Monday, June 16, 2014

Back from Mac

Back from Mac

I've been a Mac guy for over six years. I still own an older iMac and a 2008 17-inch Macbook Pro (upgraded with 6GB RAM and a 256 GB Flash Drive). I use my iPad most days for surfing the web.
Let's face it though - a Mac is not a gamer's machine. I need a PC.
Wait, though! A Mac can boot as a PC. My idea was that I'd get a new Mac, one that was powerful and had good graphics. I need a quiet machine, something I can play in the living room, and the iMac is certainly powerful and quiet. In my experience, most desktop PCs have loud cooling systems. Perhaps I could look at a liquid-cooled machine.

My background with computers…
I was a die-hard PC user. I used computers at the plant from the first day we got one, an IBM PC with dual 5¼ inch drives. When we upgraded to a 10 MB hard drive I was ecstatic.
I taught Lotus 123 at the local community college for three years. Then I taught DOS and Advanced DOS. When Windows 3.1 came out, I taught that. For another five years I also taught the Microsoft Suite of tools.
The config.sys and autoexec.bat files were my playground. When 640K of RAM was the best we could do, we configured our machines at the plant to handle a whopping 1M.
I'm also a gamer, but back then the best games were on the Commodore 64. I bought one of those for home. When the C-128 debuted it ended up in my study. My eldest son was raised on the cheesy tunes from Bard's Tale (the original) and the two sequels. (Bard's Tale 4 was awful.)
I thought the Coleco Adam would revolutionize the consumer computer industry. Never heard of it? Yeah, I know.
I even built PCs for a while and sold them. That didn't last long; clone parts were expensive unless you bought them in bulk and I didn't have the cash to do so. Financially I probably broke even.
In the days of home networks I had at least two and sometimes three PCs networked together - with cables. That's critical. Most of them I built myself. I upgraded all of them.
When Wi-Fi came out I struggled, truly struggled. I finally met a technical challenge that was too hard for me to master.
I bought books. I configured my Wi-Fi network and things would work well for a while, but then we'd drop a connection or we'd get lag. As gamers, lag just wouldn't work. I even checked into wiring the house for internet cable to get around the Wi-Fi problem, but the cost was too much.
My brother told me about a Mac he used at school. For years I scoffed at Macs. After all, they didn't run Word or Excel, so they weren't viable business machines. They didn't have many games, so they weren't viable gaming machines. At this point, though, Darling and I were mostly playing WoW, which is available on a PC or a Mac. My brother told me he walked into a house and his Mac beeped at him. It found networks and did he want to connect to them?
Darling and I bought an iMac.
We brought the iMac home and plugged it in. We were treated to pretty colors, nice graphics, and cheerful music. The Mac asked a few questions about where I lived. Then it told me it found a few networks and did I want to connect to them. One was mine. I'm guessing the others belonged to neighbors. I connected and my Wi-Fi problems were solved. Eventually we added more Macs to the network.
I was a convert. That was over five years ago. Well made and easy to configure, my Mac machines never gave me a bit of trouble. The ones I still have are still working well.

