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Mariner's use of PC vs Mac
Starpath is first in line to praise the value and efficiency of Mac computers. We use them ourselves whenever possible. As mariners, however, we are still left with the fact that the vast majority of maritime software is still optimized for PCs. This may change in the future, or maybe not. A Mac can run a Windows operating system (OS) as fast or faster than many PCs.

We do not see many of the leading maritime software companies rushing to native Mac programs. In the world of marine weather, communications, and echart navigation, the PC options are still years ahead of Mac counterparts in most cases. (Even some new Mac versions of the PC counterparts are not up to the PC standards yet). In some apps, there is no Mac counterpart. We offer several PC programs without Mac counterparts, but there are several easy ways for Mac users to take advantage of Windows software when needed. As for our online courses, it is only the Radar Course that requires a PC solution, as noted below.

Running PC software on a Mac
There are several ways to run a Windows OS on a Mac computer. You can install a copy of a Win OS in a Bootcamp partition, and then choose when starting your computer to have it be a Mac or a Windows PC. This option does not require extra software, but it does require a copy of a Windows OS. Most Windows programs used in navigation and weather will still run fine on a WinXP, but that OS is no longer supported by Microsoft, so the Win10 would be the optimum system moving forward.

Alternatively, you can install a Windows emulation (virtual machine) onto your Mac, and then run either Windows or Mac or both as you choose. This is often the most convenient solution, because you can go seamlessly between them. The Bootcamp option is one or the other, and you have to log out and reboot to switch.

There are several options for virtual machines. These are stand alone Mac apps that you install on the Mac that then lets you run Windows on the same machine. The two leading commercial brands are Parallels and Fusion. They are about the same price ($70 or so), with periodic promotional specials. Parallels advertises that they are more popular. We use Fusion, but that is largely because we have used this company's products (VMWare) for years for PC virtual machines. They seem to have the similar specs and features. This has to be checked with their advertising and any friends who might have experience to share.

These programs also require a Windows OS, and the same notes above on this apply. We might add that most Windows users in a Mac have chosen the virtual machine approach, rather than Bootcamp. It is much more convenient, and basically integrates your options to run programs and save files. The Bootcamp option would be best for those who want 100% separation between the two systems at the price of reboots when switching.

For completeness we note there is also an open-source, free emulator called Virtual Box. Our feelings would be that if you do not know that already, then this would not be a good choice. The other two are very easy to use. The tech support from VMWare is outstanding.

Another option ...may sound blasphemous to dedicated Mac users!
A simple practical solution in many cases is to purchase a PC laptop or netbook for dedicated use with your maritime software. There are multiple options available for about $300 at Costco and other discount outlets. (We note recently some pretty hot little machines from Acer these days. You will need a real Windows machine, however, not a Chromebook.) Then you can run and maintain all of your Windows maritime software on these super portable machines. You can think of them as an iPad that does not look as nice, but does tremendously more for you, and costs 50% less.

Add to your netbook or notebook a Blue tooth GPS (GlobalSat BT-368i for ~$50 or the slick XGPS150a from Dualav ~$100), and you have a super portable complete nav station, with echarts, satellite email, weather services, and tons of maritime training tools and applications. When you go chartering or sail on someone else's boat, you can take your entire nav station with you... include your own vhf as well.  There are also very compact AIS receivers for $60 or so to add to your complete, stand-alone nav station.

Another fact we can proudly share, is that our courses are so effective and cost efficient, that we have had many users over the years purchase or obtain a PC for dedicated use on our courses and have been very happy they did in the end.


Notes on Specific Courses for Mac Users

Except for the Radar course, which does require a PC, the main PC specific parts of our courses are the complimentary PC ebooks we provide.  However, we do provide printed copies of our texts with the courses, and all of the ebook texts are available in iBooks, Kindle, or pdf formats that do run on Macs, iPads, and other tablets.  So for a small extra cost for these ebooks the courses are the same, PC or Mac. There is virtue to the ebooks for searching and book marking as you proceed. These ebooks are listed at www.ebooks.starpath.com.

If you do wish to run any of our courses with Mac alone, then please contact us so we can outline the set up procedure so it is not confused by the standard PC components.

Here is a list of the courses, individually, that have a Windows component other than ebooks. If you do choose to take any one of these using only a Mac, we can help you individually if needed. Again, the options above for getting Windows access might still be considered.

Inland and Coastal Navigation
This course does not rely on any PC specific components. In the past, we did use a PC echart program, but we have changed that now for a better solution.  For learning echart navigation we use opencpn.org and there is both a PC and Mac version for this this. Inland and Coastal Nav with optional pdf ebooks is Mac ready.

Celestial Navigation
This course includes a Windows long term almanac, but this is not required for the course at all, and we have free online resources for that as well.  So Cel Nav with optional pdf ebooks is Mac ready.

Navigation Rules
This course includes a Windows program called NavRules Trainer, but we have all of the training materials of that PC program and more available on our website. See our NavRules options for details.  Also the ebooks we provide in this course are pdfs to begin with. So Nav Rules course is Mac ready.

This is a course that requires a Windows option. We use our Radar Trainer simulator, which is unmatched worldwide for learning and mastering radar.

Marine Weather
For the time being, this course also requires a Windows option. We use our Weather Trainer Live program for this one as a primary resource for unique training materials and live online access to resources. For now we only have a PC version, but we will have a Mac version of Weather Trainer before the end of this year.


Please skim through the past Student Comments on our courses and the Reviews links for our books and software to see the value of going that extra step into the PC world to accomplish this training. And do not hesitate to contact us if there are further questions.


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