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PaulVR

FSX on a Mac

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Who out there is running FSX on a Mac? I understand that Macs now can run Windows based programs and since they are known for use with professional graphics types such as the movies, it would seem to make sense to use them on FSX. I realize that they cost a lot more than a Windows based PC but wouldn't that all balance out by not having to update them all the time? Also fighting to get Vista to run and of course the Direct X ten which has still yet to be released.Terry

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I've just received this week my 3rd Mac and, although it's the second with an Intel chip, I never tried running Windows natively, until now.It's a new MacBooPro, with the latest Santa Rosa 2.4 CPU, AND, it's one of the first laptops available with a DX10-ready card, an nvidia 8600M GT, with 256 MB of dedicated RAM. It comes with an healthy 2GB of RAM preinstalled, and can be expanded to 4GB, although one should really shop for RAM elsewere, rather than order it already expanded from Apple, because their price for memory is really out of market. Fortunately, expanding RAM is quite easy, and it uses standard DDR2 667, of the laptop-kind. The screen is particulary nice, since it uses the latest generation LED-based lamps, far brighter than previous CCFL, with an expected longer life, and consumes less battery power. In fact, the model with LED lamps (only the 15 inches, right now, the 17 is still using the previous technology), lasts about 1 hour more on batteries, thanks to the new screen.The build quality is really on top of anyting else I've seen. The only comparison would be with old IBM Thinkpads, but anything built today, from Toshiba or Sony (not even mentioning Dell, because they really lack in build quality), doesn't hold a candle to Apple.Yes, Mac do run Windows nowadays, but note one thing, they can run Windows programs in two very different ways:1) Virtualization. By using either VMware OR Parallels Workstation, you can run Windows (either XP SP2 or Vista) *inside* Mac OSX. This is highly convenient, because your Windows program will run side-by-side Mac programs, and you don't have to reboot. AND, is highly secure, because any problems your Windows program might have, they will not affect your OSX installation (unless you *explicitely* grant write access to your OSX partition). CPU code runs VERY fast, because it's only Virtualization NOT complete emulation. The CPU code will run at almost its full native speed, because is still x86 code, only the rest of the hardware is emulated.The BIG limitation of this mode is, of course, your Windows programs will not have any access to the full machine power, expecially the video card. The virtualized Windows will not see your blazing fast 8600GT, but instead, it will "believe" to run with a lowly S3. No way for graphic intensive apps, like FSX, and all kind of games, to run well into this environment. For that, we need solution #22) Boot CampIt's a free program from Apple (Parallels it's 79$), that is currently in public Beta, but it will be included as standard in the next OSX release 10.5 Leopard, due in October.This program is basically a partitioning assistant and a boot-loader, allowing for a FULL Windows installation, on its own HD partition, basically transforming the Mac into a standard PC, with no emulation or virtualization whatsoever. Its installation is really simple: the only thing to do is to first burn a CD with Apple-specific drivers for Windows (the program will burn a CD for you at start), then decided how much space you want to give to Windows, and then the machine resets, you simply install your regular Windows install CD, and progress