Introduction

Version 6 of Plaque Simulator (PS6) is designed for relatively recent (2010 models or later) Apple Macintosh computers with Intel Xeon, Core i5, i7 or i9 multicore x86 processors that can install OSX version 10.11 or greater. Support for the Apple Silicon (e.g. M1) ARM processors has not been tested yet. Eye Physics has ordered an M1 Mac Mini and will be testing the software under Rosetta 2 emulation in late January 2021.

As of December 2020, Eye Physics recommends running PS6 on the fastest Intel processor Apple desktop computer that you can afford (e.g. ≥3.46 GHz) with at least 6 processor cores, at least 16 GB of RAM and OSX 10.15.7 (Catalina). Support for MacOS 10.13 (High Sierra) requires PS6 version 6.6.1 or later and MacOS 10.14 (Mojave) requires PS6 version 6.6.7 or later. Support for MacOS 11 (Big Sur) on Intel cpus requires PS6 version 6.7.7.

Intel Xeon and Core i9 processors are hyper-threaded which means that for each processor core that is physically present, the operating system addresses two virtual or logical cores, and shares the workload between them when possible. The Intel Core i5 and later generation i7 processors found in many off-the-shelf iMacs and Mac laptops have less cache and are not hyper-threaded. These computers may, however, be ordered with an upgrade to Core i9 processors at the time of purchase at a slightly higher price. PS6 will run on the Core i5 processor but dosimetry performance will be slower than on an i7 or i9. Get a computer with as many cores (>= 6) and threads as you can afford.

Plaque Simulator version 6.2 and later leverages multicore processors when performing all 2D, 3D and histogram dosimetry calculations. For instance, when running on a hyper-threaded 4 core Xeon processor, PS6 distributed its dosimetry calculations uniformly and concurrently amongst 8 logical cores, resulting in a 5X acceleration compared to running on a single logical core. The acceleration factor is about 7X on a 6 core processor and at ≥12X on a 12 core processor.

Eye Physics recommends running PS6 on the fastest hyper-threaded multicore processor (e.g. 16 or 12 core Xeon, 4 core i7, 6 or 8 core i9) that your institution can afford in order to achieve the best overall user experience possible. For any given processor speed, increasing the number of cores will proportionally increase the speed of multidimensional dosimetry calculations, resulting in more rapid isodose line, isodose surface and dose histogram comparisons of alternative plan options. OSX leverages the GPUs on the video card to accelerate some graphics and many features of the operating system, so choosing the most powerful video capability offered at the time of purchase (or as an after-market upgrade for 2009-2012 desktop Mac Pros) is also desireable.

The software development system as of December 2020 is a 2019 Mac Pro desktop tower running MacOS 10.15.7 (Catalina) configured with a 4 GHz, 16 core Xeon W processor, AMD Radeon Pro Vega II 32 GB graphics card, 96 GB RAM, 4TB secure boot SSD, a pair of secure 2TB WD Black SN750 MVNe M2 SSDs on a dual PCIe adapter for fast image and patient file storage, 4 TB of SSDs configured in RAID0 on a PCIe adapter for fast scratch storage, a pair of internally mounted 14TB Seagate Barracuda Pro spinning hard drives for archival storage, 25 TB of external Thunderbolt3 connected RAID5 DAS storage, and 32 TB of privately managed Synology and WD MyCloud NAS servers. Peripherals include a USB3 connected optical DVD/CD drive for loading CT images from disc, a pair of Dell 30" ultrasharp UP3017 display monitors, an Epson 4870 Photo flatbed scanner with VueScan software, an HP Color LaserJet Pro M254dw printer, a Logitech 4K Pro Webcam for online teaching and meetings, a Yeti Nano USB3 microphone and various USB and analog connected speaker systems. The Eye Physics office has a 500 Mbps symmetric (upload and download) fiber-optic internet connection.

