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Re: Mac conversion from PC

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The switch from PC to Mac will be a decision you are not likely going to regret. The reliability, usability, and security of Mac systems can significantly improve the day to day functions not just for regular consumers, but for structural engineering firms too. Almost all compatibility problems have been eliminated with the combination of existing Mac software and Windows virtualization products such as Parallels Desktop.

While it true that structural engineers cannot completely abandon Windows, many advancements in this very area have opened the door for engineers to transition from PC to Mac.

In order to transfer your documents, programs, and program settings, you can actually convert your current PC into a virtual PC by using a program like Parallels Transporter. This virtual PC is basically just one big image file which can be opened on your Mac using Parallels Desktop. Parallels this week actually released a Switch To Mac edition of their software, which makes this transition (both documents and programs) completely painless. You can see a demo of how this Switch To Mac edition works, here.

Once you have completed this, you basically have your old PC running inside of a window on your new Mac. The beauty of this approach however, is fivefold: 
  1. Your old PC runs at full speed (it has direct access to your Mac's processor) and you can allocate how much memory you want it to take up 
  2. All files, clipboard contents, and networks can be shared between virtual PC's and your Mac (this makes it very easy to move your documents from the virtual PC onto your Mac)
  3. Due to an amazing feature called Coherence, you can actually run Windows programs side by side with Mac applications (see a demo of this here)
  4. You can choose the level of isolation for the virtual Windows machine (this means that viruses, spyware, etc which can affect your Windows machine will not affect the files on your Mac) 
  5. Backing up your entire virtual Windows machine is as simple as copying the image file to an external hard drive (in fact, any backup of your Mac will subsequently backup your virtual PC too). [Sidenote: one of the main (both business & consumer) advantages of working on a Mac is the ability to create scheduled, incremental, transferable, bootable backups (thanks to an amazing little app called SuperDuper). This means that I can backup my MacBook Pro to an external drive, plug that drive into any other intel Mac, boot from the external, and have all of my files, applications, and settings ready to use at full speed. This includes using my virtual PC created back on my MacBook Pro. This means that if (G-d forbid) my MacBook's hard drive crashes, I can be working as if nothing had happened off of my external on my (or anyone else's) Mac. A truly robust design.]
With this setup, you can, at your own pace, slowly transition from your PC to your Mac, eventually only running the programs you absolutely have to in Windows (AutoCAD, MathCAD, etc). As Scott pointed out, spreadsheets on the Mac hit a bit of a snag with Office 2008 for Mac, which disabled VBA macros - but since you have access to your entire Microsoft Office suite in your virtual machine, you'll be fine until Office 2010 for Mac comes out (and includes VBA support).

Finally, keep in mind that excellent in-person support for your Mac, including the transition from your PC, is offered to any Apple customer via the Genius Bar (for technical support), and One-to-One (for training on how to migrate to and use a Mac).
Eugene Gordin, EIT
Doctoral Student 
Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of California, Berkeley