from there, not different from any Windows installation from scratch.At the end of the installation, you can either choose which one of the two OSs is the default one that loads automatically when you turn on the machine (you can modify the choice anytime, on the respective OS Control panel Applet) OR, if you want to override the default, by pressing ALT when you turn power on, a menu will appear, allowing to choose between Mac OSX and Windows.Apple simply provides with drivers for their specific hardware, like the self-illuminated keyboard, the multitouch mousepad, and the integrated webcam, but that's it. All other things, being standard PC component, will use same drivers as regular PCs. Apple did include a DX10-aware nVidia driver with Boot Camp, but I simply downloaded the latest ones, replaced it, with no problems, and not any differently than on a PC.With Boot Camp, you basically are using a Mac EXACTLY like a PC, and, beware, with all the same Windows/Vista issues, for as long as you run in Windows. Meaning, you still have to install antiviruses, and the like, because, if running Windows under a Mac in Boot Camp, you are as exposed to malware as anyone else's with a PC. Also, a particularly nasty virus that acts on partition tables COULD, in theory, screw up even your OSX install, regardless if OSX would be otherwise very secure. But of course, it can't do anything to protect itself, if it's not running...Of course, running Boot Camp (with all the previously said care), it's the only way programs like FSX would ever run on a Mac.And I'm happy to tell you, FSX runs EXTREMELY well on the MacBookPro. Considering it's a notebook, and it's quite light as well, I was expecting a HUGE performance hit, comparing to my real PC machine (Intel C2D E6700, 4GB, 8800 GTX 768MB ). So you can imagine my surprise when I finally tried FSX on the MacBookPro...it runs so well, that I was *barely* able to see any difference. Both are easily capable to deliver 25-30 fps, with mid-high settings. The only thing that really brings down the MacBookPro, it's the Light Bloom, because there you see the difference between the 8800 GTX monster, and a "normal" 8600 GT, that effect is really graphic intensive, meaning I lose about 3-4 fps on the PC with Bloom enabled, but I lose at least 10 fps on the MacBookPro. No big deal, I can live without it on the laptop easily, considering how well it runs.I think this just confirm the findings of recent Tom's hardware FSX benchmarks, were you don't see huge differences between graphic cards, provided those are reasonably recent, it's the CPU that is doing most of the work, and the 2.4 ghz Santa Rosa, apparently, is VERY good.So yes, if you want my advice about a Mac (well, what do you expect, considering it's my 3rd one ?), if you aren't put away by the price, that is not *that* higher than competition, expecially for notebooks, you'll have a great experience, even when used in Windows.But beware, do not expect that, by buying a Mac you'll solve ALL your Windows headaches. A Mac with Boot Camp will behave *exactly* like a PC, for good and bad.But consider this: out of the 200GB HD I have, I've setup a 50GB partition for Windows Vista, that ONLY has Vista, FSX and AVG antivirus (and Visual Studio, because I'm a Windows developer as well), and *nothing* else. I do all the rest of the usual office automation tasks, emails, web browsing, voip chat, graphic editing, etc ) under OSX. In fact, I'm also writing this message from my other Mac, a Dual G5...This way, you'll have a MUCH easier Windows experience, FSX will run much better in a totally clean Windows environment, and you'll enjoy the good of the Mac for all your other computing tasks.The better of the two worlds, basically...Now, if only we could use FSX without rebooting...