For training, video production, 3D printing and as backup treatment planning systems, Eye Physics uses several 2009 and 2010 Mac Pros desktop computers which have been upgraded from their stock configuration to firmware MacPro5,1 and a pair of 3.46 GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon processors (total 12 physical cores, 24 logical cores), an 802.11ac+Bluetooth_4 mini PCIe card, a Sapphire Radeon Nitro+ RX 580 8GB GDDR5 Dual HDMI / DVI-D / Dual DP w/ Backplate Special Edition (UEFI) PCI-E Graphic Card 11265-21-20G. This card works fine for dual 30 inch monitors and MacOS 10.14 or greater, and can be flashed for MacOS booting. An inexpensive dual 6-pin to single 8-pin power adapter is required. These older Mac Pro systems also incorporate 4 port USB3 PCI cards, Samsung 970 EVO plus NVMe M2 SSDs on PCIe adapter cards as fast boot drives, Samsung 860 SSD drives mounted on a PCI SATA3 adapter cards for intermediate speed storage, 4 WD Black series 6TB spinning hard disks for archival storage, a DVD-RW optical drive, and 96 GB RAM running under MacOS 10.15.5 (Catalina). All of the Mac Pro 5,1 upgrade components are available on ebay and/or from various other internet vendors.


Hardware recommendations, in order of preference:
  • Computer:
    • Desktop: Current generation 27 inch iMacs or iMac Pros with 6, 8, 10 or more core i7, i9 or Xeon W processors running at least 3 GHz are recommended for their computing power, large screens and cost effectiveness. A 16-core 2019 Mac Pro tower is what Eye Physics uses for software development and treatment planning. It is absolutely ideal for these purposes because it has loads of PCIe and memory expansion capability, but it is also expensive. The 2013 Mac Pros (black cylinder cases) are fine in all stock configurations but have limited expansion and upgrade options. All Mac Pro towers manufactured from 2009-2012 work when upgraded cpus and video cards are installed. For example, a 2009-2012 Mac Pro (aluminum tower case) running OSX 10.13.6 (High Sierra) should be upgraded with a MacOS compatible Radeon 7950 or RX 580 class video card to leverage the GPUs, and possibly an 802.11ac+Bluetooth 4 mini PCIe card in order to work with the new force-touch magic trackpads. iMacs with at least 3GHz quad-core i5 processors are acceptable but sluggish. Eye Physics has ordered one of the recently introduced Apple Silicon (M1) Mac Mini computers with 16 GB of RAM and a 1 TB SSD will be testing software compatibility and performance on this new model in January 2021.
    • Laptop: MacBook Pros with 4, 6 or more core i7 or i9 processors are acceptable but they do get hot quickly. PS6 has been tested on several 15" MacBook Pro laptops. All are equipped with 500 GB or 1 TB SSD drives. The first was manufactured in 2010 and has a 2.66 GHz dual-core i7 processor, 8 GB RAM and an HD display. The second is a mid 2015 model with a 2.8 GHz quad-core i7 processor (up to 4 GHz turbo boost speed), 16 GB RAM and Retina display. The 3rd is a 2018 model with touch bar keyboard, a 2.9 GHz hex-core i9 processor (up to 4.8 GHz turbo boost speed), 32 GB RAM and Retina display. Performance is adequate on the 2010 and mid 2015 laptops but is notably slower compared to my 6 and 12-core 2009 era Mac Pro desktops equipped with 3.46 GHz Xeon processors. The 2018 MacbookPro with 2.9 GHz 6-core i9 processor and 32 GB RAM matches the performance of my 2009 12-core desktop. If the software runs on the M1 Mac Mini it should perform equally well on any Apple Silicon equipped laptop but we just won't know until late January 2021.
    • Other models: Avoid models with processors slower than 2 GHz and dual-core processors such as the Mac mini, MacBook, MacBook Air and any others that are only available with dual-core processors and of course avoid all older models that can't run OSX 10.11 or later.
  • Intel CPU:
    • Xeon: Single and multiple processor configurations with 6 cores per processor are recommended.
    • Core i9: 6 (or more) core versions of the i9 cpu are recommended.
    • Core i7: 4 (or more) core versions of the i7 cpu are recommended.
    • Core i5: The i5 processor has less on-board cache than the i7 or i9 and its 4-core version is not hyper-threaded, but it is adequate.
    • Other models: Dual-core processor variants work but are not recommended.
  • Speed: Fastest affordable (e.g. ≥3.46 GHz), 2.6 GHz minimum.
  • Cores: Six or more processor cores are recommended, 4 cores minimum.
  • RAM: ≥32 GB is recommended, 16 GB minimum.
  • OS: MacOSX 10.14.3 (Mojave) is what Eye Physics uses for routine treatment planning. MacOS 10.14 is supported by PS6 versions >= 6.6.7. MacOSX 10.10 is the absolute minimum supported OS version.
  • Graphics: Any Apple supplied standard or upgraded graphics configuration that is compatible with your computer and OSX version is fine. Only the 2009-2012 Mac Pro towers and the 2019 Mac Pro tower accept graphics card upgrades. Several 3rd party flashed graphics card upgrades are available for the 2009-2012 Mac Pros running MacOS 10.11 or later. The best are the AMD Radeon R9 280X 3072 MB graphics card reflashed for OSX, and if you are runing MacOS 10.13.6 (High Sierra) or greater, Sapphire Radeon RX 580 8GB GDDR5 Graphic Cards work nicely and can be reflashed to support MacOS boot screens. The 2019 Mac Pro tower comes with several graphics card options. Eye Physics uses the AMD Radeon Pro Vega II 32 GB graphics card in our 2019 Mac Pro tower.
  • Displays: Display monitors in the 24" and larger class greatly enhance the user experience when preparing CT and MRI multiplanar reconstructions with OsiriX, fundus photo collages and fusions using Photoshop, and for treatment planning in general. iMacs and laptops with 27 inch Retina displays are fine. Eye Physics uses a pair of Dell UP3017 30 inch displays with our Mac Pro towers.
    • Mac Pro: One or more 30" or 24" monitors strongly recommended.
    • iMac: Models with 27" screens with 5K Retina display panels are highly recommended, smaller screen versions are okay but not recommended.
    • MacBook Pro: 15" or larger retina screen recommended, 13" screen is okay but really cramped.
    • Retina display: Plaque Simulator has been tested with the ultra high resolution retina display. It works best when the display resolution preference is set to "default". Image quality and performance degrade ever so slightly if any of the other scaled resolutions are selected in order to display more (or fewer) logical pixels. Retina display iMacs and laptops are highly recommended.
  • Flatbed Digitizer: A "high-quality" flatbed scanner with 8x10 inch transparency option and USB or firewire connection (e.g. Epson Perfection V700 Photo). Only the most recent Apple hardware supports USB3, and recent models no longer include firewire ports, so verify in advance that your computer is compatible with whichever scanner you select. These scanners usually cost less than $700.
  • Input devices: PS6 is designed to work best with a wired USB multi-button mouse with a scroll-wheel or scroll-ball such as Apple's "mighty" mouse. Eye Physics uses a 3rd party SteelSeries Rival 710 mouse with its desktop systems. Apple's wireless bluetooth "magic" mice and/or trackpads (version 2) with forceTouch are also higly recommended add-ons. These "magic" devices enable PS6 to respond to modern finger gestures such as pinches, swipes, and rotation gestures when running OSX 10.11 (El Capitan) or later. Current Apple laptops come equipped with forceTouch trackpads and touch bars. Eye Physics uses a Magic Mouse 2 with its 2018 MacBook Pro laptop.
  • Printer: Eye Physics uses an HP Color LaserJet Pro M254dw printer, but any MacOSX compatible printer, either networked or directly connected, will work. MacOS 10.13 and 10.14 compatible drivers for the HP M254dw are available online from HP.
  • Example: As of August 2020, these iMacs are good examples of suitable hardware configurations, similar in computing power to the systems Eye Physics uses for development and/or training.

