So, you want to use an Apple Mac OS X based system for daytrading? Maybe you currently use a PC and have thought about switching to a Mac, but were unsure of the transition and if you may run into issues?
Until a few months ago, I was using a Windows 7 x64 based PC for trading. Just recently, I decided to get the new Macbook Air. I then started to like using the Mac OS X operating system, but realized I wanted to do more with it- so I upgraded to the Macbook Pro 13″ model. Nope- wasn’t powerful enough- I decided to give that to my wife, and buy the new 2011 Macbook Pro with the 2.3GHz Intel Core i7 processor, upgrade to 8GB of ram, and a 256GB SSD (Solid State Drive) which is the fastest MacBook Pro available to date. Now I am golden. I should have went Mac a long time ago, as I rarely use a Windows 7 based PC anymore.
So now that I have been accustomed to trading and operating ProphetAlerts.com – where I send real time buy/sell stock alerts via SMS text messaging/Email/Instant Message (IM) and even in my live trading chatroom, along with nightly educational videos with stock picks/reviews/and setups, I have found little tips and tricks that I would like to pass along to those who are using Apple Mac OS X based systems (such as iMac/Mac Pro/MacBook systems) to fellow investors and traders out there that I use on a daily basis.
1 ) MAX OUT YOUR MEMORY (RAM)
Most Macbook and iMac systems now come standard with 4GB of RAM. Sure, that will work decently. But as a trader needing the fastest possible access times, RAM is one of the cheapest upgrades you can do for your Mac (or any other computer system for that matter). DO NOT buy the RAM from Apple directly, they will charge an arm and a leg- simply buy the ram from Crucial.com which uses quality Micron-based RAM and at a fraction of the cost of what Apple will charge you. You need to make sure you are running at least Mac OS X Snow Leopard in 64-bit mode (most 2008 and above MacBook Pro’s will run a 64-bit kernel and allocate all 8GB of memory) so make sure you find out if you are running in 64-bit mode. To determine if you are running in 64-bit mode, see this Apple FAQ document HERE
YouTube video showing how easy it is to upgrade your RAM in a Unibody based MacBook Pro HERE
YouTube video showing how you can upgrade your ram in an iMac HERE
2 ) DONT BE CHEAP – DITCH YOUR SLOW SPINNING HARD DRIVE FOR A SOLID STATE DRIVE (SSD)
Let’s face it- spinning hard drives are great for capacity reasons, but a trading machine needs to be extremely quick and reliable.. and one of the biggest bottlenecks in a computer is the hard drive. Eliminate this archaic slow dinosaur of digital storage with a Solid State Drive (SSD). This is single handedly the BEST performance you can do to any Mac or computer in general. Programs open almost instantly.. your computer boots in 15 seconds or less, your battery lasts longer, your computer runs cooler, and best of all- it is less prone to shock and crashes. Most computer failures are due to a failing hard drive- imagine being in a big trade and your hard drive crashes? That could cost you the same amount as a solid state drive (or even much more!)
I use a Crucial 256GB C300 solid state drive, best bang for the buck still IMO- bought it used on eBay for $350.00 and isn’t the latest and greatest, but performs very well compared to the current generations, and still utilizes the latest SATA 6.0gbps interface
3 ) YOU HAVE PROGRAMS THAT ONLY RUN ON WINDOWS ? SIMPLE. PARALLELS 6
You may have an application such as Quotetracker that does not run on Mac, and that could be a deal breaker. The solution? Emulate Windows! This is where that 8GB of ram kicks in. One of the best Windows emulators is Parallels in my opinion.. using coherence mode is amazing as you literally seamlessly run Windows-based applications on your Mac without even seeing the Windows desktop. Sure, you can use bootcamp- but why own a Mac and not use OS X- have the best of both worlds- run Mac OS X and Windows applications simultaneously instead!