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Thanks for your very timely (and detailed) post. I've been a Mac user for the last few years but also have a background in developing with Visual Studio. I recently ordered a MacBook Pro as well (although I went for the 7200rpm 160GB HD because FSX is so disk intensive). I haven't received it yet but I was wondering what performance would be like - now I can't wait for it to arrive.Can I just confirm that you went for a Vista install with Boot Camp and that you have had no real problems with it? Right now I can see that XP has a slight performance edge but I'm thinking that 2 years down the line, a lot of people will be using Vista and I don't want to go through the hassle of upgrading an XP partition to Vista unless I need to. If there are improvements with FSX and the DX10 patch then it would also good to be able to see them.My other Vista dilemma is finding a decent Force Feedback joystick that will work with FSForce. Regards David

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>Can I just confirm that you went for a Vista install with Boot>Camp and that you have had no real problems with it? No particular problems, the only gotchas were: The webcam doesn't work in Windows, but this is aknowledged by Apple, it looks like it's a specific problem of the very latest model, that should be fixed in time for the final release. No big deal for me.I wasn't able to use my Apple Cinema Display HD 23 in Dual screen config, only under Windows. Under Mac OSX, the integrated display and the external monitor happily work together, one at 1440x900, the other at 1900x1200, with no problems, under Windows, I can only use the internal one. BUT, I think it's very specific to the Apple Cinema Display, that doesn't used standard DVI (it's the old plexy model) , but has to pass through an adapter, that probably doesn't work in Windows. Tried with a 21" Samsung with native DVI, no problems with two monitors, even in Windows.Other than that, it all went very smoothly, just like installing Vista on a PC, no difference whatsoever.>If there>are improvements with FSX and the DX10 patch then it would>also good to be able to see them.Yes, that was my reasoning too, since it already comes with a DX10 card, it would be cumbersome to install XP, only to have to update anyway a few months later.Note, however, there is a difference when using Parallels. The latest version allows you to re-use the same partition you use in Boot Camp, as a Virtual Machine in Parallels. So, even if you can't run FSX in Parallels, you can at least access your Windows installation even when in Mac OSX. BUT, in this case, Vista is a little bit too much, I guess that with 2GB in total, 1GB allocated for Parallels/Vista and the rest for OSX, is too much. I have XP under Parallels on my iMac, and it's very fast. Vista under Parallels will probably require 4GB in total to run well.Vista under Boot Camp, instead, behaves just like a very fast recent Windows machine.

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Virtuali, David, I too have a new Macbook Pro and would like to install Vista via Boot Camp. Parallels is too finicky virtualizing this environment.Do either of you know what the plans are from both Apple and Parallels when Leopard is released? Will things stay the same as far as Boot Camp is concerned?Thanks,

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As far as I am aware, Boot Camp will be bundled as part of Leopard so there should be no problems there. I don't know about Parallels but I would think that if it works OK in OSX 10.4 then it will be made to work in Leopard.While I'm here, can you tell me if Parallels is usable with Vista for general tasks, perhaps including opening Powerpoint slides and Word / Excel docs or is it just not viable with Vista. I've gone for 2GB of RAM as well since I couldn't justify

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To everyone that has responded to my initial question, thank you very much. It sure has given me something to think about when I upgrade my old P4 2.8 Intel machine with a ATI 9800Pro.Terry

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>While I'm here, can you tell me if Parallels is usable with>Vista for general tasks, perhaps including opening Powerpoint>slides and Word / Excel docs or is it just not viable with>Vista. Since Office it's available for the Mac as well (and Office 2008 shouldn't be too far away), I wouldn't use Parallels+Vista just to open Office files, much better using directly the Mac version. The only thing missing in Office for Mac it's Access, but I never had any problem opening Word, Excel or Powerpoint files.However, to reply to your question, yes, Vista runs under Parallels with 2GB, but it's dragging its feets. It takes a while to start, and is not very snappy. XP under Parallels, instead, is feels almost like using it native, except you can't use 3D graphic and games.Memory on the MacBook Pro, if you buy it elsewere than Apple, it's not special, it's standard So-Dimm DDR2-667, but I'd suggest waiting to switch to 4GB, at least as soon as Leopard is out, because it would be entirely 64 bit, meaning it will make better use of all 4GB.

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I have a MacBook Pro since a week now and have created a Windows XP partition with BootCamp. I figured that I didn't need Vista to run FSX now. When the DX10 patch is out I will probably install Vista on that partition.I just discovered a product called Crossover http://www.codeweavers.com/products/ that can run a certain number of Windows software on the Mac. I downloaded the beta version (on a 30 days trial), installed it (very straightforward) and installed Office 2003. Seems to work fine. Documents are being saved in my Documents folder. I created a small Powerpoint file and did mail it to a friend to check if it is readable. Waiting for his answer.J.J.JJ StruyfBraine-L'AlleudBelgium

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There's really no reason for FSX to run better on a MacBook than on a PC laptop. It *is* a PC laptop as far as the hardware goes (Core 2 Duo, Intel chipset/mobo etc) I'd actually bet on the higher end gaming laptops from Dell, Hypersonic etc performing a lot better than a MBP due to the better video cards. An X1600 or GF8600 aren't great gaming cards.

