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Switcher Hangout The place for switchers to discuss their new machines, and how to work with OS X. General support can be had here for newbie stuff, like "How do I restart my new iMac?" :)

Intel Macintosh (MacTel) FAQ.


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Meyvn

 
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I've seen about a hundred different threads both here and on other Mac forums asking some of the same questions over and over. This is an attempt to answer those questions fairly comprehensively so if someone searches the forums for the words "mactel" or "Mac Intel," et cetera, they'll find this one. If I leave any out, please let me know.

I'm a PC user/old Mac user, and I've been considering getting a new Mac for awhile. Now I hear that Apple is going to start employing Intel processors in their machines. Should I wait to purchase a Mac until after the upgrade?

The short answer is no, and there are several reasons why. Some of them are as follows:

1. If you need a computer now, you should just get it now. Waiting will only cut down your productivity if such an upgrade is important.

2. No one outside Apple knows exactly when their Intel-powered models are going to be released. There has been hints from Apple about sometime around June, but they have explicitly guaranteed neither the release date, or even which models are to be upgraded first. There are two schools of speculative thought on the subject. The first is that they will release the consumer machines first, because those will be easier "guinea pigs," so to speak, rather than instantly compromise their professional lineup. The second is that Apple will upgrade its portable line first, because that's where the power is really lacking. Many insist that the desktop G5s are still superior to desktop Intel processors, and say that Apple is in no hurry to put any kind of Pentium 4 in their desktop systems. Sources also say that Intel will be releasing some powerful dual-core chips in late 2006, whereas their notebook series will be available much sooner (projected in January, specifically). Needless to say, there is so much varied information on this topic that no one can know exactly when they'll come out, and you could be left on a string for many months waiting to upgrade.

3. Apple computers tend to hold their value much better than Windows PCs. If you decide to upgrade now, and when the Intel Macs come out, you decide then you just HAVE to have one, in all probability you probably won't lose much money on the deal.

4. Revision A ("first edition") Apple products have tended to have significant problems in the past. The first version of OS X was widely considered "unusable" as an operating system. Even something as simple as Apple's new Mighty Mouse has serious problems in its Rev. A status. Consider that, and then think of how much more complex an entirely different processing architecture will be, and the kinds of problems that could arise.

5. Many third-party software programmers will be slow to make the "switch." Not all of them will have the resources to quickly and efficiently switch over their products. In many cases bugfixes may take longer for the Intel versions of their software, because despite Apple's very official "switch," most third party software manufacturers will still have a very large PowerPC customer base for at least the next couple years.

How long will Apple continue to support the PowerPC architecture in its software?

At the very, very least, three years after it stops production of its very last PowerPC-based model (due to AppleCare, they are legally required to do this). Lucky for us, we have a precedent to go from, though, when Apple first began using PowerPC processors. Support for the older systems lasted something around six years, so you really don't have anything to worry about with this switch.

Why did they switch? Why did they do this to us? What happened to "think different?" What happened to all the benchmarks? Isn't the G5 better than anything Intel has to offer? I hate anything unMaclike. Hold me!

Apple switched primarily because neither Freescale nor IBM could provide a powerful enough notebook processor. Laptops make up a huge portion of Apple's computer sales, and while G5s are very powerful at the moment, an efficient mobile G5 has not surfaced yet, despite two years of waiting. The G4 is on its last leg. It is a six year old processor. It's simply not going to be able to keep up with the Pentium-M much longer, and it's already behind. With dual core models coming out soon, it will be all but left in the dust by Yonah and Merom, codenames for Intel's coming mobile processors for 2006. Apple has always been a company driven by quality. If Apple sacrifices progress and quality for the sake of familiarity, it will weaken and eventually destroy the very foundations of the company's success.

Will I still be able to use my old software on the new system?

Short answer? Yes, with hopefully very few exceptions. Your existing software out of the box will be run through Rosetta, OS x86's PPC emulation system, however, so you'll probably want to update it wherever available with native x86 versions. The amount of emulated software you'll be using versus the native software will probably depend on how much commercial software you buy versus open source/freeware you download. Smaller third party companies and spare-time based developers simply may not update as quickly, but as Apple insists the process is easy, we'll just have to see. For those that aren't in a hurry to convert, though, Apple will have a function called Rosetta which will emulate the PowerPC processors on the newer Intel boxes. It'll probably operate slightly faster than VirtualPC does now, so this will do just fine for smaller applications (which, in all probability, will be the slowest ones to switch).

