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Buyer's Fear & Usability

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I'm putting together a business plan to open a landscape design office as a sole proprietor. The VW software sounds great. I've not yet acquired software (e.g. VW Landmark + Render) nor a new computer (MAC or Microsoft based?) or printer. My goal is to use the technology as a design tool. I'm not looking for a hardware and software admin. certification...ha! I've been reading the posts about the new version issues (e.g. ATI cards & OpenGL , MAC OS vs XP/VISTA). It can make a person's head spin at times. So, what's a good decision path for me? Is my best bet to: 1)find a VW vendor (where?) and let them handle the all the technology planning details OR 2)fall back on my local MAC store or workstation vendor (HP?) OR is there some other option? I'm in Eugene, Oregon USA (GO DUCKS!). I know it sounds crazy but total system usability (hardware+software+user) is important to me. I view this acquisition as an investment not a just purchase. Thanks Forum Members!

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The best bet for buying the software is to buy directly from NNA.



What type of computer do you currently have?

It may be that your current computer will work fine with the software.

How large are the intended projects going to be? Are they small residential/nursery layouts, commercial, etc. ?

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I'm usually loathe to participate in the traditional sport of Mac Vs PC baiting -unless I'm bored or the competitors are particularly feisty. ;-D but I will weigh in here.

The conventional wisdom -which agrees with my personal experience, is that Mac are far more "reliable" in the "usability" stakes. Their by-line is "it just works", and for me that's been 99.5% true. (certified by independant trueness auditors) I've managed to crash OS X twice since it came out (OS 10.1), hung the operating system a few times, and the most recent update I had to re-install because the first time it was busted.

On the other hand I cant remember how many times Win2K and XP have pranged on me, and the number of peripherals that haven't worked, the general cludginess of the interface, and of course there's the Virus problem. Vista is still something of an unknown as it's so new.

If Usability is important to you, if you want to just work, and don't want to spend time fiddling with computers, get a Mac: there; I've said it, -with a middle level Video card, and at least 1Gb of RAM.

Good Luck :-)

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. . . and at least 1Gb of RAM.

I would up that to at least 2Gb. I run 3 on my own, and the others all have at least 2. Otherwise, I'd echo the Mac recommendation: I bought my first one in February 1984 because I didn't think I was smart enough to figure out DOS. I've never looked back, or sideways either. Probably makes my recommendation sound rather one-sided. . .it is.

Good luck,

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The Apple iMacs are a great value. If you need portability, the Apple MacBook Pros are great machines. I have owned many Apple computers over the years and have had no major issues (hardware or operating system) with any of them.

Large format printing can generally be handled by your local print shop via PDF, sparing you the cost and headache of a large printer.

Good luck with your new business. I wish you much success.

Go Beavs (just had to do that)

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My current MacBook Pro is great - I am amazed how fast it is, especially given the previous machine was a dual processor G5. No longer do you feel that a laptop is at a disadvantage compared to a desktop machine.

I've had Macs all my life (since the SE, circa 1988) so I'm totally biased. Over the years, as a member of a kind of ethnic minority, I've had to put up with all sorts of arguments from PC users from, in the old days, "why do you need a GUI - DOS is more efficient (really!) to "PC's are faster " totally ignoring the time spent just trying to get the software to work or dealing with viruses. I've never been able to understand why Windows users invest energy in defending a crappy operating system sold by a near monopoly, but there it is.

These days I try to avoid wasting my time arguing the pros and cons, and it's getting easier partially through the iPod making apple a household word, and therefore more 'acceptable'. (I had a Chinese student recently refering to my my MBP as an "iPod computer"! The switch to Intel has also helped.

But the simplest way for me to avoid arguments now is to say: ask Mac users and PC users if they actually ENJOY using their computer and compare the answers.