    Example of 2020 iMac

    iMac_Hardware

    Example of 2019 iMac

    iMac_Hardware

Additional software recommendations

To get the most from Plaque Simulator you will want to do image based planning. Eye Physics uses the following well known 3rd party software solutions to prepare CT, MR, ultrasound and fundus images for export to Plaque Simulator.

  • OsiriX: Please download the latest version of OsiriX that is compatible with your OSX version. OsiriX, a well established open source DICOM viwer and listener, is used by Eye Physics to create and export to Plaque Simulator several multiplanar reconstructions (MPR) of the eye from 3D CT and MR sources.
  • Photoshop: Adobe Photoshop for Mac, a component of Adobe Creative Suite for Mac is used by Eye Physics when creating fundus collages and fusions, editing CT, MR and ultrasound images, and cropping and otherwise preparing pictures of plaques and seed carriers for inclusion in plaque model files.
  • Vuescan: from Hamrick Software is a superior application for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux that replaces the software that came with your flatbed scanner.
  • BBEdit: from Bare Bones Software is a great text file editor that can be used to view and edit the .xml files created by PS6.
  • Excel: Microsoft Excel:Mac, the spreadsheet component of Microsoft Office for Mac was used by Eye Physics to create and edit the tab delimited text physics files used by Plaque Simulator version 5 (PS5). PS6 can open and save PS5 (.iphys) physics files, but prefers the newer xml versions (.iphys6) of these files.