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Scott's Column
Outlook 2000 on Windows Vista, Mac Laptops vs. Windows Laptops

July 1, 2007
By Scott Lewis

This month I spent far too much time trying to prove MacBook laptops were more expensive than Windows laptop. I failed! When you level the hardware playing field Mac laptops are cheaper than Windows laptops. I also cover the work I did to get Outlook 2000 running on Windows Vista. I didn't have time to cover DX10 video. Next month I will do that, and price what it will take to upgrade my desktop to be able to play DX10 games. Also, on the last day of June I purchased the hardware to rebuild my home server. I will cover that next month as well. So enjoy the two topics below, they are long enough that you won't feel cheated.

Current Topics:

Office/Outlook 2000 on Vista with Virtual PC

Last month I talked about virtualization software. This month I used Virtual PC 2007 to help me document some of the issues with Outlook 2000 running on Windows Vista. My blog gets a lot of traffic from people doing searches for Outlook or Office 2000 and Windows Vista. I thought it was time I stepped up to the plate and created a definitive step-by-step guide to getting Office, particularly Outlook 2000, running on Windows Vista.

To save some of you time, you will find the Step-By-Step Guide on my blog. What I am going to write about here is what I had to do to build the guide. If you are interested in how you can use virtualization software to solve problems then this article is for you.

I used Virtual PC 2007 for this testing for a couple of simple reasons. 1) It is easy, 2) it is free, 3) I already had VPC and a Windows XP Professional virtual machine ready to go. Since I was going to be testing e-mail I needed an address to test with. I didn't want to alter the experiment by playing tricks with my main account. So my son gladly gave up his e-mail account for me to use during my testing. He is only 9, and hardly ever does e-mail anyway. It made for a spam free e-mail account that would only be getting messages that I knew about.

I made this checklist of items to test:

  • Address Book/Contacts. Getting the contacts into Outlook is priority, but making sure they appear when you click the "To:" button in an e-mail message is also important.
  • Make sure Outlook can be set to the default mail program.
  • Insure Outlook runs without its setup wizard starting up each time.
  • Test Excel, Word, PowerPoint and even Access. I did not mess around with FrontPage 2000 as few people actually use it.

I tested using two scenarios.

Scenarios #1 - Upgrade Windows XP to Vista

For the first round of testing I upgrade my Windows XP Professional virtual machine (VM) to Vista Home Premium. Before starting I shut down the VM (this is different than closing the VM and saving its state). I did a backup of the two files that comprise the VM. A VM must be shut down for you to copy the files and have them be useful. I did this backup in case I needed to return and start over.

The first step was to install Office 2000 just like a regular user would have done. After installing Office I configured Outlook to use my son's POP3 e-mail account and sent and received a couple of test e-mail message. I also added a few contacts to Outlook. At this point I did an export of the contacts into the My Documents folder on this virtual machine. Then it was time to make another backup copy of the VM files... just in case I had problems upgrading the VM to Vista.

When I went to install Vista Home Premium I was informed that I could not upgrade Windows XP Professional to Windows Vista Home Premium. I was required to install Vista Business, Vista Ultimate or Vista Enterprise. I choose to Install Vista Business (I had to get a Vista Business product key from MSDN to do this). This made me feel sorry for anyone out there that is thinking of doing an in-place upgrade to Windows Vista. In fact, it solidifies my opinion that you should do a clean install of Vista.

After the upgrade I made another backup of the VM files, with the VM shut down of course. Then the real testing began. I do not want to rehash the Step-By-Step Guide here, but just so you know that you had to uninstall and reinstall Outlook to get it working. It is important that you understand that even though I was able to get Outlook 2000 to work on Windows Vista it does not function properly with regard to the Address Book/Contacts. Basically you are using Windows' Contacts, not Outlook's Contacts. This should weigh heavily with you in deciding if it is worth it to try and use Office/Outlook 2000 with Vista.

