay for and it was certainly worthwhile to upgrade.
MacTech has run some tests comparing the two VM’s and it certainly bears out the obvious difference in speed of displaying graphics. Really quite a remarkable achievement that they have created a product superior to industry leader VMWare.
If you are one of those poor souls such as myself who has to use Windows on their Mac than you might be interested in MacUpdates Promo that offers 10 programs including Parallels Desktop 5 for $49. 00. Though for some the free VM VirtualBox put out by Sun might just meet your needs.
I am a fan of Leo Laporte and his numerous podcasts, but sometimes he just seems to blow hot and cold on a subject.
This weekend Leo was bashing Snow Leopard basically saying the features should have been released as point releases to Leopard instead of charging $29 for Snow Leopard. Of course previously Leo well aware that this OS was mainly a under the hood upgrade seemed to be excited about it and you have to wonder why he seemed so upset about it on TWIT and his talk show. None of the facts about Snow Leopard changed.
Mainly though his new opposition is not very well thought out. For example Snow Leopard drops PowerPC support and this is certainly the direction Apple needed to move in. Since they went with Intel they have been having to maintain support for two processors which both causes code bloat and is a time drag. With roughly only ten percent of Mac users still using PowerPC based systems it is also a timely thing to do and of course Leopard is still a great OS for those users. It just would not be possible to stop PowerPC support as a point release in Leopard. Besides being a major change it would certainly alienate PowerPC users in Leopard. This is rather a major point for a otherwise knowledgeable tech pundit to make.
There are some other behind the scenes changes that breaks support with programs. While compatibility with programs is pretty good, there is certainly a number of programs that don’t currently work with Snow Leopard. Rolling these changes into a point release in Leopard would have been a major disaster. Right now people can wait to upgrade to Snow Leopard at a point of time they are comfortable doing so and the programs they use fully working. This is certainly not the case with point releases for the most part.
As to Leo saying that Snow Leopard should at least have been free considering that on the surface it does not have a bunch of new features is another point I would disagree on. Snow Leopard has been in development for almost two years and while it has a small number of new features a lot of code has been rewritten from Carbon to Cocoa including the Finder which has been totally rewritten. These changes themselves will increase system response and performance. Some of the major additions such as Grand Central and OpenCL are things that will pay off in the future as software developers take advantage of them. No doubt in the future we will see things like iLife and iWork taking advantage of both of these new features. There are many little touches made in the OS also. As an application developer I think it would be silly for a company to spend this much time improving an OS and then charge nothing for the release. It would be one thing if Apple had charged their normal price for an OS version change, but certainly $29 is not unreasonable and of course Apple really never over-hyped the changes in Snow Leopard in the first place. QuickTime X has been totally revamped and now includes features that you had to buy with a Pro version (no Pro version this time at all.) Additionally Quicktime X supports http streaming over any server which certainly is much more cost effective and does not require a specific protocol. Whether http streaming will take off is another thing, but it is certainly a useful feature.
So I believe Leo to be wrong on both points and calling for this to be just a point release really is not defensible.
As someone who loves to read I have long been looking for a decent book catalog program that can keep track of the information I want to keep track of. I have downloaded dozens of programs and they have all fallen short in my criteria. There are also several web sites that do are good for cataloging of books, but they two are not as flexible as I want.
- For one I wanted a program where could easily catalog hardcover/softcover books, books from Project Gutenberg that I have listened to by converting them to speech, Audio books from Librivox, and novels that are podcasted.
- A wish list function where I could track books I would like to read and be able to able to export a list of them.
- Flexible enough that I could track information such as what books I have reviewed.
- Record the date I finished a book.
- Keep series information such as for example the order of a book in a trilogy.
I had even at one point wrote a program in C# that handled most of the functions I wanted and maintained them in a database. But to really develop it to the point I wanted would take a considerable amount of time.
Today though I found the program that performs all the criteria I wished for. Bookpedia by Bruji is a Mac OSX program that is quite beautiful in its functionality.
The interface is very similar to iTunes and is fairly intuitive. It is quite easy to add books and you can do it is several ways. You can type in a title and then have it search locations such as Amazon to get all of the metadata and cover art for the book. You of course can enter a book in manually if it is nowhere to be found A real cool feature is that I could use the built in iSight camera in my iMac to read the barcode from a book. Once it successfully reads the bar code it looks up the book and enters all of the information. Since I already had a database of books I have read over the last couple of years it was important that I could import that data. Bookpedia will read the export format of several popular programs and has a variety of import templates. I was able to convert my database to CSV and then have it import all of my old records.