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RyanThanks for your comments, however I'm not expecting it to run better than a gaming laptop. I'm not getting the Mac for PC gaming - it's my main work machine and preferred OS. The fact that it will run FSX reasonably well is a bonus. I also still do some development work in Visual Studio so it's handy if I can do that on my Mac and access a common file store. My concerns about Vista on the Mac are more to do with driver issues and Vista's general processing overhead. In the long run I'm thinking of replacing my home desktop PC with a Penryn based system when they become available and affordable. I'm hoping the Mac will tide me over until then.David

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>I actually bet on the higher end gaming laptops from Dell,>Hypersonic etc performing a lot better than a MBP due to the>better video cards. An X1600 or GF8600 aren't great gaming>cards.Hypersonic Aviator ??? That's not a laptop, it's a desktop PC with an handle! 11.55 lbs ???? And they are calling it a LAP-top ??It looks they use desktop-type CPU (E6600, E6700, etc), I already did that mistake once, 3 years ago, by buying a Toshiba with a 3.0 ghz Pentium 4, it wasn't basically usable as a laptop, it did run too hot, the constant fan noise was annoying, and you couldn't even think about putting it on your lap, both because it become too hot in minutes, and because you risk covering the air circulation, because the airflow was designed to run even underneat it.However, hypersonic are also quite expensive, tried configuring a 17" with HD resolution, 2.4 cpu, a single 7950 card, 2GB and 160GB hdd, a similar config to the top MacBook 17", it was 2813$, with Vista Home Basic. The MacBook Pro 17", 2.4 cpu, 2GB, 160 hdd, with an HD display is 2899$, just to dispel the popular myth that Macs are "much" more expensive.

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I too am running FSX on a MacPro (2,66 Ghz quad core with 3 Gb RAM and Radeon X1900 with 512 Mb video memory). FSX runs very well in Vista with Boot Camp. I have two partitions: one for Mas OS and one for Vista and FS (9 and X). When I boot in OSX, I can access all my files on my Vista partition by running Windows with Parallels. I can read and change files on my Vista partition with my Mac OSX applications. (I just worked on some screenshots I made in FSX with Photoshop for Mac). However, I have to use my 'old' Windows XP with Parallels. I could in theory use Vista on the PC partition with Parallels, but then it requires a second license for use with the virtual machine (unless you have Vista Home Ultimate).When I boot in Vista, the MacPro is just a powerful PC which runs FSX very well.The main limitation at the moment though is that Vista under Boot Camp will not recognise more than 2 Gb memory. I suppose it has to do with that fact that the Mac as a PC doesn't use BIOS but EFI. This bug probably will be fixed in a future update.Paul

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virtulai, great post. I have a couple of questions for you. Did you have to lower the settings at all from Mid-high between the MacBook Pro and your desk top (besides light bloom)? It seems almost unreal to me that an 8600 in a laptop can do almost as well as a 8800gts in a desktop! Also what speed is your hard drive on the Mac? I've only seen 200GB HDs with 4200rpm or did you find a MacBook with higher speeds on that size HD? Would you feel comfortable with the 160GB HD partioned if it was faster (7200rpm) or is the more storage space option the better way to go? If you went with slower HD have you found that Flight Sim loads slowly (is it a problem)? Also did you go with the 15 or 17 inch Mac?I've been thinking and planning about a computer upgrade for a while and have been torn over getting a desktop with a larger, faster hard drive, Nvidia 8800gts, 6600 or 6700 intel duo core chip, etc vs the portability and flexibilty of a MacBook Pro with an 8600 video card thinking there was no way it could run flight simulator even with the settings all the way to the left and having it slide show on me. I love MSFS but I also love real time strategy games and I thought that if I got a MacBook I would just run some strategy games and would have to sacrifice running FSX until I could buy a more powerful desktop later. Your awseome post was a ray of hope. I'm thinkng maybe now I could get a MacBook Pro and have my cake and eat it too. I could get a docking station and set it up for Flight Sim with the hardware (bigger monitor, yoke, pedals, etc) and still have the simulator run well. I can only afford one system (desktop or laptop) for now and I can't tell you how many "thought cycles" I've gone through trying to figure out laptop vs desktop, vista vs XP vs Mac OS, etc. Thanks again for the information you provided so far and any other info you have would be appreciated. Have a great day.Incisal Flyer

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