Scenarios #2 - Install Vista and Office From Scratch

This was a much easier task. I simply built a new VM in VPC and installed Windows Vista Home Premium on it. I then installed Office/Outlook 2000 and followed many of the steps that I wrote down while doing the upgrade scenario. There were little differences in getting Outlook to function with a clean install. However, there was a slight behavior difference with the contacts when doing a clean install. I never could figure out why things worked they way they did, but overall expect to live with some limitations if you decide that Outlook 2000 is that important.

That about covers it. I spent a lot of time making copies of VMs to make sure I could start over at various points in my testing. This is always a good idea when using virtual machine software. Had I made some changes that corrupted the Office install it would be much easier to restore a VM with Office installed then it would be to build a VM from scratch and start the process all over again.

Ultimately I have to conclude that it is not worth running Outlook 2000 on Windows Vista. If you are using a PDA you will have to manually sync up your contacts because the Palm software won't be able to sync with the Windows Contacts that Outlook is being forced to use. And there in lies the rub... is it worth all this trouble to use a 7 year old program. I don't think so. I realize that Office is an expensive piece of software, but if you need it then that means one of three things:

  1. You need it because your job requires it, and they should foot the bill for the upgrade.
  2. You need it so you should bite the bullet and buy a newer version.
  3. You don't really need it and you should seriously consider an alternative, such as Open Office. If this is not an acceptable solution then see option 2.

With all that being said... I am not an Outlook user. I use Word & Excel at home. Once in a rare while I will look at PowerPoint to help my wife build a presentation for work. I will also dabble with Access, and have my permanent address book in an Access database. Other than that my needs are very modest and if necessary I could switch. Since I do not use Outlook, Office 2000 is a viable solution for me running under Windows Vista. If you need Outlook you should upgrade to Office 2003 or 2007.

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Price Comparison MacBook & MacBook Pro vs. Windows Laptops

To Mac or not to Mac... that is the question.

I have been getting tempted more and more by the new Mac laptops. These are the laptops with Intel Core 2 Duo processors. I decided to check them out to see how they compare to my Toshiba P105-9312 and to new Windows laptops.

Let's start with the basic specs of my Toshiba laptop:

2.0 GHz Intel Core Duo (Note: this is not a Core 2 Duo)
2 GB RAM
200 GB Hard Drive @ 4200 RPM
nVidia GeForce Go 7900 GS with 256 MB RAM
8x DVD Burner
Bluetooth
802.11g WiFi
100 Megabit Ethernet
Weight: Heavy
17" 1440 x 900 screen

My Toshiba also includes a fingerprint reader, a few USB ports and a memory card slot that takes a few different memory cards. Overall, I have only used the memory card reader once, I use a USB mouse from time to time and occasionally attach my camera by USB. I mention this because Mac laptops typically come with USB and Firewire ports. If you have the need for Firewire this is a great value in the Mac. However, it is wasted on me. Ports are ports, and I have not hit an issue yet with available ports on a laptop. I only mention the weight as "heavy" because I don't know what it is and it is heavy. Weight was not a consideration when I bought it, but it might be for you. I suspect it is about 8.5 pounds.

A quick look at Apple's web site shows these two MacBook Pro laptops at the lowest and highest price points. There is a MacBook Pro that slots between these two, but at $2,499 for a 15" screen it is clearly not the better value:

17" MacBook Pro - $2,799
2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
2 GB RAM
nVidia GeForce 8600M GT with 256MB RAM
160GB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400 rpm
8x slot-loading SuperDrive
802.11n WiFi
iSight Camera
Gigabit Ethernet
Bluetooth
6.8 pounds with battery
17" 1680 x 1050 display (1920 x 1200 = $100 upgrade)

15" MacBook Pro - $1,999
2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
2 GB RAM
nVidia GeForce 8600M GT with 128MB RAM
120GB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400 rpm
8x slot-loading SuperDrive
802.11n WiFi
iSight Camera
Gigabit Ethernet
Bluetooth
5.4 pounds with battery
15.4" 1440 x 900 display

At quick glance the 17" MacBook Pro is closest to my own configuration. However, my Toshiba does not have a DX10 compatible video card and lower resolution screen. However, I paid $1,849 (after rebate) for mine. Even without the rebate it was still $1,999.

