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ACT and the MacPro

This page has been created to provide an overview of the experimentation with assistive computer technologies running on the new Intel-based Mac Pro. Please feel free to send comments and questions to .

Introduction

The MacPro comes packing a lot of power and is very fast and responsive, as it should be considering that our machine is configured with two dual-core processors running at 2.66 Ghz, and two gigabytes of RAM. You can custom configure the MacPro hardware to your working needs when you order it, allowing you to specify a machine that is suited to a wide variety of tasks, from basic communications and office administration to the most demanding multi-media work. The MacPro is unique to Apple computers in this way, as every machine is custom built and there is really no standard MacPro configuration so much as a standard baseline to build from.

In order to run Windows-based software, you will need an application that allows you to run the Windows Operating System on the MacPro. While the machines utilize Intel processors, they still come loaded with Mac OS X, and there is no built-in feature to allow Windows-based software to function on the Mac OS X. There are two basic flavors of technology which enable an individual to run Windows on the new MacPro, one allows you to run Windows simultaneously from within the Mac OS X, while the other requires you to boot into Windows exclusive of the Mac OS X. We are using the Parallels Desktop software, which allows you to create a virtual machine on your MacPro within the Mac OS X environment, and configure it with whatever hardware and operating system you have available. If you want to keep your Windows OS separate from your Mac OS, the most popular option for running Windows exclusive from the Mac OS environment is called "Boot Camp" (available from Apple), and is expected to be part of the next Mac OS coming from Apple.

Of course, after hearing about this new computer the first question that came to mind was "How will it perform when running Windows XP?", and happily the answer so far has been "Very well, thank you." I have found that the installation times have been equal to, if not a little faster than those encountered on a purely Windows XP computer of similar configuration. The next question was "How will the various ACT applications perform?", and while the ultimate answer is still pending, you can read on to follow my progress as I evaluate the different applications and see how they function in this new environment.

ACT Evaluations

I will continue to post entries here as I evaluate more assistive technology applications, so check back and happy reading!

Dragon Naturally Speaking Professional version 9

The first piece of assistive technology I tested is Dragon Naturally Speaking, and to be perfectly blunt, I found that it performs quite well. For more information about the virtual machine configuration and a sample of what I was able to create using Dragon Naturally Speaking, please click the following link: Dragon Dictates through Parallels (PDF).

JAWS version 7.10

The next assistive computer technology application to be tested within the Parallels Desktop on the Mac Pro is JAWS 7.10. Unfortunately, the evaluation was not destined to go very far, as I immediately encountered a severe error upon beginning the installation:

SEVERE

Error! An internal error was encountered while modifying the video chain (DCERR_IDD_NOT_FOUND).

After clicking "OK", the JAWS installer then prompted me to to decide whether or not I would need speech assistance during the install. Intrigued, I specified yes and clicked "OK". I was then notified that the system would restart with speech enabled.

The (virtual Windows) system rebooted, and indicated that the installation was continuing, and then the original error appeared again. This time after clicking "OK" the JAWS installer quit entirely.

I repeated the process to see what would happen without requesting speech assistance with the installation and found the same error, with the end result of the JAWS installation process terminating.

I am still awaiting a response from the team at Parallels Desktop regarding this issue, but it appears that the Parallels Desktop virtual machine is not providing JAWS access to the video assets that it needs.

Window Eyes 5.5

Next in line for evaluation was Window Eyes 5.5, and I quickly found that it was not going to perform any better in the virtual pc environment than JAWS 7.10. Immediately upon beginning the installation I received an error related to the video display:

error on install:

Window Eyes has detected a problem with your current video driver. Please install the latest video driver for your video card before continuing the Window Eyes installation. Press ENTER to abort.

Once again It appears that the Parallels Desktop virtual machine is not providing the video assets required by the screen reading application.

While the initial tests of screen reading applications within the Parallels Desktop virtual machine indicate non-functionality, I will post any updates or changes to this situation as they become known.

 

Further Information:

Apple's Mac Pro Site

More Information about the Parallels Desktop application

Information about Boot Camp

Dragon Naturally Speaking Site