Mac vrs. PC

Bruce Kirchoff kirchoff at turing.uncg.edu
Thu Apr 27 19:58:19 EST 1995


	Back in February I posted a message asking for advice on 
purchasing a new computer.  I promised to post a summary of the 
responses.  Here, much delayed, is the fullfilment of that promise.  The 
respoinses were interesting and informative.  Most people suggested the 
purchase of a Mac given my applications.  Several suggested a PC and one 
suggested a Sparc 5 SX.  I have enclosed a copy of my original post 
followed by the (edited) responses.  I have removed the names of all of 
the people who made suggestions.  I thank all of them for their time and 
effort!  As for my decision . . .  I still have not decided.  I also have 
not had the money, but a new fiscal year is just around the corner - I 
would welcome any aditional commnents that would help me make up my 
mind.
	Thanks.

		Bruce Kirchoff

P.S. I perfer to get email at kirchoff at goodall.uncg.edu (I sent this 
mesage from a different box).

=====================================================================

        I am in the market for a new computer.  As a long time IBM clone

user I am hesitant to switch to Mac, but I want to consider all alternatives.

Here is what I want to do with my computer.



1)  Run Adobie Photoshop to assemble photographic images (from an SEM and

     light microscope) into plates, annotate the plates and print them (to a camera

     attached to the SEM) for publication.

2)  Capture images from a high resolution video camera (1000 lines TV, horizontal)

     attached to a light microscope.

3)  Store and back up to tape many images.  I want a least a 1 gig drive and a 

     large tape back up system.

4)  Prepare multimedia presentation for use in class.

5)  I will be connected to a network connected to the internet.

6)  Run drawing programs such as Adobie Illistrator and Professional Draw.  I 

     make diagrams for publication with these programs.

7)  Run normal world processing and database software.  My database (over

     3000 references) is in a DOS program (Procite) and may be difficult to convert.

8)  Do all of the above with good performance.



        What computer would you recomend I purchase?  What options

should I buy?  Do you have a favorite manufacturer for the video and frame

grabber boards for the IBM (or Mac)?  I am interested in any information that

might be helpful.



**************

Based on your brief description and my experience (I am an IBM clone user myself)

if the above two items are the most critical items on your list, go with a Mac.

Adobe Photoshop on a Mac is fantastic for enhancing and assembling images.

Additionally, there is more public domain imaging software available

for the Mac (i.e.  NIH Image).  One additional resource, depending on your

funding, is Biological Detection Systems Inc. (based in Maryland, but with

offices in Pheonix, etc.)  They are expensive, but the software they have

available is the absolute best biological imaging and analysis software

I have ever used.



>3)  Store and back up to tape many images.  I want a least a 1 gig drive and a 

>     large tape back up system.



Rather than a tape backup system, I would suggest either a magneto -optical drive

giving you approx. a gig per "disk".  Or a smaller floptical drive (20mb/disk).

Both systems use similar technology... an etched "disk" accessed via laser.

there are virtually no read/write errors or other media problems.  These storage

devices are essentially error free and relative to other types of media, virtually

indestructable.  The MO drives are approx. $1000-$3000.  The floptical drives are

approx. $300.  Disks run approx. $100 for the MO and $20 for the floptical.   



>5)  I will be connected to a network connected to the internet.



This is almost a tie, but I lean toward the Mac.  The software available for 

internet access on the Mac is easier to use and has been less commercialized.



>6)  Run drawing programs such as Adobie Illistrator and Professional Draw.  I 

>     make diagrams for publication with these programs.



Using a combination of Adobe Photoshop and Canvas (both on a Mac), diagrams,

drawings, and images with text, etc. are publication quality.  I would also give Mac

the edge in this catagory.



>7)  Run normal world processing and database software.  My database (over

>     3000 references) is in a DOS program (Procite) and may be difficult to convert.



Word processing is a dead even tie.  Databases, I would lean toward the power

of an IBM (I program in many XBase languages... dBase, Clipper, FoxPro).  However,

I have not had the opportunity to test drive a new PowerPC.   Even if there is no Mac

 equivalent of Procite, database conversion to a Mac is really not a problem

if you can generate delimited ASCII files from Procite.  If you can do this, almost

any Mac database package will allow the conversion. 



Buy a Mac.



> What options should I buy?  