Does this mean the MacBook Pros are expensive? Let's take a quick look at a MacBook (not Pro) model. The best price/performance configuration goes like this:

13" MacBook - $1,299
2.16 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
1 GB RAM
Intel GMA 950 graphics with 64MB of DDR2 SDRAM shared memory
120GB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400 rpm
8x slot-loading SuperDrive
802.11n WiFi
iSight Camera
Gigabit Ethernet
Bluetooth
5.1 pounds
13.3" 1280 x 800 display

I would have to upgrade the memory to 2GB especially with the shared video memory. That might be an issue. The upgrade from Apple is $175. Ouch! You might think you could just buy 1GB of memory from Kingston and install it yourself. That should be about half the upgrade price from Apple, right? Maybe not. The memory is in two 512MB modules. Does this only have two memory slots? If so that means buying 2GB of memory and taking out the existing memory to install it... and not saving any money in the process.

Regardless of the memory, this would not be a gaming laptop, so I would not be playing 3D games on it. I am a little concerned with the screen size coming from a 17" screen, but I would play with this at an Apple store to see how it does with my aging eyes.

There is a MacBook model slotted above the one I listed, however, it only adds 40GB of drive space and the black color instead of white. That does not justify its $200 price increase.

So, are MacBook Pro laptops expensive? If you look at the components included you will see that they are very competitive for high-end laptops. In fact, I would argue that they are cheaper. That's right cheaper. To prove my point let's take a look at some Windows laptops compared to the Macs.

I found it very hard to find comparable Windows based laptops. Why is this hard? The MacBook & MacBook Pro lines only have 6 configurations... total. Many laptop vendors have more than that... each. Then you have different brands to choose from. Also, many laptops sold at BestBuy or Circuit City tend to favor the budget shopper. Budget laptops will make a lot of compromises. If you look at the specs of the MacBooks above you will see little compromise. For instance, the cheapest MacBook is $1,099 and included 802.11n (yes, draft but still N and not G) and Gigabit Ethernet. Budget Windows laptops all drop to 802.11g and 100 Megabit Ethernet. All the MacBooks have Firewire and USB, whereas Windows laptops rarely have Firewire. All MacBooks have iSight cameras built-in. Few Windows laptops have a built-in camera, and even more rare at the low end of the food chain. All the MacBook Pro laptops have DX10 compatible video cards, while I could not find a DX10 equipped Windows laptop in the places I looked. FInally, all MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops have at least a 2.0 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor. I had a tough time finding any Windows laptops at BestBuy or CompUSA with a 2.0 GHz processor, and none were faster than 2.0 GHz.

If you are looking for a bargain laptop priced below $1,000 then you can only go with Windows. Apple wants it this way. They are selling style and elegance, both of which imply you are not going budget. (I don't want to get into Linux at this point. However, as soon as Dell offers two identically configured laptops, one with Windows and one with Linux, I will compare them and see if we can wean out how much you are really paying for Windows on a new machine.

I decided to limit my search to Dell, Best Buy and CompUSA. Dell because their web site is universal, at least as far as you can do the exact same research yourself. BestBuy has become synonymous with getting hi-tech toys. Let's face it when people ask you about a new computer you mention BestBuy as part of the conversation. BestBuy's configurations suck, but the site is stable enough that I should be able to look something up within the same time frame as the Apple products, get them in my article and those same machines will be available for you. Personally, I like the selection at CompUSA better. I bought my Toshiba at CompUSA and while there noticed they had more higher end laptops than BestBuy. Plus, CompuUSA sells Macs, so they may be more inclined to stand up competing Windows laptops that don't look cheap fifteen feet away from the Mac display.

I did not look at warrantee information in my search. Of course, sales tax is out of the question for me to consider. Shipping is an issue for the Dell, but I didn't want this to get too complicated. Trust me, you will not have to worry about such things when you see the numbers below.

Maybe you are wondering why I don't look at more places online, such as NewEgg. Good question. I believe that the vast majority of laptop computers purchased by home consumers are purchased at a store. It is a touchy feely thing. Plus there is the "implied" security in having a place to bring it back to if you should have a problem. Dell is probably the biggest exception, whereas my wife and I even got my son a Dell last year sight unseen.

