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Convince me to buy a Mac (Java/Web developer)

Martin Bayly
Greenhorn

Joined: May 15, 2005
Posts: 1
Hi

I'm a Java/J2EE/Web developer thinking about upgrading my Windows PC. But a friend recently bought an iBook and loves it (he's a techie manager rather than a hard-core developer but it got me wondering).

So I was wondering if you good chaps would mind giving me the sell on why I should buy a Mac for developing Java.

I'm not so interested in developing _for_ Mac (yet ) so arguments in that arena don't really interest me.

Initially, I'd be using it more for personal development projects than for work, but I have some big ideas so personal use is important.

My biggest concerns are over price and performance.

I want to be able to run a J2EE server and develop with a big memory hogging IDE. (My IDE of choice at work is IDEA, but I was thinking of trying out Eclipse at home, just so I can explain why IDEA is better (sorry, ignore that, no IDE flame wars here please - I really would like to give Eclipse a go).

How do Mac's compare to Win PCs in terms of performance?
e.g. how does an iMac 1.8GHz PowerPC G5 with 512Mb RAM compare to a similarly spec'd PC? Are they even comparable? Mac's seem a lot more expensive for the similar horsepower?
Bear Bibeault
Author and ninkuma
Marshal

Joined: Jan 10, 2002
Posts: 60774
    
  65

Mac's seem a lot more expensive for the similar horsepower?


See The Megahertz Myth.

But really what it all boils down to is: how much it your time and psyche worth?

I switched to a Mac for Java development a little over three years ago and never looked back. I wanted to spend my time at the computer doing what I wanted to be doing and not: dealing with the latest worm/virus/exploit, fighting incompatible DLLs, mucking around in the Registry, and all the other things I found myself having to do just to keep my PCs operational.

To tell you the truth, I really don't know how "performance numbers" stack up since I've had no reason to care. I can do whatever I need or want to do on my Mac, which even though they are all older models, are more than adequate to the task -- including a big, memory-hogging IDE. The fact that someone else may have a machine (Mac or otherwise) with "faster numbers" is immaterial.
[ May 16, 2005: Message edited by: Bear Bibeault ]

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marc weber
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 31, 2004
Posts: 11343

  • My desktop is a 2.67 GHz Pentium 4 Dell with 256 MB of RAM running Windows XP Home.
  • My laptop is a 1.5 GHz G4 PowerBook with 512 MB of RAM running OS 10.4 (Tiger).
  • I haven't done any quantitative performance tests, but my overall impression is that the Mac PowerBook absolutely smokes the Windows machine. In fact, I'm now frustrated by how agonizingly slow -- and error prone -- my Dell desktop seems, and I can't wait to replace it with an iMac (at "only" 2.0 GHz).

    Macs might appear more expensive if you're trying to compare specs, but I believe you're buying things in a Mac that aren't as readily quantified -- or hyped -- as simple clock speed (which is a non-issue anyway). As Bear suggested above, freeing yourself from a corrupt maze of DLLs, that Windows registry, and the increasing onslaught of viruses, worms, etc. is the real key to efficient performance.

    While contemplating how I'm going to pay for a $1,500 iMac (wanna buy a guitar?), I noticed a Dell flyer in yesterday's paper: 2.6 GHz desktops starting at only $299. Yeah, that's Celeron with 256 MB of RAM. If you want a 3.0 GHz Pentium with 512 MB of RAM, you're up to $829. But still, seems like quite a deal compared to the Apple, right? Well, before owning a Mac, I would have thought so. But now, these "deals" on Windows machines don't interest me in the least. They're simply not comparable.

    (Besides, if it's a "deal" you want, the Mac Mini starts at $499.)
    [ May 16, 2005: Message edited by: marc weber ]

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    marc weber
    Sheriff

    Joined: Aug 31, 2004
    Posts: 11343

    "Convince me to buy a Mac..."

