DRMOO Goes Digital

Two months ago I received an email query from an acquaintance named Dr. Moo, who is considering migrating from Windows to Macintosh, specifically for Apple’s seamless digital video capability. I enlisted the help of Jeffrey McPheeters, with his greater experience. What follows is our combined response (excuse the choppy email format):

In a message dated 4/4/02 8:21:42 AM, DoctorMoo222@aol.com writes:

DRMOO: Dear John, I’m thinking of getting a new Mac, mainly for its media capabilities. I have a few questions that I hope you will be kind enough to …

NEMO: Certainly. Happy to help.

DRMOO: … answer. How hard would it be to transfer files from my PC? Do you know …

NEMO: Not very difficult if they are compatible.

JEFFREY: That’s the short answer. Here’s the long answer. Your new Mac will likely come set to boot up in Apple’s new, Unix-based, gorgeous looking operating system: Mac OS X. It will also have Mac OS 9 installed and can be booted into either one using a control panel (similar to control panels in Windows) called Startup Disk.

I mention this because, it sounds like your PC is a fairly modern one and probably has Ethernet built in? In which case, it should be *possible* to network these two, but it’s not as intuitive as networking two Macs or two Win98 or newer systems. But there are several ways to “skin this cat” and I don’t want to go into all of them just yet.

But John is correct in saying it “not very” hard. If you have an Ethernet connection to the Internet (Cable or DSL) you can connect both computers and simply FTP to the Mac. I happen to use Timbuktu from Netopia on our LAN here, which has mixed PCs and Macs. That’s been the simplest but it’s an added expense because Timbuktu isn’t free.

Resources: check out MacWindows for cross-platform solutions and information.

DRMOO: … if there are any resolution limits on the digital video-editing program? I …

NEMO: No, but Jeffrey McPheeters does.

JEFFREY: Of course there are limits, but they are standardized limits. If you mean, is the resolution capabilities of the movies you make somehow different or less than what’s made with more professional products, then the answer is no, it’s all the same. NTSC is NTSC. PAL is PAL.

What you capture will be imported and what is imported and edited, will be able to be exported to all the current standard formats: QuickTime movies, mpeg for CD-ROM or DVD, or back to tape for playing in any VHS. The better your original capture, the better the end product.

DRMOO: … upgraded my digital video camera and would not want to loose that high …

NEMO: Should not be a problem, correct, Jeff?

JEFFREY: see Apple’s iMovie Device Compatibility page for a list of compatible cameras.

Apple’s iMovie site is really outstanding. Then there’s the incredible support group list at iMovie-List@yahoogroups.com which has a rather significant number of recent converts to Mac from Windows due to the popularity and simplicity of using a Mac with iMovie to generate hi-quality video.

You can choose which version of Mac OS you want to use, but for iMovie work I generally choose Mac OS X. If you want to do a lot of video work, just make sure you get a Mac with a very large hard drive (40GB minimum) or can budget to add a bigger one via FireWire, and get as much memory as you can possible afford: 512MB or even 1GB if you can. I use 1GB in a laptop for video editing, and it’s definitely worth it.

DRMOO: … resolution in editing and recording a DVD. Also what are the drawbacks to a Mac. Would I likely need a new printer and scanner? We use our computer …

NEMO: Yes, but they are very affordable and high quality. Which ones do you use now?

JEFFREY: If your printer or scanner is USB capable, it’s possible the manufacturers make drivers for the Mac. Printers and scanners are less expensive than typical software titles today, so it’s mainly an issue with making sure there are drivers available for Mac OS X, since that’s the current OS that Apple is shipping as the default. There aren’t as many drivers available for it, because it’s relatively new and it takes awhile to ramp up the drivers. If you check the manufacturer’s web sites, you’ll probably find out what you need to know.

If the printer is an older parallel printer, it’s also possible, if you want to keep the Windows and Macs networked, and you have fast cable or DSL access to the Internet, that you’d find an investment in some of the new cable/DSL modems with wireless AND print servers built in. Generally, the print servers I’ve set up use a parallel interface for the printer, then connect to the LAN via Ethernet.

If you do a LOT of scanning, then you might want to check out Hamrick Software and see if VueScan can meet your needs. It’s a $40 cross-platform scanner driver software that really sets the standard for support. The author must add new scanners and improvements on a bi-monthly basis.

The license works for up to 4 different computers and all supported scanners, so you could have a LAN of 4 computers running Windows and Mac OS, each with multiple scanners, and have one $40 piece of software running all of them. I’ve used it to hook up an older AGFA scanner to my Dad’s PC and it runs my newer Canon scanner on my laptop running OS X. When I purchase a slide scanner this spring, I’ll be sure it’s supported by VueScan before I consider it.

DRMOO: … mainly as a word processor, copier, printer, CD copier and digital video editing and a few programs that require CD’s. Is the virtual PC program difficult to use? If you have …


JEFFREY: We use Virtual PC. I have 3 different versions of it. As far as playing CDs, it really kind of depends. My two older sons use a curriculum for schoolwork that’s Windows-based. They use Virtual PC 5 on the iMacs but use it in OS 9 because it runs a little faster in OS 9 than in OS X.

But the CD’s have a lot of “movies” in .avi format and sound files in .wav format. What they do, rather than try and listen to the files played directly in the Windows program running off the CD mounted in Windows (breathe) is they find access the video and audio files directly from the Mac and just play them with the built in QuickTime player. This way, the video isn’t being run through the “emulator” so everything plays very smoothly.

Virtual PC is great for non-multi-media type applications. Where your most notice the “emulation-tax” is when you try to run an application that is heavily multi-media-centric. Text based, 2-dimensional apps run just fine,
although still more slowly than they would on a real PC.

Again, memory is very important to Virtual PC. I run Windows 2000 in VPC 5 on a PowerBook with 1GB of ram, and I run it in OS X (which is slower than OS 9 for such work, as I noted above) and it’s suitable for my needs. Each
of the iMacs here has over 512MB of ram. However, it really depends on what programs you are using.

I mainly use it to test sites in various browsers on Windows, such as Explorer, Netscape, and Opera and another piece of vertical software that’s running over the Internet. It seems about as slow as my sister’s Compaq Pentium II 266 running Windows 98 does. Not unbearable, but certainly not as fast as a new Mac or new PC. I’ve heard that the newer 800mhz and faster G4 Macs runs VPC about as fast as a 400-500mhz PIII.

DRMOO: … some time to respond to these questions, thank you.

JEFFREY: Good luck. In 22 years of using personal computers on a daily basis, and over 10 years on the ‘Net, I’ve never been so aware of how many Windows users are now starting to use a Mac. Maybe it’s the video thing. Anyway, you will find yourself in good company on many of the popular forums and discussions.

When I want answers to which-product kinds of questions I often search at TidBITS and in dealmac’s forums. Even though it specializes in finding good deals on hardware, it seems their forums are populated by lots of knowledgeable cross-platform people. I check for reviews at places like mymac.com. Anyway, if you get a Mac, you’ll love it. You may curse it now and then, but all computers deserve that from time
to time. But you’ll be glad you got one.

I use Windows, Linux, and Mac OS daily. Have used Linux for almost 3 years and Mac OS for 13 years and Windows for … Well since it was DOS 1.1, and I think you’ll be amazed with what you find.

John Nemerovski

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