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PC or Mac: help me choose!!

  • I need some help over here! Let me set the stage. I work for an environmental NP and currently have a Dell laptop at the office. I need a laptop because I work from home a day or two a week, field work, and somtimes I moderate training session my org puts on and I connct my laptop to the ME Departmet of Education's Distance Learning Program system. It allows us to hold a training session in one location and broadcast to remote locations in a full mesh (video and audio), switching between a number of electronic devices (laptop, instructor/student/ document camera, VCR/DVD player, etc.). I have a docking station and a secondary monitor set up as an expanded view (therefore, dual monitors...and I love that). I use primarily 2003 MS Office products every day. I also have Adobe Standard 6.0, Photoshop Elements 3.0, ArcGIS/Arc View to name a few of the softwares. I use publisher to publish brochures, signs, an posters for our training dept and annual conference. I regularly use all these softwares within the course of a week. Recently, my deputy ED has asked me if I'd be interested in taking over another task...publishing our newsletters. We currently have two newsletters, may be increasing though. I told her I wanted to do some research on DTP software. From what I've found, I really seem to like InDesign. I've been getting by on '03 Publisher but I'm worried that with the addition of newletters that publisher will not be a sufficient product for my needs and will be quite limiting. thoughts? Recommendations?

    So that was the easy question! hahaha. At the same time, I have run into the issue of consming all my hard drive space. I've cleaned out as much data as I can and rid the system of unused programs, but I'm still left with only about 600MB on my local problems yet. My laptop is about coming up on 4 years old and seems to be really tired! With all my issues and possibly a heafty new software bundle (above's question) the answer seems quite clear that a new computer is on the way soon. I have GIS data on my local drive that needs to remain there because I'm not always in the office and if I store it elsewhere (e.g, external harddrive or server) everytime I unhook from either of these, I have to reconnect all the link and essentially recreate all my maps. My question, Should I get a Mac (was thinking of the MacBook Pro) or get another PC? I've always only ever used PCs. Sorry for the long email, but thanks for your help.


    Jason Blais, Communications & Technology Coordinator

    Maine Rural Water Association

  • First, I heartily recommend InDesign over Publisher. We started using InDesign about a year ago, and our layout person swears by it.

    On the issue of Mac vs. PC, most of the answers you get will probably depend on what the person doing the answering uses, but sometimes the path of least resistance is best. If you're used to using one system, and it works well for you, you might not want to switch unless there's a compelling reason.

    In your situation, the first thing I'd do is make a list of all of the software you use, and whether there are both Mac and PC versions available. If some of the software is only available for PC, and a switch to Mac would require you to run a virtual machine to use Windows anyway, that would be another factor arguing in favor of sticking to the PC platform.

    Mike Kirros IS Coordinator Clean Water Action/Clean Water Fund Midwest Regional Office

  • PC... Windows machines are cheaper to buy and cheaper to support. Cheaper to buy means you can get more power for less money, which will make you and your boss happy.

    Also, there's more software and technicians available for PCs.

    And Windows plays nice with other devices and networks (like corporate networks and probably the ME's DOE Distance Learning Program) with less effort than Macs.

    Plus, you're already using a PC for these tasks. Without a compelling reason to change an already functioning system, stick with what works. K.I.S.S. is my rule for these things.
    Chris Broussard Director of I.T. Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations
  • Thanks for the help. I also messaged one of my former college roommates, who now works for apple, and posed him the same questions. As soon as he read that I use GIS software ArcGIS, he closed up shop. He told me that Arc GIS only runs on Windows. Period.

    thanks for all your help

    Jason Blais, Communications & Technology Coordinator

    Maine Rural Water Association

  • The fact that it only runs on windows does not prohibit you from getting a Mac, does it?

    Aren't there Macs that can dual boot to a Windows operating system when necessary?

    Since I dont have much experience with computers named after fruit, I might be remembering incorrectly.

    Tim Claremont
    Systems Administrator
    Rochester, NY

  • Most of the newer Macs can dual boot, but dual boot means you are running only Windows or only Mac OS X, not both. With Parallels or some other virtual machine software, you can run both Windows and Mac OS X at the same time.

    However in this case the biggest issue is why go to all the trouble, cost, learning curve, etc. for running such a setup for the one piece of software that requires it (InDesign does have a Windows version). In this case the best tool really would be a PC. He knows PCs, they are cheaper, and there is no messing around with dual booting or running virtual machines.

    I just don't see any compelling reason personally or from a business perspective to recommend a Mac.
  • I recommend Macs all the time and in this case I agree, a PC would be best.

    When getting the PC, you might want to make sure you're getting Windows Vista Business, as this includes a downgrade right to Windows XP Pro. It may also be possible to have your vendor install Windows XP Pro for you.

    Don't forget to load up the maximum amount of RAM on the system. A dual core processor would also be very nice for you.

    Chris Shipley
    Nutmeg Consulting

  • Thanks for all the helpful comments. I'm quite sure I'll be getting a PC with lots of RAM (hopefully at least 4GB), a spacious hard drive, and dual core (quad maybe??) processor. Our more involved IT issues are outsourced, and I've discussed this with her as well, she also supports a powerful/higher end PC.

    Jason Blais, Communications & Technology Coordinator

    Maine Rural Water Association

  • If you do want more than 4GB of RAM, you'll need to run a 64-bit operating system. This can be problematic with some software and especially hardware, so you may want to just limit yourself to 4GB.

    Chris Shipley
    Nutmeg Consulting

  • Stay with a 32 bit operating system....the 64 bit operating systems still have some driver issues.

    Since your a business you should go with Vista Business. Try it first before you consider downgrading to XP. XP still works just fine...but once you get past all the scare tactic online hype out there....Vista really is a pretty decent o.s.
  • Thanks Chris and tracee! My knowledge in computer science I'd say is limited to only having taken Computer Science 101! I had not even thought of the 32-bit vs. 64-bit fact, I don't even think I was aware there were different bit OSs.

    I've gotten the word that I'll be getting a new Dell, which I get to pick out. Do you know of any issues running Vista with Arc GIS and Adobe CS3/CS4? I have Vista Home Premium on my home PC and have never really had any issues with it, but than, I certainly don't run the same high end software as I do at work.

    Jason Blais, Communications & Technology Coordinator

    Maine Rural Water Association

  • jason, if you are going to get a pc with vista, be certain to get lots of memory. Vista runs ok with 1gb minimum, but is much happier with more. Since you are needing to run some graphic intense software, I would recommend 4GB of memory and a large hard drive.

    Gary Network/Systems Admin Berlin, NH
    Host Non-profit Tech Careers, Security Forums
    Co-Host Networks, Hardware, & Telecommunications Forum

  • You also need a lot of video memory. System memory (RAM) is no longer the only memory you need to look for. Video adapters also require RAM. So find one with 256MB video memory or more. Avoid "shared memory". Shared memory shares between the system and the video adapter, usually fine but not for what you want to do.

    Chris Shipley
    Nutmeg Consulting