Get a PowerPC (this will also let you run DOS and Windows software).



A minimum 500mb hardrive (1 gig preferred).



2 meg of video RAM with a minimum 24 bit video card (make certain

the video card will handle the size of your monitor @16.7 million colors.



The more RAM you have the better.  I would suggest a minimum 20mb.



An MO drive (if affordable), a floptical if not.



>Do you have a favorite manufacturer for the video and frame

>grabber boards for the IBM (or Mac)?  I am interested in any information that

>might be helpful.



Check with BDS Image on systems they might have which are specifically

tailored to your research.  Even if they have nothing available, they generally

know of someone who does.



*******

How about a Sparc 5 SX. A free copy of Adobe Photoshop

comes with it. Also Wabi or SoftWindows from Insignia

is available to do the Windows applications. Liken is

available to do the Mac applications also, including

being able to do appleshare right on the Unix box.



*****

I would have to say Mac.  You are going to be creating a lot of compound

documents requiring a lot of cutting and pasting between applications.  The

Mac outstrips the PC on this score due to the way it categorises text, 

quickdraw and bit-mapped elements.



Adobe Photoshop has some plug-ins for frame grabber

cards and if I remember correctly, one of the best for Mac integration is

the Scion LG-3 $895 and needs a CRGB-LG3 cable for colour capture.  This

is the card optimized for NIH Image 1.54 too.



********

For doing image processing work, your best bet (besides a $30,000 SGI

workstation) would be to get a power mac 8100/100MHz (or equivalent at the

time of purchase) and Adobe Photoshop 3.0.  Especially if you plan to use

any third party/custom phtoshop filters.  There is a whole industry worth

of these available for the Mac version of Photoshop that are not yet

available to the windows version.



> 2)  Capture images from a high resolution video camera (1000 lines TV,

> horizontal) attached to a light microscope.



There are quite a few options available here, although I don't know the

details.  Later this spring, Apple will be introducing the next line of

PowerMacs that will come with PCI bus slots (this is the standard

interface used in DOS machines).  This means you will be able to use PC

frame grabber boards in your power mac, as long as the manufacturer

updates their driver.  (The PCI-powerMacs will be using the new industry

standard Open Firmware spec for PCI card drivers).



If you will be doing any quantitative studies on captured images, there is

nothing better than NIH-Image for the PowerMac.  Written by Wayne Rasbad

of NIH, we use it to count silver grains for in situ hybridizaiton, and to

count Fos-IR cell bodies.  Programs of comparable function for Mac or PC

start at about $2000.  You can't beat that vaulue.  THe program even has

its own user-support mailing list, and can use most adobe phtotoshop plug

ins.



> 3)  Store and back up to tape many images.  I want a least a 1 gig drive

and a  large tape back up system.



Since the Mac uses SCSI interfaces for hard disks, you can buy any SCSI

drive for your mac that you could get for your PC.  Some comanies now

offer SCSI-tower sized storage modules that have 8-10 gigs of HD space. 

In either platform, getting plenty of hard sisk space will not be a

problem.  The same goes for tape drives.  There are many available for

both platforms.



> 4)  Prepare multimedia presentation for use in class.



If you're serious about this, I would definitely give preference to the

mac and its quicktime technologies.  Titles designed around Quicktime on a

mac can be easily ported to QuickTime for windows.  Apple has also

released QuickTime VR, that you can use to paste together series of 2-D

phtographs into fully functional 3-D landscapes.  Also to be released will

be QuickTime 3-D, allowing any mac program to use/manipulate/render 3-D

images.



> 6)  Run drawing programs such as Adobie Illistrator and Professional Draw.  I 

>      make diagrams for publication with these programs.



Again, any intesive graphics based work is still best done on a PowerMac. 

I frequently use the PowerMac version of Adobe Illustrator 5.5, and the

speed of screen redraws and zoom-ins is wonderful.



*******

Buy the Mac, either the 7100/80 (~ 2.5K base price) or the 8100/100

(sounds like you can use it).  Much of the stuff you want (large disk,

tape backup, etc) is readily available on the Mac but requires the

purchase of a SCSI adapter, with lots of potential incompatibilities,

on the Mac.



The Mac will be far more reliable running lots of things at the same

time and networking is far far easier.  No TSR's, no QEMM, no high

memory conflicts.  I don't think converting procite to something else

will be difficult (I use Endnote).