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I sit surrounded by Macs, old and new- relics of days gone by, like an old Quadra 950, still chugging along attached to an old HP pen plotter. (Rarely used these days, but ready when called on.) So my point is?since my first little ?mac-in-a-box? in 1985 all my Macs have been fun, reliable, and real work-horses getting the job done. No Intel inside yet, because the G5 & G4 do just fine (for now) attached to my HP 500 ps- perfect for the small office. Good luck, Terra?.and sorry about the Ducks. They played well, but after all it *was* the Gators?. 2007 NCAA basketball champs:-)

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Very happy with my Dell Precision 960 w/ Intel Xeon Dual Core 3.2 Ghz, 2 GB RAM and WinXP pro. Very stable, very fast. In 12 years of owning Dells I've never had to get one repaired. All in all, enjoyable to use.

I made the switch from Mac when I was in grad school and had to work with a compiler that would only run with Windows, and though I like Apple as a company, I'd have to say that the speed of PC's has been a better value, up until now. Apple has always made better-looking products, and perhaps they are now catching up with the processing power gap. I've never had a problem with the Windows OS, once I adapted to the differnces between that system and the Mac. The days of DOS are long gone, everything in Windows is based on a graphic user interface.

If you go with "Wintel," I wouldn't recommend a 64-bit operating system. Get the 32-bit version, as much peripheral hardware still won't work with 64 bit.

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Form Team: Thank you all for the great information! The one issue that does seem to stick out is the graphics card business and the screen output vs images or plots. The quality associated with anti-aliasing is new to me. Presentaion quality needs to be addresses, esp if I'm going to use RenderWorks (options?). If we assume RW, should I then only use a computer with an NVIDIA card (model?) to get the best display and output quality? I like the idea a laptop's mobility for client communications, and would consider the MAC because of usability, but my MAC store says that only ATI cards are avail in MAC laptops (an odd history I'm sure). In addition a VW tech support's FAQ describes the unresolved ATI anti-aliasing issues. Yes, I do need a new computer (Pack. Bell. P-II/Win95). It old, runs on soft coal but works great. I think VW+Land+Render is a bit too much load.[Peter Cipes - I'll check for your email].

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Terra, I would start with VW's Landmark and RenderWorks. I wouldn't worry so much about the graphics card. My MacBook Pro is the 2.33g model with 2g RAM, one of the 'off the shelf' config's offered by Apple. Because the Mac OS includes drivers for nearly any peripherel you plug into it, and because you can print to PDF right from the print menu (included with the Mac OS for 5 years or more now) I think you will have many good options for in-house or outside print output... regards... peter

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Consider yourself very lucky never to have had a problem with your Dell hardware.

The firm I work for has purchased 2 Dell Inspirons and an OptiPlex in the past 4 years, and every one of them has had to be replaced at least once under warranty, in addition to having multiple components replaced on each one.


As the de facto tech support person in a small firm that uses both Macs and Windows computers (1 Mac towers, 1 Mac desktop, 2 PowerMacs, 2 Windows desktops, 4 Windows laptops), I spend FAR more time dealing with HW and SW issues on the Windows platform than on Macs.

In the past calendar quarter, for example, I spent an average of just over 6 hours per week troubleshooting problems on the Windows side, and a TOTAL of 20 minutes troubleshooting on the Mac side. Those numbers are consistent with what we've seen since we started logging tech support issues in 2004.

Since you're starting off as a sole proprietor, one important thing to consider is that whichever platform you end up choosing, YOU WILL END UP BEING THE PRIMARY TECHNICAL SUPPORT PERSON FOR YOUR COMPUTER.

Even though most hardware and software companies provide a telephone helpline of some sort, and you can contract out support for major problems:

a) you will need to be conversant enough with the ins and outs of your hardware, OS, and software that when you do need to call a company's help line, you can give a precise, detailed description of your problem in order for them to be able to help you;

b) YOU will be the one who actually ends up applying the recommended "fix"; and

c) you probably can't afford to spend 15 minutes to an hour or more on the phone (much less pay someone to come out and fix it) every time you run into a problem.