HERE is a good video on Parallels 6 explaining the features and how it works
4 ) WEB BASED WIDGET CREATION WITH SAFARI
One cool thing I love about Mac’s is the Dashboard feature. You can set up some kick ass widgets that you can use some apps very quickly at the press of a button- but one particular feature is good for trading. You can actually use Safari to use a portion of a website on your dashboard by clicking anywhere on a webpage and selecting Open in Dashboard where you select a portion of a site you want to insert onto your dashboard.
For example, I trade out of many accounts and sometimes have many shares of the same stock spread across trading accounts, IRAs, long term accounts, etc. and I like to calculate my average prices as fast as possible. Previously, I used the website HERE that I would quickly calculate- now I took a snip of it and use it right on my dashboard which looks like this:
Basically it is the portion of the website, extracted for quick use on the dashboard. You can do this with pretty much any of your favorite sites!
5 ) PERCENTAGE CHANGE WIDGET
If you are like me and want to quickly calculate your percentage gain (or loss) because your broker does not do it for you (or you have multiple positions in the same account) than the Calc widget will be a great tool to put on your dashboard:
You can get this dashboard widget HERE
6 ) QUICK CROPPED SCREENSHOTS
Have you ever found the need to take a screenshot of something, maybe a chart you want to share to others in a chatroom or on Twitter? The best way to take a screenshot with a Mac OSX system that you can crop on-the-fly is by pressing Command-Shift-4 and adjusting the area of the screen you would like to capture. If you want to simply capture your entire desktop, press Command-Shift-3
7 ) QUICK SCREENSHOT/FILE/LINK SHARING
Maybe you just took a screenshot, and want to quickly share a public link to that file to others- or you may even want to share a file with another trader and do not want to use Twitter’s many upload services such as TwitPic. Understandable- one of the best, quickest, and easiest to use Apps for your Mac is an App called Cloud which allows you to automatically upload screenshots (and even files) and provides you with a public URL to share to others- even easier to use than DropBox (at the expense of less free capacity, but you can upgrade)
8 ) TRADING SOFTWARE AND PLATFORMS
My main trading platform and stock chart software I use is with ThinkOrSwim’s trading platform. It runs flawlessly with Mac’s. I also use Interactive Broker’s TWS Workstation that I find easy to use as well. One issue with ThinkOrSwim’s software for Mac, is if you have multiple Active Trader or Prophet Chart windows open and you minimize them- they are a bit harder to locate then with a Windows 7 machine. This is where the Expose feature works great, and you can see all windows that are open and quickly access them. I keep my trading pretty simple- and the ThinkOrSwim platform does the job for me and I have no use for any other software when trading.
9 ) MULTIPLE MONITORS
This is one of the main downsides to using a Mac instead of a PC. To get many multiple monitor outputs, most people would opt for a super-expensive Mac Pro system. Honestly, I use a single 30″ monitor with a super high resolution of 2560×1600 and my Macbook’s screen as a secondary display at 1680×1050.
Ways to add more displays to your Mac:
a) Use AirDisplay with another Mac, or even your iPad to add another display- the App can be found HERE
b) Matrox has some devices called “DualHead2Go” and “TripleHead2Go” — I have not used these before, but heard they work great.. information on Matrox’s website HERE
I will be honest, coming from a PC to a Mac- if you *NEED* more than 2 monitors, the PC will be the better alternative just based on cost alone. You most likely will want to stick with a Windows based trading machine with multiple video cards, unless you want to go for the Mac Pro solution which is extremely expensive. Definitely not for guys like THIS
10 ) JAVA BASED CHATROOMS
As a trader, you may frequent chatroom’s such as mine here at ProphetAlerts – and you will notice most chatrooms use Java. There is a downside to this- for some reason, I have found Java to be a bit more glitchy/clunky on a Mac vs a PC. Copying and Pasting links into a Java Based chatroom does not seem to work good- a workaround I have found is to actually Highlight the URL in your web browser, and DRAG it into the chatroom. Simply Command-C or Copying/Pasting will not work on most Java-based chatrooms on a Mac. I have found that using Firefox vs. Safari actually works better when using Java-based chatrooms – but your results may vary.
I will continue to add more tips and tricks to this blog post as I keep trading with my Macbook Pro– hope this helped!