******

>7)  Run normal world processing and database software.  My database (over

>     3000 references) is in a DOS program (Procite) and may be difficult to convert.



I use ProCite on my Mac - you shouldn't have any problem converting.



*******

I also was an IBM-freak, but reccommend a PowerMac with built in video

(AV). When interacting with the net mac is ten times more reliable than

PC. 



********

I'd go with the Pentium and Windows NT



********

I know quite a few people (myself included), who have worked a few years

on DOS and/or Windows machines when they were forced to use a Mac. Nobody

of them wants to miss the Mac now.

 

> 2)  Capture images from a high resolution video camera (1000 lines TV,

horizontal) attached to a light microscope.



I do not want to recommend a special grabber card, but the free image

processing software NIH-Image (available from ftp://zippy.nimh.nih.gov)

alone makes it worth to buy a Mac for that task. I do not know of a

comparable free Windows program. And you have a mailing list of several

hundred people working with NIH-image.



> 8)  Do all of the above with good performance.



We also have some Windows machines here. 9 out of 10 problems are with the

IBM clones. I would go for a Mac. When you look at the prices, you will

see that they are no longer more expansive.



******

I also have been using DOS machines since the Osborne was popular, b

ut after working on a Mac at work for a few years in the lab and my clone at ho

me - I took the plunge last fall and upgraded to a Power PC figuring that I cou

ld always run most of my DOS software on it if I needed to.  Haven't loaded any

 of it on to date.  The native code stuff is so much more of a joy to work with

.  The machine I am parlaying for now at a possible job is an 8100/100 with a g

ig HD and a 17 or better screen and 16 or better MB ram with 2 MB video ram so

that I can develop some teaching aides using multimedia formats.  One warning t

hough... watch out for Microsoft products.  I got their new Office for Power PC

 and ended up switching back to the emulation mode software as it runs better.

 I would drop it al together but need to be compatable with the other researche

rs at the lab and they use word and excel etc.  I am going to try and talk MS i

nto coming out with a downgrade = the old softare but written in native code.

Scanners and importing etc is strange.  It is supposed to be much better on Mac

s but the photoshop we use at work (2.5LE) imports images with much less resolu

tion and clarity than the Correl package on the pentium.  I don't know what the

 situation would be with the Power PC.  I don't know if this rambling helps - b

ut there you go...



*******

Is your SEM one of the new crop of digital machines or are you going to

attach a frame grabber (as we have done)?  If the latter, give me a call and

we'll have a chat because it will definitely influence your choice of

platform (and I know of a very good, cheap hi-res grabber for SEM's).



As for computers and peripherals, there are lots of issues to mull over;



* Currently, IMHO, DOS is a dog, Windows is braindead and Mac (while lovely

to use) is underpowered and undersupported in software.  The near future

will change all this with Windows ditching DOS (I believe) and Mac going

with PowerPC.  This should be an enormous leap forward for our types of

applications but, like me, you probably have limited funds (the new stuff

will be expensive) and you need to get something happening NOW.



* For image processing and plate-making you should have as much grunt as you

can get, which means a fast Pentium or a PowerPC (as long as you can find

all the software you use written in native PowerPC - yes, more purchases).



* Have you considered putting the frame grabber(s) into a cheap 386/486 and

linking this to your high speed computer?  Windows for Workgroups comes

standard on most new computers and requires only 2 cheap Comm. cards and a

cable (ca.$100) to get them talking to each other.  As image acquisition

tends to be pretty slow, an old computer is all that's required for

grabbing, while image processing needs grunt.  You can have users grabbing

and storing on an old computer while you call-up images for processing or

writing to CD on the new lightning machine.



* Have you considered saving images on CD?  This is the way we are going.

The cost of CD writers has tumbled in the last 18 months and makes them very

attractive, given that most of the people for whom we do work have CD drives

in their computers and search & recover times are FAR quicker than tape.

Depending whether the software compiles a virtual CD on the HDD or just

constructs a "roadmap" to the relevent files, you'd need either a 1.5-2GB or

1.2GB HDD repectively.



In the end I think you'll probably have to go IBM clone but the PowerPCseems

to promise the best of both worlds.



______________________________________________________________________________
Bruce Kirchoff   Department of Biology   UNCG   kirchoff at turing.uncg.edu





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