The Collections pane contains your main library, but you can also add special collections, smart lists, and a borrowed and wish list collection. The smart list lets you define data critera from any field with a number of options and is very flexible I was able to quickly put together a collection of all the books I read last year and this year and was able to find out that I read 160 books last year. When you import a collection it creates a new collection so you can massage your data if necessary before adding it to your main library. You can also export your data in a number of ways to text, html, ftp, and to an iPod. The iPod export functionality works quite well. In the program I wrote I would export a report of wish list items and then manually copy it to my iPod. This way when I was at a bookstore or used bookstore it was quite convenient to refer to the iPod notes to lookup books I wanted.
The metadata for each book entry is extensive and also allows for you to define custom fields for other information you might want to track. There is also a tab for selling information and another that allows you to store links for the specific book or to contain other images. The searching feature works well and includes spotlight information. This works quite well so I can type a name in Spotlight and then select it and have it open the program and display the entry for that book. There is also a full screen mode where you can navigate the covers and select them for more information along with another screen that shows a bunch of statistics along with charts.
This is just a very impressive program and at a price of only $18 is quite a deal. As someone who writes software for a living I was quite happy with the flexibility of this program and how you are able to setup the views just as you want. With most programs there is pretty much always a feature missing that the only thing in Bookpedia that I would want is the ability to import a Amazon wish list. This is just a great Mac program.
I have only been using a Mac since October, but when my Windows machine died last week it didn’t upset me too much even thought the machine was only about 15 months old. I now do everything on my iMac including ironically Windows software development with Visual Studio 2008 via VMWare Fusion which offers great virtualization and I can run XP and Vista at pretty much native speeds on my iMac.
I have long been a fan of text-to-speech capabilities. The Commodore 64 had SAM (Software Automatic Mouth) which was amazing for the time, but not that useful. Later on Windows had SAPI which could be used to listen to text, but it had a tinny robot feel to it.
A couple of years ago I bought Text Aloud with two of the AT&T Natural Voice. These voices were quite good and I have probably listened to over a hundred novels using them. It is great to take older and many time classic texts from sources such as Project Gutenberg and convert them from text to listen to on my computer or iPod.
OSX Leopard has introduced a new voice named Alex that is a leap ahead of their previous voices. I have used it to listen to a couple of novels and the Pope’s new encyclical Spe Salvi and it is certainly of good enough quality for these purposes. In my opinion the AT&T voices are slightly better, but not by much.
One thing that I really like though is that I was able to build a Automator script that would take whatever text I had in TextEdit, convert it using the Alex voice and then have it import into iTunes. This is just so convenient that I will probably just use the Alex voice instead of the AT&T voices on my PC.
Considering the fact that this voice is free in Leopard this is a real bargain. TextAloud costs $35 and it you need to add $25 for the AT&T natural voices. Currently software such as AbleReader for the Mac which uses AT&T voices won’t work on Intel Macs. But I see no real reason that Alex is not perfectly suitable.
There seems to be two terms of art for those people coming from the world of PCs to Mac.
Switcher – Those who are moving totally to the Mac platform.
Slider – Those who are moving back and forth between the two platforms.
I am definitely in the “slider” camp since I make my living writing code for Windows primarily using Microsoft’s Visual Studio and Adobe’s Flash. And while Flash and some other programs I use like Dreamweaver are available on the Mac, it is pretty much all PCs at the workplace. I have been using PCs at home for years. I started computing by learning basic on a school mainframe and then later owned a Commodore 64, Commodore 128, Amiga 500, and then PC compatibles using DOS and then later Windows 2.0 through every version up to Vista (yes even the horrible Windows ME).
Listening to a lot of podcasts both technical and Catholic I was hearing more and more about using Macs. I got an iPod a couple of years ago and I fast became an admirer of its beauty and ease of use after having several portable mp3 devices starting from a Rio MP3 CD player. The iPod was a gateway device for me to start seriously looking at Apple computers and with the advent of the Intel based Macs and the ability to run Windows via both Boot Camp or in a virtual machine using Parallels or VMware Fusion this was the incentive for me to buy my first Apple computer, an iMac.
Being a lifetime geek I love playing with computers, operating systems, and various programs. Being a Catholic we often talk about the concept of both/and instead of either/ or. So I am quite Catholic when it comes to operating systems instead of being Windows or OSX or Linux – why not both/and?
The point of this blog will be exploring the Mac and making the adjustments from being mainly a Windows users and the best interact with both. I will deal with mostly Mac software, but also hardware as it relates to running both a PC and a Mac.