    The best thing to do is convince yourself. If you're near an Apple store, go try one out.

    http://www.apple.com/buy/
    Steven Bell
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Dec 29, 2004
    Posts: 1071
    Originally posted by marc weber:
  • My desktop is a 2.67 GHz Pentium 4 Dell with 256 MB of RAM running Windows XP Home.
  • My laptop is a 1.5 GHz G4 PowerBook with 512 MB of RAM running OS 10.4 (Tiger).

  • Not that I'm trying to defend WinXP here, but you would see a huge difference if you upped the ram on the P4 box. WinXP will eat that 256 for breakfast and not leave you with much to work with.

    Personally I'm sold on Mac OS X over WinAnything. I do have a few hangups though.
  • Price. I generally don't buy ready to go computers, I am currently putting together a pretty top of the line system, running me about $1,500. A similar mac product would push me over $2,000. Maybe I'm wrong here, but when I look at the systems they just seem to run much higher in price.
  • Personal Preference. I like to build my systems. Just something I enjoy. I used to be able to say it was a big cost saver, but not so much anymore.
  • I like to play games, and to the best of my knowledge their just not as available on mac. I talking about Half-Life2, Doom3, things in that league.


  • I would actually like to be sold on a Mac. I think it might be a better solution for a family computer. I'll probably be transitioning my other systems to Linux as I learn more and get better at that OS. My Wife just won't do the Linux thing, but I could probably get her over to a Mac.

    I'm not as concerned about the lagging in Java versions. I don't plan to do any real 1.5 moves until the final eclipse 3.1 comes out, and it looks like Java on mac will beat that timetable.
    [ May 16, 2005: Message edited by: Steven Bell ]
    marc weber
    Sheriff

    Joined: Aug 31, 2004
    Posts: 11343

    Steven: All good points.
  • RAM is surely a limiting factor on my Windows machine (which is why I included that detail). But I still think it's the less quantifiable aspects that make the real difference -- which is why price comparisions are so difficult.
  • For people who enjoy building their own systems, a Mac is not the best choice.
  • For people who are really into gaming, a Mac is probably not the best choice either.

  • [ May 16, 2005: Message edited by: marc weber ]
    Warren Dew
    blacksmith
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Mar 04, 2004
    Posts: 1332
        
        2
    Martin Bayly:

    How do Mac's compare to Win PCs in terms of performance?
    e.g. how does an iMac 1.8GHz PowerPC G5 with 512Mb RAM compare to a similarly spec'd PC? Are they even comparable? Mac's seem a lot more expensive for the similar horsepower?


    In terms of pure processor performance, a PowerPC G4/G5 of a given clock speed is approximately equal to a Pentium 4 of double the clockspeed.

    The reason is that the Pentium 4 gets its processing throughput by being optimized for the fastest clock speed possible. It doesn't get any more done per clock cycle than a Pentium 3, but it gets more done overall because it can go through more clock cycles in a second. In contrast, the PowerPC architecture gets its processing throughput by doing as much during each clock cycle as possible: it gets more work done at the same clock speed as earlier processors. To put it another way, a top of the line 2.5 GHz G5 will be comparable to or a little faster than a top of the line 4.5 GHz P4.

    Because of the differences in architecture, the speed comparison will vary depending on the specific task; for very tight loop 32 bit integer benchmarks, the P4 may be almost as fast as an equal clock speed G4, while for scientific floating point calculations, the G4 may be three or four times as fast as an equal clock speed P4. In real world applications, "double the clock speed" is a pretty good rule of thumb, though.

    In answer to your original question a 1.8 GHz iMac with 512 MB of RAM should perform about the same as a 3.6 GHz Pentium 4 machine with 512 MB of RAM in general use. I think if you spec out that a Windows machine with the latter hardware, plus a comparably sized flat screen display of comparable quality, you'll find the price difference disappears.
    [ May 16, 2005: Message edited by: Warren Dew ]
    Warren Dew
    blacksmith
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Mar 04, 2004
    Posts: 1332
        
        2
    Steven Bell:

    I like to play games, and to the best of my knowledge their just not as available on mac. I talking about Half-Life2, Doom3, things in that league.