I may be wrong, but that is my opinion. And this column really is all about my opinion.

Let's start by seeing what Dell has to compare to the 17" MacBook Pro as well as a Toshiba from BestBuy:

Dell E1705 - $2,308
2.16 GHz
2 GB RAM
GeForce Go 7900 GS
160GB 5400 rpm
8X CD/DVD Burner
Intel Wireless-N
Bluetooth
100 Megabit Ethernet
No Camera
7.94 pounds
17" 1920 x 1200
Dell XPS 1710 - $3,336
2.33 GHz
2 GB RAM
GeForce Go 7900 GS
160GB 5400 rpm
8X CD/DVD Burner
Intel Wireless-N
Bluetooth
100 Megabit Ethernet
No Camera
8.71 pounds
17" 1920 x 1200
Toshiba P105-S9337 - $1,899
2.0 GHz
2 GB RAM
GeForce Go 7900 GS
200GB 4200 RPM
8X CD/DVD Burner
802.11g WiFi
Bluetooth
Gigabit Ethernet
No Camera
7.1 pounds
17" 1440 x 900
17" MacBook Pro - $2,899
2.4 GHz
2 GB RAM
GeForce 8600M GT 256MB
160GB 5400 rpm
8x slot-loading SuperDrive
802.11n WiFi
Bluetooth
Gigabit Ethernet
iSight Camera
6.8 pounds
17" 1920 x 1200

The MacBook Pro is $2,899 (I added $100 to cover the upgrade to the higher resolution screen that Dell provides). So Macs are expensive, right? Not so fast. The E1705 model has a slower processor, slower video, no camera, slower Ethernet and weighs over a pound more. Are these items worth $600. Some people believe so. Looking at Dell's XPS line gets us a faster processor, though still slower than the MacBook Pro. It has the same slower video and Ethernet as the E1705, but adds almost another pound. You can get the XPS with even faster video, but at a significant cost and it is already more than the MacBook Pro. Oh, and the faster video on the Dell XPS is still not DX10 compatible like the video on the MacBook Pro.

As for the Toshiba model from BestBuy... it has the same video I have (yet I still don't have video drivers that play games well in Vista... how are they doing it?). The weight is better, but still doesn't match the Mac, the processor is slower, the hard drive is slower, and the screen is significantly lower in resolution.

Let's step down to the 15" models from Dell and Apple:

Dell E1505 - $1,566
2.0 GHz
2 GB RAM
ATI Mobility Radeon X1400 256MB
120GB 5400 rpm
8X CD/DVD Burner
Intel Wireless-N
Bluetooth
100 Megabit Ethernet
No Camera
6.18 pounds
15.4" 1680 x 1050
15" MacBook Pro - $1,999
2.2 GHz
2 GB RAM
nVidia GeForce 8600M GT 128MB
120GB 5400 rpm
8x slot-loading SuperDrive
802.11n WiFi
Bluetooth
Gigabit Ethernet
iSight Camera
5.4 pounds
15.4" 1440 x 900

This turns out to be a perfect example of why people think Macs are expensive. We have a 15" MacBook Pro priced at two grand. We log onto Dell's web site and start optioning up a 15" laptop to match the specs of the Mac. We can't match the processor speed or the DX10 video card in the Mac. But we do find there is a better screen available from Dell, and its video memory is higher. Of course the Dell does not include Gigabit Ethernet, and many people (including myself) will not care. Oh, and the Mac has a camera (I don't care, and doubt many others will either). The Mac is almost a pound lighter... which is substantial actually. The big picture for most people, and rightfully so, is that the Mac is almost $500 more than the Dell, and we could have skipped the Bluetooth and went with a lesser video card and saved another couple hundred bucks on the Dell. Sure, it wouldn't be as fast as the Mac at gaming, but who games on a Mac? And if you don't need killer level graphics you have the option of skipping that expense.

So... people will conclude that Macs are expensive. In actuality you will be very hard pressed to find any Windows based laptop that has the exact same specs as a Mac for the same price. And usually if you can match the specs exactly the Mac is far cheaper.

