Vintage Mac Living

Pre-2006 Software: The Big Reason You Shouldn't Buy an Intel Mac Today

- 2006.11.09

You can't read anything on the Mac Web today without hearing how great the new Intel Macs are - and why just about everyone should have one.

I think everyone is jumping the gun just a bit. Sure, the Intel Macs are faster and better in just about every way compared to their PowerPC ancestors, but there's one big drawback: software written for PowerPC Macs.

In order to run any PowerPC applications - any OS X applications written before 2006 - you have use Apple's Rosetta PowerPC translator. That means the programs are going to run slower - and they're going to require 2-4 times more memory.

Photoshop

This is bad news for people who need to use Photoshop, which hasn't yet been ported to Intel.

Photoshop users upgrading from a Power Mac G5 Quad to a Mac Pro for the speed boost may be very disappointed when they find that it isn't running Photoshop any faster than their G5 did. Instead, it's running slower and using twice as much RAM to get the job done. (See New Photoshop Bench: Quad Mac Pro Versus Two G5 Power Macs.)

And it isn't just Photoshop that doesn't have universal binaries yet; there are a number of applications that don't including Microsoft Office.

Education

Then there's the school issue. Schools are going to have a hard time using classic Mac educational software (that is, programs written before OS X). I've talked about this before, and there is a solution in the form of the SheepShaver emulator.

The School District doesn't allow the use of Open Source software on the school's computers.

But SheepShaver may not help a lot. My friend Kevin is a computer lab teacher/tech at a local elementary school. He told me that there are two problems with using SheepShaver:

  1. The School District doesn't allow the use of Open Source software on the school's computers.
  2. Even if he could use the software, he wouldn't want to.

I can understand why he wouldn't want to. It takes a lot of time to set up SheepShaver, and if other computer teacher/techs are anything like Kevin, they're too busy (trying to repair/replace all of the eMacs that are dropping like flies) to deal with going around the school and installing SheepShaver, the classic Mac OS, and all of the programs on each machine.

It's like I always say to Photoshop users and anyone who needs to use software that doesn't come in universal binaries: Stick with the PowerPC machine you already have. Buying a new machine now would be a waste of your money. Just wait until the Universal Binary version of the software you use is available (by then there will be a faster Mac Pro on the market - and it might cost less, too).

Schools: Instead of buying new Intel hardware and either installing SheepShaver on it or buying new software, keep your current Macs or go on eBay and buy a pallet of Power Mac 5500s for $100. It will save you time and money. LEM

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