    Most of the big releases are available for the Mac, though sometimes they get released a few months later than they do for Windows. Doom 3 is currently available for the Mac, for example. All of Blizzard's games starting with Diablo 2 have been released simultaneously for the Mac and PC. You haven't lived until you've played World of Warcraft on a dual 2.5 G5 with a 30 inch Apple Cinema Display.

    That said, the first person shooters like Doom do tend to be more highly optimized for Windows, at least when they first come out. The video card manufacturers spend a lot of time optimizing their Windows drivers for games like Quake 3 and Doom 3, since they know those games drive their sales. Doom 3, for example, is one of those applications where a P4 Windows machine is as fast as a same-GHz G4/G5 Mac, due largely to various software tweaks (the card talks directly to the game on Windows, basically cutting out the operating system, whereas on the Mac, all the OpenGL calls go through the operating system).

    It's to be noted that the Mac drivers have been sufficiently optimized since the Quake 3 release that high end 2.5 GHz Macs now perform comparably to high end 3-4 GHz Windows machines. But yes, we had to wait for a while, or be satisfied with slightly lower frames per second.

    Edit: I Googled for Half Life 2 and it has been out for the Mac since late last year. It just wasn't on my radar screen as I'm not big on first person shooters.
    [ May 16, 2005: Message edited by: Warren Dew ]
    Steven Bell
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Dec 29, 2004
    Posts: 1071
    I think Apple could make a killing if they made an X86 version of OSX. I'd pick one up.
    Warren Dew
    blacksmith
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Mar 04, 2004
    Posts: 1332
        
        2
    Steven Bell:

    I think Apple could make a killing if they made an X86 version of OSX. I'd pick one up.

    This will never happen for two reasons:

    (1) The PowerPC is a fundamentally more sound processor architecture than the Pentium as it doesn't have the baggage associated with the old x86 CISC architecture.

    (2) Apple makes their money selling hardware, not software. The last time they allowed other people to make hardware that would run their operating system, they almost went bankrupt.

    You're less unlikely to see a version of Windows that runs natively on Mac hardware (rather than in emulation like Virtual PC/Windows).
    L�szl� Kov�cs
    Greenhorn

    Joined: Jun 18, 2005
    Posts: 17
    Originally posted by Warren Dew:
    Steven Bell:

    I think Apple could make a killing if they made an X86 version of OSX. I'd pick one up.

    This will never happen for two reasons:
    ...


    Times change fast don't they?

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that if you're making anything that can and will be displayed on the mac platform then investing in one is an extremely sound move, even if you only use it for testing. As a web developer, unless you make applications that are strictly limited to IE PC users, you should be following the maxim 'test early, test often and test on all your target machines'.

    Making the decision to use a mac as your primary (home) machine is a different matter. Cost is an important factor and you should know that, as a development machine, an iBook isn't going to cut it for very long - if you can afford it, you should be looking at a powerbook (assuming that you're only considering notebooks) crammed with as much ram as you can stuff into it.

    Having said that, if you do switch, you're in for a lot of fun and that, in itself, made the switch worth it for me.


    Disclaimer: The above post may or may not reflect reality as seen by other people.
    Bear Bibeault
    Author and ninkuma
    Marshal

    Joined: Jan 10, 2002
    Posts: 60774
        
      65

    Times change fast don't they?


    Always in this industry.

    But the switch in internal processors for Mac systems does not mean that Apple will be licensing copies of OS X for "beige box" x86 systems. I don't see that changing anytime soon, or at all.
    Unnsse Khan
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Nov 12, 2001
    Posts: 511
    Well, James Duncan Davidson, the creator of Ant & Tomcat, told me this is why OS X rocks:

    http://x180.net/Journal/2004/07/12.html
    Bear Bibeault
    Author and ninkuma
    Marshal

    Joined: Jan 10, 2002
    Posts: 60774
        
      65

    Thanks for posting that Unnsse, as well as for asking the question in the first place. James' response is, in my opinion, a good level-headed and hype-free endorsement of OS X as a development platform.
     
     
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