Convince me in favour or against a new Intel Mac with dual boot. This is currently a hypothetical purchase, but I am starting to evaluate options for a new laptop. I need to do all the average things that field linguists do, plus voice recognition (ideally under windows so I don’t have to retrain the software).

8 responses to “computers

  1. You’ve got a really great informative blog! I have always been technologically challenged. But now thanks to blogs like yours I am coming out of the dark ages. So much so that I have started a small article site similarly themed, called.Computer Tips..Come and visit if you get a chance. Keep up the good work !

  2. Come on, you don’t really need convincing, do you? All the cool kids are doing it. :-) [I’ve got a dual-booting Mac Mini hooked up to my TV and it works great. I can’t comment on field-linguisty type stuff, though.]

  3. I don’t use the same applications you do, by and large, but since my supervisor and I both went through the same process recently, and he went Mac while I went PC, let me give you a very brief overview of our thinking.

    We both bought functionally identical machines, running the same hardware underneath (same Intel Core Duo, same motherboard, same 2 GB of RAM, same LACK OF PC CARD SLOTS — if that’s at all important to you, the new standard is not at all backwards-compatible). He was already a Mac user, and not looking to convert; I was already a PC user, but strongly willing to consider a move to a Mac after my great unhappiness with Dell.

    The con with a Mac is that you pay a good deal more for that same hardware. Despite the identical specs — and the fact that my new HP has a bigger screen with higher resolution than his — I paid somewhere around 25% less for my machine than his. I didn’t end up pricing out the Mac warranty, but I would expect it to be a bit more expensive than a comparable Dell/HP warranty.On the other hand, if cost had not been a factor, I would probably have gone for the Mac on the grounds that their build quality in the areas where the parts aren’t the same is so much better. The Mac case will take a good deal more beating without complaint than my old Dell or my new HP, and I imagine your fieldwork requirements trump my train commuting in that regard. I also am MUCH more impressed by the OSX features that accompanied the Mac, like the iTunes-like media interface and remote control, than I am by the Windows Media Center extensions on my PC.

    Pre-Intel, I probably would have not even considered the Mac, because I need some of the Windows applications in order to maintain compatibility with files made by coworkers — if I went off a la Pullum about the incompatibility of files across supposedly identical MS applications, I could fill a blog for a month. The Mac makes that an option, which is very nice, but it has pitfalls. I also dual-boot, doing most of my “real work” in Linux, and my experience is that I am very unhappy about frequently having to move back and forth just because I checked my e-mail and found someone sent me a document I can’t deal with in OpenOffice. If you like the Mac interface, can get all the applications you need on it, and won’t lose any sleep over the cost premium for what is now easy-to-compare hardware, I would absolutely go Mac. If you really expect you’ll be doing a lot of booting back and forth, aren’t used to it presently, and could do your work in either environment alone, I would reluctantly recommend going PC. Ultimately, dual-booting sounds a lot better on paper than it is in real-life with constant 2-minute downtimes while one OS shuts down and another starts up.

  4. Instead of dual booting, you (Clare and SC) might consider virtualization or emulation software that allows you to run the MS Windows software that you need under Mac OS X or Linux or whatever. Another solution, of course, is simply not to use MS Windows software. I deleted my last MS Windows partition and became Microsoft-free over two years ago. People should stop sending MS Word documents around as if this were an acceptable interchange format. They should send PDF or ODF.

  5. Bill, I agree in principle, but in practice that’s impossible for me. First, I’m constrained by what Rice approves of, and they won’t support Unix outside of certain sectors in the university. Second, there are all the journal, etc, that only accept Word documents (and camera-ready copy produced in Word). Third is my collaborators who use Word, some of whom can’t switch (for various reasons). Fourth, there’s Toolbox, which runs ok under wine on Linux but seems a bit unstable under a Mac emulation. Fourth is the many hundreds of dollars i have invested in windows software (and the time it took to train up the voice recognition software).

  6. Claire,
    Sure, if you’re that heavily invested in MS Windows software you may have no choice. I am a bit surprised that Rice insists on a particular platform. I’ve encountered this before, but universities really should know better than to think that they can impose a fixed computing environment the way a business can. What faculty do with their computers is much too diverse.

    With regard to publishers, although some really do want MS Word, my experience is that few publishers actually work with MS Word. Often, it is the editors who want MS Word, whereas the publishers will accept PDF or something else. In some cases I have been able to avoid MS Word format by agreeing to produce camera-ready PDF containing the editor’s revisions and the page numbers and so forth.

    Have you found it impossible to use Writer to collaborate with people using MS Word? My experience is that most of the time it works quite well. Almost all failures come from one person, who seems to like features of MS Word that haven’t been successfully reverse engineered.

    What do you use the speech recognition software for?


  7. I forgot to say that I hope that the advent of Open Document Format will solve the problem of collaboration between users of MS Word and users of other word processors as well as the problem of journal submission. At this point it is an open question whether Microsoft will succeed in undermining this effort, but it looks promising. Unfortunately, I don’t think that TeX or TeX output can readily be translated into ODF, so there will still remain a problem for those of us who prefer TeX (and the inverse problem for those who prefer word processors and need to submit to journals that want TeX.)

  8. It’s Rice humanities in particular who insist on Mac or PC.

    I have recurrent tendinitis in my wrist (combination of weird bones from a break and too much typing) so I use dictation software a lot for email and writing in English.

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