Now, a decision - which machine to upgrade to?
Well, except I couldn’t run PC games on my Mac machines, of course. As long as I was only playing WoW, I was okay. We got bored with WoW. I backed some games on Kickstarter (like Wasteland 2).
In February, my brother and I played a little bit of World of Tanks. That was fun. Maybe I can run that on my Mac, I thought. After all, it is a versatile machine and has a good graphics card.
At this point my iMac is pushing five years old. The hard drive is small and I only have 3GB of RAM. Still I installed Bootcamp and partitioned the hard drive so I could try some gaming on the machine. There was a lot of lag, a killer for gamers. It really looked like a hardware problem;  I needed to update my Mac to play games.
I struggled with that decision. I saved money to buy a new computer last year. I didn't spend it. I saved a little longer. If I got a powerful enough Mac then I should be able to do a Bootcamp partition and reap the benefits of both platforms.
(As an aside, I am an app developer, so I need the Mac for the iPhone apps.)
Then I waited for Apple™.
Remember, one of the major criteria is quiet. The iMac is a quiet machine, the fan barely whispering while the machine runs. That’s what I wanted.
Since I got rid of one iMac (the older one) I was using the Macbook Pro. Though it runs quietly, it also gets pretty hot when it does any graphic-intense work. Even upgraded the MBP still can't run something intensive like World of Tanks. With such a small flash drive I didn't want to install Bootcamp, and I also wanted dual access to files so I could use Word for my writing. I experimented with both VMWare and Parallels (both on sale). Neither worked well enough for my purposes.
So I decided I needed a dedicated machine. Still, I looked at the iMac machines, which are beautiful and last forever, as well as easy to use. For some reason even the Bootcamp partitions don't seem to have networking issues.
Right now the high end iMac machines both have the same basic specifications: quad core Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM and 1TB drive. The 3.2 GHz version can be configured with the NVIDIA GeForce GT 755M with 1GB video memory for $1799. That's a lot of money, and it isn't a bargain for that graphics card. The 3.4 GHz machine comes with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 775M with 2GB video memory for $1999 or you can upgrade the video to the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M 4GB GDDR5 by adding $150.00. Now I'm up to $2149 and I haven't taken care of tax, title and license (what I call the miscellaneous purchase costs).  Ouch. On top of that cost I'd still need to purchase Windows for a Bootcamp partition.
I dithered. I studied.
Then MSI came out with a machine that caught my eye.

The MSI GE70 2OE-071US Gaming Laptop
These are the specs:
Intel® Core™ i7-4700MQ 2.4GHz Processor (speed a bit less, but it is an i7. According to MSI it will "turbo boost" as needed up to 3.4GHz.)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M 2GB GPU (better than the lower end, a bit less than the high end)
12GB of DDR3 memory (more memory is always good)
1TB 7200 RPM Hard Disk Drive (the same)
17.3 in. full HD non-reflection display (smaller, but it is a portable)
Backlit keyboard (almost a must-have and certainly nice)
Windows 7 Home Premium (I prefer this over Windows 8 right now, especially since the machine does not have a touch screen)
Blu-ray player (not expected, but nice to have, and the iMac no longer comes with a drive at all)
Of course the usual 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 are part of the machine. It also has an HDMI port, as well as 2 USB 2.0 and 2 USB 3.0 port and headphone and microphone jacks.

I won't say how much it cost me, but I got quite a good deal, spending almost half of what my high-end iMac would cost me. It has to be quiet and the few reviews on the machine said it was.
It weighs a bit over six and a half pounds, with a height of 1.54", a width of 16.46" and a depth of 10.61".
The machine arrived yesterday afternoon.
After six hours of jacking with it I finally have DirectX 9 installed and World of Tanks runs. I was too tired to play it, and my brother wasn't on line that late anyway.
I remember one of the main reasons to avoid a PC - bloatware. I tried to download the correct DirectX version for WoT and every site I tried installed malware. Some succeeded at installing malware, and I know what I'm doing.
I hate malware.
By the end of the setup session last night my IE was non-functional, Google Chrome was filled with bloatware and only Firefox saved me.

I'm going to keep a journal of my trip back from Mac and how I rebuild this machine the way it needs to be built. Watch for it. Maybe I'm relearning why I went to the Mac…


UPDATE: I wrote this more than six months ago, but neglected to post it. The MSI is a sweet machine, and my only regret is that it weighs so much - a noticeable problem when we made a few trips. Aside from that, the gaming has been good and it runs applications without a hiccup.

I don't need the Mac...



I did buy Darling a new iMac after I wrote this and I configured it as a dual-boot using Bootcamp. The Windows partition on her machine runs everything flawlessly too, on a beautiful large screen. Just sayin'... I guess I did  have more than one option!

Still, I'm back in the PC world. Hello World!

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