A Powerbook in a Windows/AutoCAD Architecture Firm

Richard T. explains to MacDailyNews how he uses a PowerBook G4/800 in a Windows/AutoCAD-dominated architecture firm:

“I am a Senior Project Architect with a well-known A/E firm. The CAD implemented throughout our organization is primarily AutoCad, running on Dell Workstations. There is also limited use of applications such as FormZ and Viz. All servers are Windows-based, including those for Outlook Exchange.”

“When I joined this firm about a year ago, I arrived with my own personal TiBook in tote. The firm’s IT department responded with a purchase-order outlining their current specification for a new Dell Laptop. I declined, and instead embarked upon an effort to make my TiBook work in this environ. This was met with some resistance by the IT department, who cited “security concerns.” However, they did call it “pretty.” It was also made clear that they would not provide any technical support outside of their Dell universe. So I was on my own.”

Configuration Details:

• Ti Powerbook G4
• 800 mhz
• 1gb ram
• VPC 6
• Windows 2000
• AutoCAD 2000
• Outlook 2000

“At the time, OS X was still a bit raw, and I was not well acquainted with the cross-platform features such as SMB, NetInfo, etc. However, within a relatively short period of time, I was able to login to any of the Windows file servers and print to any of the network printers. It should be noted that all of this was done prior to the improvments of 10.2 (and later). Someone else in a similar position today would find the whole thing significantly easier.”

“The next issue was dealing with Outlook. My initial efforts focused on Microsoft’s free version of ‘Outlook Mac for OS 9.’ However, it soon became clear why it was free. In addition to stabilty issues, connection reliability, and periodic disaster, I learned that this version of Outlook simply lacks support for many of the features implemented by our firm (group folders, calendars, etc). I have since been running Outlook for Windows in Virtual PC (VPC). While this may scare some in the Mac community, I can honestly say that it works GREAT. I have put the shortcut (alias) to Outlook right in my dock (VPC 6 feature) and maximized Outlook in a 800×600 VPC window. As it is always running, I just click on the dock and it appears like any other OSX app. Yes, it lacks the Aqua appearance, but so did the OS 9 version. It is also worth noting that I am able to HotSync to my Palm without trouble.”

“The final issue, and perhaps the one of most interest to readers is AutoCAD. YES, I am able to productively use AutoCAD via VPC. Please note that this declaration is of recent origin, and is based upon my particular setup and my particular needs with AutoCAD. A while back, I had tried to do this with VPC 5 on an iBook… no way. But today, with VPC 6, OSX 10.2.4 and my TiBook G4 800, things have greatly improved. It is certainly less responsive that what can be expected from the latest Dell box, and if you do CAD all day long, this is still not the solution. However, if the recent trend in performance gains continues, it could be, very soon. While I have not personally tested it, one could assume that doing this on the latest dual chip desktop may be enough already. And if the rumors of an all new IBM chip 3-4 times faster than present prove true this summer… game set match. Even if new-owner Microsoft does NOTHING to improve the present version of VPC (other than retain compatibility with the latest OS version).”

– Richard T.


  1. As a user of VPC since version 2.x I feel that a round of applause is in order here. I’ve used various versons of VPC and Autocad successfully over the years, both in OS 9.x and in OS-X. While I found that it was dreadfully slow in OS-X – It was usable. and one could be productive. Nice to hear this sort of thing from other quarters and from a “power user”. My 2 �. GM

  2. Of course your “successful” use of a PC product give AutoCAD reason not to port a compatible version to the Mac.

    In the best scenario, Virtual PC would be used for compatibility-testing and once-in-a-while programs. All major programs should be for Mac.

    How did they lose the Architectural customer, anyway?

  3. oh my gosh, I started dying of laughter when they cited security concerns. that’s a joke, I was remarking to my it guys here at work that I have to patch our lone pc almost everyday. Whereas, our 9 macs, I haven’t had to update in a LOOONG time where security is concerned. Just goes to show that some IT departments really aren’t that bright. Either that or just want to keep their jobs. Moving to macs would significantly reduce IT costs.

  4. I too have used the 800 mghz tiboook in an office of NT 4 file servers and workstations running Architectural Desktop 3.3… I briefly tried using VPC version 5.0 running Win NT 4.0 on both the tibook and a dual 450 G4 desktop. My experience was not what I would consider acceptable from a power-user productivity standpoint, but it worked. I could open, change, and save files to and from the windows file servers without an ounce of configuration.

    Forgetting about VPC for a moment, the whole world of IT “professionals” should be informed that the mac acts almost completely transparent as a client on the network. The use of SMB networking for filesharing works perfectly.

    Regarding email, I dont even bother with Outlook on my mac any more. I’ve set up both Apple’s Mail app as well as the MS Entourage mail app to connect to our Outlook Exchange Server running our email. It works perfectly. I honestly dont understand how the majority of IT “professionals” can call themselves “professionals” without at least knowing what is possible when using other systems.

    Matt Edmonds

  5. I bought the 1st CAD system for machinery/industrial use in Central Oregon in 83 which ran on an Apple IIE, and have stepped through multiple systems with Apple Mac since then. Now I have a PC desktop for SolidWorks which is a must to keep me productive. I also have a TI PBG4 with VPC 5 and tons of other stuff. It will run SW and the PC Stuff but I need an upgrade and OSX latest. Problem is, there is not enough time in the day & I must devote my time to machine design and learning the new SW software. I need a friend to keep my computer equipment and software up to date in exchange for training in my trade and the use of my powerful SolidWorks solid modeling software. My local Mac consultant does good but he charges more than I do.

  6. I would like to see how ADT 2004 runs on a MAC. Under normal conditions (1-3mb file containing a few xrefs)

    Even better Mac OSX is unix based. Shouldn’t there then be a way to run AutoCAD on a Linux distro. Or is that to much of a reach? If I could do that efficiantly I would have no use for Win XP on my 30 workstations.

    Maybe someday…

  7. I stiil don’t see why there is a need for the power book over the Dell PC laptop. The Powerbook isn’t powerful, doesn’t run as much software, as a PC, and the MAC interface doesn’t work any easier than a PC. Besides that, why use a MAC to emulate a PC? Looks like this senior Project Architect needs some good old fashioned computer knowledge logic. Is Richard T a registered Architect. If he is not, than he is not an Architect.

  8. Message to Ed. Put down your grossly overweight laptop and use a Mac for once in your life!
    Windows just as easy to use as a mac? Are you having a laugh?! You have to run AutoCAD with Virtual PC as it’s not on the Mac (and should be!!). I use a PC at work and a Mac at home – believe me! There is a HUGE difference (Mac is far superior!). If Autodesk get their act together and put AutoCAD on the mac they will reap the benefits!
    Oh, and by the way, in regard to not running as much software on the mac….would that be professional design sofware or kiddies speak and spell software?

  9. Hello everybody.

    Just to know if someone has tried to run Bricscad for Windows (http://www.bricscad.com) or BricsCAD for Linux in VPC.
    This is “kind-of” clone of AutoCAD.

    In windows its requirements are mininum. Although the minimum hardware is 64 mb ram, 8 mb video. pentium 200. you can install this in a P1 166, 48 Mb Ram and it works!

    BricsCAD native format is DWG 2005-2004, 2002-2000 and older
    and it uses the same interface and commands of autocad.

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