So one of the factors you should consider is how much time and energy you're prepared to spend learning the ins and outs of administering and maintaining a healthy system and what to do when (not "if"; "when") things go wrong. In general, it takes significantly more knowledge, time, energy, and expertise to administer and maintain a Windows-based system than a Mac system. (I won't go into the details of why that is the case here, but if you're interested, shoot me a pm.)

That being said, if you are already comfortable and proficient in Windows XP (there are substantial differences between XP and 95/2000/ME, to the extent that many of the tips and tricks you would have learned in those earlier versions are no longer applicable), I would recommend sticking with Windows; conversely, if you are already comfortable and proficient in OS X, I would recommend sticking with Mac. If you are not proficient on either platform or equally proficient on both, I would recommend going with Mac for its ease of use and less steep learning curve.]

Another factor to consider is the total cost of ownership over the life of the computer. We have found that Windows systems have a useful life of 3-4 years, while Macs have a useful life of 5-6 years or more. (The Principals at the firm runs VW 11.5 on the 500MHz G3 Powerbook ("Pismo") that he bought in 2000.) An additional annual cost on the Windows side of the ledger is the cost of antivirus and anti-spyware licenses for each Windows system. (No Mac viruses or trojan horses, and no Mac-specific spyware, as of yet.) So while the initial outlay for the Windows systems was less, the cost of ownership over their useful lives has been significantly higher.

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The one issue that does seem to stick out is the graphics card business and the screen output vs images or plots. The quality associated with anti-aliasing is new to me.

I wouldn't be overly concerned with anti-aliasing on screen or for powerpoint presentations. Even with anti-aliasing enabled, aliasing is always going to be an issue on video displays compared to printed output due to the physical limitations of the video screen.

Look at it this way: a 50" 1080p HDTV has an pixel density equivalent to ~43 pixels per inch (ppi), current model enterprise-class video projectors typically have a pixel density of 72 ppi, while most current computer monitors have a pixel density of 96 ppi. In comparison to that, many cheap laser printer these days print at 600 dpi, and medium-to-high end printers output at 1200-1600 dpi.

In regard to the anti-aliasing issue with ATi video cards. the FAQ suggest that the issue is specific to offscreen OpenGL rendering, i.e. rendering to a file or print.

That's not likely to be an issue since about the only time you'll want to use OpenGL is for producing previews, but not for high quality renderings. For presentation-quality output, you will want to use a Renderworks rendering mode (Custom Renderworks, Final Quality Renderworks), which will produce much more accurate, much more detailed renders.

Also, all the Mac graphics cards mentioned in the article (both ATI and NVidia) are for the previous generation of hardware (pre-Intel Macs), and have been replaced by newer cards, so the issue may have been addressed by now. The current MacBooks (which I REALLY wouldn't recommend) use an integrated Intel GMA 950 processor and the MacBook Pros use the ATi Radeon Mobility X1600.

Incidentally, if you DO decide to go with a Mac laptop, check out the refurbished laptops at the online Apple Store, which come with everything included with a new unit, the full one year warranty and are eligible for the AppleCare extended warranty, and are discounted up to 30% vs. a factory-sealed unit. I've bought several refurbs over the past 10 years, and have never had a problem with them.

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If you are simply doing landscape plans in 2D, there's no need for RenderWorks.

If you plan on doing 3D models, then you will want/need RenderWorks.

If you are simply doing a 2D model, just about any computer on the market is going to be more than adequate for your needs. A super-duper video card is not necessary - most computers come with pretty nice video cards.

If you are doing a 3D model, I would suggest getting at least 1 GB of RAM - some computers ship with 512 MB RAM as the standard.

Again, there's rarely a need for getting a high end video card here, too. For the type of work you do, there's not a big need.

If you go the Windows route - stick to a 32 bit operating system for now.