Of course all this assumes you want a high end laptop. Most Mac buyers have convinced themselves of this. Do you really need this much hardware? Most people do not... and in that respect Macs are more expensive than Windows in the laptop area.

I thought I would be able to find a few laptops with careful searching that could beat the Macs. I could not. However, I can find tons of laptops that come short in a few areas to the Macs at a substantial discount. Basic Office productivity, web surfing, e-mail, music and pictures are all well taken care of by every laptop I mentioned in this article. Every one! However, if you are going to do video or 3D gaming then that is another thing and the Macs are going to be clearly better. Too bad the people writing the games don't know this or the Mac could be a more viable game platform.

You can always use Boot Camp on a Mac to load Windows and all those DX10 games when they start arriving later in the year. And that may be the way I end up going.

We are not done. Let's take a look at the MacBook line. I wanted to see what specs I could find in a Windows laptop getting as close in price to the $1,299 MacBook.

Durabook d13ry-bby-01 - $1,299
     (BestBuy)
1.7 GHz
1 GB RAM
Intel GMA 950 128MB
100GB 4200 rpm
8X CD/DVD Burner
802.11g WiFi
Bluetooth
Gigabit Ethernet
Built-in WebCam
5.7 pounds
13.3" 1280 x 800
HP dv6358se - $1,249
     (BestBuy)
1.73 GHz
2 GB RAM
Intel GMA 950 288MB
160GB 5400 rpm
8X CD/DVD Burner
802.11g WiFi
Bluetooth
100 Megabit Ethernet
Built-in WebCam
6.1 pounds
15.4" 1280 x 800
HP dv6375us - $1,499
     (CompUSA)
2.0 GHz
2 GB RAM
GeForce Go 7400 128MB
160GB 5400 rpm
8X CD/DVD Burner
802.11g WiFi
No Bluetooth
Gigabit Ethernet
Built-in WebCam
6.1 pounds
15.4" 1280 x 800
13" MacBook - $1,299
     (Apple)
2.16 GHz
1 GB RAM
Intel GMA 950 64MB
120GB 5400 rpm
8x slot-loading SuperDrive
802.11n WiFi
Bluetooth
Gigabit Ethernet
iSight Camera
5.1 pounds
13.3" 1280 x 800

These machines are more closely comparable. The Durabook mostly looses to the Mac for the same price and screen size. However the two HP models I found have some specs in their favor. But it is a give and take thing. The Mac has the fastest processor and is the only one with 802.11n wireless networking. Although the $1,249 HP model as more video memory, remember this is shared memory. You may be able to increase the video memory on the MacBook if you upgrade the main memory. And if weight is important the Mac trumps the other laptops. This is a case of Apple's style being worth the price of admission.

One last configuration. I wanted to show where Apple falls down. Check the specs of this HP model I saw at CompUSA:

HP Pavilion dv9330us - $1,299 (CompUSA)
1.73 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
2 GB RAM
GeForce Go 7600 with 256MB
160GB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400 rpm
8X CD/DVD Burner
802.11g WiFi
No Camera
Gigabit Ethernet
No Bluetooth
7.7 pounds
17" 1440 x 900 display

This is would make a decent gaming laptop on a budget. You get a 17" screen and a decent video card. Yes, the resolution is low by 17" screen standards, but it works well for me, and does well in games. You don't get Bluetooth or a webcam, but who needs them on a budget. Where is Apple in this part of the market? But then they don't want to be in this part of the market.

In the end Apple's laptops are expensive because they have very high end components. No Windows based laptop can compete feature for feature at the same price. And this research is pushing me close and closer to a Mac for my next laptop.

Next up... Parallels and running Windows XP/Vista in a Virtual Machine on a Mac.

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Conclusion

That's it for this month. If I didn't make it clear.... Mac laptops are high end computers and are cheaper than equally equipped Windows computers. I purchased 1GB of memory and a 320 GB hard drive for my home server. I haven't started the work, but I have the server backed up and will be performing the upgrade in July. How much did I spend? How did I configure the server? Come back next month and find out.

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