So you want an Apple Mac instead of your Windows PC?
Posted on April 15, 2012
Lately I have receiving an increasing amount of requests asking whether it’s possible to run Astrocalc on an Apple Mac computer? Yes it is, but with a “but”, and I will get to say more about that in a moment. However, it’s astounding how often the question is put forward, after the switch already has been done. It inspired me to write this post which I hope can be supportive to anyone having to face the choice.
Before I continue, I would like to “confess” that Apple Mac is not my personal choice of computer but will nevertheless do my best to stay as objective as possible. But just in case I step on anyone’s toe, this isn’t in any way meant to be another flame shot in the old Microsoft Windows vs. Apple Mac war.
I don’t know if it’s due to the sale pitch by Mercurial salespersons or simply an iPhone/iPad hysteria that’s behind it or what. Maybe it’s just an effective advertising campaign and we shouldn’t of course exclude the possibility of a good product on offer indeed. However, it doesn’t change the need to know a few things before taking the step.
The first thing you need to know is that Apple Mac is a rather small and closed “world”, notwithstanding its late popularity and peaking stock market value. In relative terms, it’s much smaller than Windows and Linux. Sure, it’s a rising start but the higher you climb... What you need to consider here is what implications this may have on your daily computer use in a broader sense? And will it really fulfil all your needs? Being small doesn’t necessarily need to be a bad thing and may even bring advantages, but this will vary from person to person. So here is some basic info I feel you should know before you “change world”, because that is exactly what you are going to do.
On the hardware side, you basically cannot connect it with gadgets and devices that don’t bear the Apple mark, with some limited exceptions. Here I have to admit that my up-to-date knowledge is limited as I don’t follow the Mac hardware market. But from what I know, you can use most modern monitors and printer (except for so called Windows printers that rely on using specific shared Windows resources), plus a few more devices or brands that have been approved by Apple, but that’s about it.
I like to balance the above, though, with saying that on the hardware side is Apple quite complete, you just lack the freedom of greater variety and you usually have to pay extra for it. But even if Apple hardware in general is more expensive than for a Windows PC, this price picture is also a bit distorted by the fact that Windows PC offers more budget alternatives. What it really comes down to is the quality of the components. You can get a Windows PC much cheaper but if you want better quality you also have to pay more for it there. A big hardware advantage with PC is that you can build your own from spare components, while you can’t build a Mac. For me personally it’s important to build my own computer, so case closed there for my part.
The bottom line is that today all systems, be it Apple Mac, Microsoft Windows or Linux, basically are using the same technical hardware components. It used to be different, but now it’s actually more a question of design and form factor that makes a Mac different on the hardware side. The hardware technical advantage it once had is more or less gone.
The big difference is on the system and software side. The Operative System, which is what really defines if a computer is an Apple Mac or Windows Pc, provides the environment where the software will run. Just as a program running on Windows is specially written for that system, the same thing applies to Apple Mac. You can only run programs that are written specifically for your system, be it Mac or Windows, hence you cannot run Astrocalc directly on your Mac as it’s a Windows program.
You will generally find that what’s on offer in software is much more limited than in the Windows or Linux world. It doesn’t mean the supply is poor, just much less to choose from. For some this is a plus, for other not. I would say it depends very much on what kind of software you tend to use and are interested in.
So is there any way to bridge this incompatibility between the 2 worlds? Yes there is and it’s called a Virtual Container or Virtual Desktop, or simply put a Windows Emulator in this case. It’s a special program that creates one or more virtual computers inside your Mac, simulating the PC hardware design. This allows Windows to be installed and you can then run all your Windows programs there, almost as if they where Mac programs. While this used to be an expensive and slow solution, prices have come down today while performance has improved a lot.
I don’t know from personal experience how well these things run on Mac, but on my Windows 7-64 computer I hardly notice any difference, at least as long as I only run 1 virtual at a time. The key factor here is RAM memory but also the speed of the Hard Drive Disc is a factor that comes into play.
But getting a Virtual Container program for your Mac doesn’t have to ruin you. In fact it doesn’t have to cost you anything at all! You can download and install VirtualBox for Mac from Oracle for free, and then install your old version of Windows together with all the programs you won’t find for your Mac. There is also Parallels Desktop for Mac and VMware Fusion but both of them cost about £65/€80/$105.
As for Astrocalc, I know about several customers running it on the latter 2, while I haven’t had any confirmation yet about VirtualBox. However, it should work. Nevertheless, I strongly recommend you to try it first with the Trial version, before you even think of buying our program, no matter which of the virtual solutions you will go for.
As for container program to choose, I can’t really advice you as I don’t have a Mac, and don’t plan to get one. However, you will probably find lots of users sharing their experiences online, which could help you making up your mind. I would probably go for VirtualBox first as it’s free and see if it satisfies my needs, before looking further. The benefit with a product like VirtualBox, apart from the price, is that you’ll often find a bunch of enthusiastic people using it that are willing to help you. But the other 2 also offers a free trial version, and what you need to find out is if the differences are big enough making it worth the money.
Finally, I won’t take a stand in advising you to get a Mac or not. Life always appears easier when someone else make the decisions for you. That is what happens if you let a sales person, or a friend, convince you about that a Mac is the way to go, or that Windows is the way to go etc. You can and should listen to what others have to say, but don’t take for granted that e.g. the guy in the shop actually knows what he’s talking about. His objective is above all to sell, in most cases. You need to look at what your needs are most of all, and if they can be satisfied.
What you shouldn’t listen to though is a person that says Mac is better than Windows, or the other way around. It’s all relative and you won’t really notice if one is 10ms faster than the other etc. Instead it can be of greater importance to look at how it fits in with your personality – Are you a Mac person or a Windows person? Or a Linux person maybe and did you know that you can install Linux on you Mac? Or maybe you just want it to run? In other words, there is no one size fits all, also with computers.
In the end, if you get a Mac and get your Virtual Container in there with Windows, you can trust I will help you just like any Astrocalc user to get it working.