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As a person who has worked on bothmacs and windows clones.... go with macs.... more reliable, less crashes, less hardware problems... programs work right out the gate... easier installs... friendlier interfaces, consistantly.

an 20" imac would be perfect for you, start with 1 gig memory.. upgrade later if you wish...

best of luck in your new venture

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Yep, I've had zero problems with 3 successive Dell computers. Can't say the same for my Macs and HP laptop.

Based on comments made to this board, it seems that a distinct majority of problems with crashing, deleted files, and corruption are coming from computers with the Mac OS. Katie probably has a better handle on this than any of us, but it seems that over a number a years now VW has tended to be more stable on a Windows system.

On the other hand, I know a lot of people who are very happy with their Macs.

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I don't think comments on the board are at all a useful or meaningful way of gauging the stability of one platform vs. another.

Back in the day, Autocad for Mac was a big, ugly, stinking POS, but the number of complaints from the Mac user base was minuscule compared to the number of complaints from Wintel users due to the fact that the Wintel user base was several orders of magnitude larger than the Mac user base. So without knowing the percentages of posters using Macs vs. those using Windows, it's impossible to get any sense of the scale from the number of posts about problems on one platform vs. the other, and even if you do know the percentages, you can't simply count up the posts because if 50 users report having the same problem, it's 50 incidents but only one problem.

You also can't necessarily know from tech board posts whether a problem identified on one platform existed on both, but was patched before users on the other platform discovered or got around to reporting it.

Case in point: I oversee a mixed Mac/Windows office. After we purchased the 12.5 upgrade but before installing it on any of the office computers, I spent four weeks testing it on my G5 Dual "crash test dummy" system at home. (It's my SOP to thoroughly test new software and upgrades on a non-critical system before we install them on any of the office computers so we don't get burned in case there are any major problems.)

Very early on, I encountered a problem with the door and window tools crashing VW every time I followed a particular series of steps within the tools.

Nemetschek tech support's initial response was that the problem was caused by some other third-party software on my computer since no one else had reported problems with either tool.

After a couple of weeks of trying different things and getting nowhere, I installed a brand new, freshly zeroed and formatted HD. Even with ONLY OS X 10.4.x and VW 12.5 installed, the door and window tools still crashed. (Yes, I actually manually installed and tested every delta update from 10.4.1-10.4.8.) Subsequently, I installed and crashed 12.5 on a Powerbook running 10.3.9, which showed that the crash was neither Tiger- nor G5-specific, and crashed the Windows version in XP PRo on a Dell Inspiron 9600, which established that the problem wasn't Mac-specific.

After sending tech support detailed, step-by-step instructions along with screenshots documenting how to produce the crash, Tech Support confirmed that they were able to reproduce the crash on both hardware platforms (PPC and Intel) and both OSes (Mac and Win), and that it was due to a bug introduced in 12.5 that had not been present in 12.0.x.

The bug was patched on both platforms in 12.5.1, but since no one else on the tech board posted that they encountered the problem, I didn't bother following up my initial post with a note that the problem also existed in Windows as well, so there are no other post about the crash besides my initial post reporting the crash in the Mac version. So if you go by posts on the tech board, this appears to have been a Mac-specific issue, when in reality, it was a cross-platform problem that was first identified on the Mac and patched before any Windows users stumbled across or reported it.

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Mclaugh, I have to disagree with you about the usefulness of taking a reading based on comments here. Further, complaints are not linearly proportional to the size of the user base. Users who have read about an instability issue in a thread here are not likely to immediately repeat the complaint, therefore the volume of complaints is damped once they are voiced.

I now regularly skip threads regarding crashing on the Mac OS because there is nothing I can learn or contribute on those issues - and there are quite a number of those, compared to crashes in Windows. I have nothing against the Mac product or systems, and it doesn't mean I wouldn't consider purchasing a Mac. But I think my earlier statement is a fair and considered observation based on a number of years' participation on the board.

BTW, my wife is not nearly as sanguine regarding Dell computers. She uses a Dell laptop (Inspiron) that has had quite a number of problems.

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