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MacOS vs. Windows PC for Mathematica?

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg13793] MacOS vs. Windows PC for Mathematica?
  • From: franki at
  • Date: Fri, 28 Aug 1998 04:18:18 -0400
  • Organization: Deja News - The Leader in Internet Discussion
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at


I'm wrestling with the option of switching platforms.  I'm currently on
a PPC Mac 7500 running MacOS8.1 (yup, I have the AppearanceExt Patch). 
I'm contemplating switching to Win95/98 or WinNT.  Since Mathematica
(Mathematica) is a workhorse program for me, its rendition quality on
these platforms will make a substantial impact on my decision. Of
course, overall OS reliability (separate from Mathematica) plays a
strong role in one's overall productivity. BTW, I'm not a platform/OS
zealot, and respectfully request that any such zealots refrain from

Here are some issues/items which I can identify as impacting a relative
evaluation amongst these platforms ("+" = favorable; "-" =
disadvantage).  Of course, the platform rendition quality is a function
of both the platform OS quality and the efforts WRI decides to invest
into each (presumably as dictated by market forces).  Another factor
bearing upon these issues is the OS upgrade path of Apple versus
Microsoft - over time, each OS will presumably make headway on their
respective deficiencies, but at the risk of leaving older systems
behind. I'll presume that for the time being, no platform can claim a
strong speed advantage; thus, robustness issues are prime in my view.

MacOS: ====== + Predictable (Postscript) printing behavior + No stupid
filename length limitations + Filename extension freedom (extensions
not tied to resource fork/registry) - Lack of robust/dynamic system
memory management:
 - Need to manually set memory size partition (via GetInfo)  - The
ineffectiveness of virtual memory  - Inexplicable paging (swapping) to
disk while scrolling a notebook - Lack of process
protection/pre-emptive multitasking  - Typically, exceeding of memory
limits crashes system; corrupts notebook if in process of saving  -
Sluggish notebook/kernel response loop - Smaller Mac market share
presumably means lower priority for Mathematica upgrades/ ports

Regarding the issues I can identify on the various flavors of Windows, I
only speak with secondhand knowledge:

I assume that under WindowsNT, the system memory and process protection
deficits identified under MacOS are either mitigated or absent.  I'm
not sure if this also applies to Win95 or Win98.  I believe WinNT
allows long filenames unlike Win95 and Win98 (?), but that they all key
off the filename extension. Regarding printing robustness, my sense is
that Windows still lags behind the Mac.

Of course, overall OS reliability (separate from Mathematica) plays a
strong role in one's overall productivity. A few years ago, the Mac was
well ahead of Windows on this point, but recently it seems to me that
the Mac crashes almost as unpredictably as Windows.

I'd appreciate any enlightenment on these issues, and any others which
impact on platform selection.


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