Mac & Windows Notes

I continue to enjoy my Mac Pro (under Snow Leopard) and my PC (with newly installed Windows 7-64). Following are some collected notes & observations.

  • Music: for years I’ve been careful to select PC motherboards with the best onboard sound processors (DAC’s). I knew I would be interested in finding the results of A/B sound comparisons between Mac and PC playing the same iTunes tracks in synch.
  • iTunes: “PC music” is a hot topic in the high-end audio magazines these days. The thinking is that you have to get an external DAC to wring true “hi-fi” stereo sound out of your PC – and the pros are often as not using iTunes to create their own state of the art music servers – something I’ve been doing for years, using just the onboard digital-to-analog logic.
  • And the audio quality winner is: Mac Pro, by the slightest of margins. My PC audio sounded indistinguishable from the original CD to me, or so I thought, so I didn’t see how the Mac could improve on that. Piped through the same back-end mini-stereo and Boston bookshelf speakers, the Mac highs sounded just a little crisper, and the bass just a little clearer and resonantly robust. That’s all the audiospeak you’ll get out of me – it was just enough difference that I could tell.
  • HRT Music Streamer ($99): I wanted to see if one of these external DAC devices could really improve my PC audio. I ordered my $99 Music Streamer from Amazon, but it shipped from their trustworthy partner Audio Advisor. There is also a $299 Music Streamer+ with a better Bryston digital conversion processor chip. Art Dudley of Stereophile raves about this thing (the cheaper one) in his review. Believe it or not, all these devices, from $99 to $3,000, get the raw audio input from the USB data stream sent to any and all standard USB ports.
  • It works. The HRT raised the PC audio to “indistinguishable” as compared with the Mac. The ASUS motherboard (M2N-SLI Deluxe) hosts an HD Audio Device, an ADI AD1988B, an Analog Devices Audio Codec.  (Check the link: it’s amazing what they cram into one chip). You would expect Apple to support top-rate media, so I suppose it’s a credit to ASUS that their more general-purpose motherboard came so close. Art Dudley must be using a Dell.
  • I remain unconvinced that $299 or $1295 would get me a noticeably better audio experience. A good DAC is important, particularly if you’re running typical off-the-shelf retail PC’s,  but, goodness, there aren’t that many different grades of DAC chip on the market. If you can afford your table wine at over $100/bottle, go ahead and buy the $1,995 Bryston BDA-1 and let me know what you think – in plain English, not in winetaster-ese.
  • Speed Comparisons: I’ve been running projects for SETI for years. I’m currently running it on (1) Mac, (2) PC’s, and a laptop. The Mac is pretty much producing as much daily output as all the other machines combined. SETI results below. Click the image for a readable full-size .gif image.
  • Machines #5 and #6 are not active. #5 is my current PC, but under the old XP OS; the sixth is the Phoenix machine which only runs a few days a month. Average Credit scores compute lower with disuse. My old 32-bit XP installation (#5) used to crank out an average credit of about 690 units per day, so Win7 under 64-bit is about 1/3 faster on the same machine, and the average is still creeping up.
SETI results

SETI Recent Results 12-24-3009

  • Quicken 2010: I use Quicken to manage all the household accounts. Under Windows 7 I found the older Quicken 2009 no longer displayed investment share price in portfolio management, which kind of defeats the whole purpose of maintaining a portfolio tracker. The online Chat folks at Intuit assured me this feature would work under Q2010, so I upgraded, and it did work. Make sure you don’t check Run As Administrator in the executable’s Properties (even if you have Admin privileges): you’ll get the annoying dialog “Quicken does not support the Run As Administrator command”. Everything else works fine. If you do a 1-hour 100% clean uninstall and reinstall, and I did, you still have to un-check the Properties box to get rid of the dialog.  (That means their uninstaller didn’t find all old registry entries). Once I figured that out, it all works fine now. I wish their web page could have just said that.  Oh, and if you were thinking of migrating to Microsoft Money: did you know Microsoft tossed in the towel? MS Money is no longer offered and support will end soon.
  • Sun Gonna Shine in My Back Door Someday Blues: If I ever get into the old Mac vs. PC flame war rhetoric, and I never did in the old days, I hope somebody will just shoot me. Having said that, if you want to install or uninstall a Mac app, you just drag the app’s icon into, or out of, the Applications folder. Heaven help us all if life on the PC side was ever so brilliantly simple.

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