Can I install Windows on these new systems? Can I dual boot?

The way things are looking now, absolutely. Apple's official statement on the matter is this: they will offer no official support for this feature, but neither will they take any preventative measures against it. Rumors have spread that Apple developers have actually tested Windows on the new x86 Macs. Word is Windows is not quite "willing" to take advantage of the whole 30 inch Apple display, and sticks to a much smaller portion of the screen. However, getting back to the point, if you plan to do this, be warned that by installing Windows in dual boot fashion on your new Mac, you are putting your system at much greater risk than if you were to simply use VirtualPC (which will be much, much faster now that processor emulation isn't going to be required), when it comes to viruses and the like. If you think you can handle it, then go right ahead. It's your computer. If you were strictly a Mac user before and just want to "try" Windows, this probably isn't the best way to do it.


That's it for now. Hopefully I'll have time to add a few more this weekend. any recommendations for questions would be great.

'cause when it rains, you know it pours.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Meyvn
...
Will I still be able to use my old software on the new system?

Out of the box, no. You'll have to buy new copies of that software. Online, probably. Depends on how much commercial software you buy versus open source/freeware you download. Smaller third party companies and spare-time based developers simply won't update as quickly, but Apple insists the process is easy, so we'll just have to see. Only time will tell. I can tell you this: there are already decently stable versions of Firefox and Camino for OS x86....
Most old (PowerPC) software will work using Rosetta emulation. It will be slow, but functional.

Apple's own applications, from iMovie to FinalCut and Logic, will probably be ready at the same time as the first MacIntels.

Demanding applications (games, video processing apps like Cleaner and AfterEffects) will probably be too slow under Rosetta to be useful, until a native Intel version becomes available.
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Right. I was debating whether or not to go in-depth into Rosetta, due to the fact that a lot of people who ask these sorts of questions may not be interested in processor emulation, but I think you're probably right, and it is worth including.

'cause when it rains, you know it pours.
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If the 68000-PowerPC transition is any indication, Rosetta will be a major part of our lives for at least the next couple of years.

Many people ran 680x0 software on their Power Macs right up until they switched to OS X. A few people still do, in Classic. Emulation is a major component of a CPU transition, and if it weren't there, I for one would be furious.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by technologist
If the 68000-PowerPC transition is any indication, Rosetta will be a major part of our lives for at least the next couple of years.

Many people ran 680x0 software on their Power Macs right up until they switched to OS X. A few people still do, in Classic. Emulation is a major component of a CPU transition, and if it weren't there, I for one would be furious.
I have to agree. Not letting people know that their old software will still work on an Intel Mac is just misleading and damaging to Apple's switch to Intel. It was a major part of Steve's keynote about the transition.

I still don't like the way that answer is worded where you added it into the FAQ. The beginning should not be "Out of the box, no..." it should start out "absolutely yes, you can still use your old software".

Use this as your guide:
http://www.macworld.com/2005/06/feat...lfaq/index.php

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Meyvn
Will I still be able to use my old software on the new system?
Your very first sentence is extremely misleading. And for those skimming your FAQ, may state to them not to read the rest of the answer. Your first sentence for that question should be; "It depends.".

As far as we currenly know, as stated by Apple, applications that _require_ use of the Altivec core, will not work on Intel hardware at all. Not even under Rosetta. They have said if the application in question runs on a G3, then it should run under Rosetta just fine. Often software that takes advantage of Altivec, is smart enough to exclude that code path when running on a G3. It will just run slower.
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Thanks for the input. Updated accordingly. Interesting about the velocity engine. I was always under the impression that the G3 was capable of Altivec "emulation."

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From what I know latest build of Rosetta supports Altivec programs. Don't know how well or anything like that, but the realease notes state the velocity engine is now supported. But I may be mistaken... :-\
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Tiranis. I haven't heard that, but is isn't like I'm in any official MacIntel test loop.

Apple has a lot of incentive to make the transition smooth for existing Apple users, so I won't be surprised if Altivec emulation ends up being included. At the same time, I won't be surprised if it is missing too because I've read that doing that would be particularly difficult because the Pentium lacks as many registers as the PPC and the their (SSE3?) version of that part of the CPU isn't as nice to work with either.

Apple. The place of nice little miracles.
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