“SimStat should be given serious consideration by social scientists interested in an alternative to SPSS or similar statistical analysis software.”
— Social Science Computer Review

Running Provalis Software on a Mac computer

There are several existing solutions to run QDA Miner, WordStat and Simstat on a Mac OS X computer. We have tested five different solutions, including Boot Camp, Parallels Desktop, VMWare Fusion, VirtualBox and CrossOver. We present here a short overview of those solutions, as well as the result of a performance benchmark.

Running at full speed using Apple Boot Camp 4.0

The fastest way to run our software is to use Mac OS Boot Camp (free with installation of OS X). This utility will   create a second disk partition on your existing startup disk on which you will be able to install a Microsoft Windows system. To switch to Windows, reboot the computer and select the Windows operating system. Since Windows runs on its own hard drive partition and does not share resources or hardware with a running Mac OS, this type of  installation is the fastest and the most compatible (trouble-free) way to run Windows software on a Mac computer. It does however require a reboot of the computer to switch from one operating system to another.

Running a virtual machine (VM) with VirtualBox, VMware Fusion, or Parallels

Another way to run Windows applications on a Mac is to create a virtual computer that supports the execution of Microsoft Windows. We are aware of three products that can run Windows:

VMWare Fusion (www.vmware.com), at $49
Parallels Desktop (www.parallels.com), at $79
Virtual Box (www.virtualbox.org),  Free

The main benefit this method is the ability to run both Windows and Mac OS applications concurrently, without having to reboot the computer. All three products offer some form of interactions between software applications in both operating systems, such as the ability to easily cut and paste or share files. However, since both operating systems require large amounts of memory, a memory upgrade is often recommended, especially if one needs to process large amount of text data in WordStat. Another minor inconvenience of such a solution is the slightly slower performance of Windows applications. This is due to the virtual machine accessing the hardware indirectly. Speed penalties depend on the type of applications run. Our own tests on time consuming tasks in WordStat suggest that the average performance in a VM environment varies between 82% and 86% of the speed one would get by running our applications under Boot Camp or on a dedicated Windows computer (see Figure 1). Analyzing a corpus of 10 million words with WordStat would take about 26 seconds running Boot Camp, but would range from 30 to 32 seconds when running a VM solution. Please note however that such a speed penalty may be negligible in every day use of the software.

Running without Windows using CrossOver

 Many of our customers have chosen CrossOver (from www.codeweavers.com), or its open source counterpart, Wine. The main benefit of such a solution is the ability to run Windows software on a Mac without installing Windows. Beside representing a cheaper alternative (one does not need to purchase a license for Microsoft Windows),  it allows the user to start Windows applications much more quickly since there is no need to reboot the computer or start a Windows session in a Virtual Machine. Such benefits come however at the cost of slower performance as well as potential minor compatibility issues. Our own speed tests suggest that memory and disk intensive tasks may take up to twice as long to perform as they may take in Boot Camp, yet on typical smaller projects, Crossover can achieve performances near to that of the fastest installation. Again, on small projects, a difference in speed may be unnoticeable. One should also note that while QDA Miner, Simstat and WordStat are able to run on a Mac with CrossOver, many other Windows applications cannot be run on CrossOver.

How fast are those solutions?

We tested the speed of WordStat content analysis and text mining module using the five above-mentioned Mac OS installations. We ran WordStat from our qualitative data analysis software QDA Miner. Two datasets were used as benchmarks: a dataset of 916 documents, totalling 2.25 million words, as well as a second dataset of 174,222 short responses, totalling 3.35 million words. We performed three tasks on each data set:  1) a word frequency analysis; 2) a phrase extraction, and 3) a thematic content analysis using the Regressive Imagery Dictionary. Figure 1 presents the relative performance of those five solutions, compared to the fastest performance one could get while running Windows with Boot Camp.

Figure 1. Average and Maximum Performance of WordStat
using various MacOS installations relative to Boot Camp

All tests were performed on a MacBook Pro with a 2.5ghz Intel i5 processor, 500 GB hard drive, and 4 GB of memory. Virtual Machine solutions were configured to use two processors and 1.5 GB of memory. Please note that these results are not necessarily representative of the general performance of these products when running other types of applications; they only reflect typical performances when running the most common time consuming tasks in WordStat. Speed should not be the sole criterion in product selection, since each VM solution differs in the way they integrate with Mac OS X and in how they support specific computer hardware.

What is the recommended configuration?

The following table presents the minimum memory requirement for running QDA Miner, WordStat and Simstat on a Mac computer. For VM solutions or CrossOver, the minimum memory requirement is 2 GB of memory when running Windows XP, but we strongly recommend at least 4 GB for running our software under Windows 7 and 8.

 

Boot Camp

Parallels Desktop
VMware Fusion

VirtualBox

CrossOver

Minimum requirement

2 GB of memory
20 GB partition

2 to 4 GB of memory
15 to 20 GB of free hard disk space

2 to 4 GB of memory
200 MB of disk space

Recommended

4 GB of memory
20 GB partition

6 to 8 GB of memory
15 to 20 GB of free hard disk space

6 to 8 GB of memory
200 MB of disk space

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