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Engineers and Macs

MSmom&dadMSmom&dad Registered User Posts: 290 Junior Member
edited July 2009 in Rice University
D will be a freshman in the fall and has strong interest in engineering/math/physics...
She needs a new laptop and wants a small (13") light (< 5lb) powerful machine. The recent mac price drops mean that the 13" mac pro is now a real contender. Other potential machines are the Dell XPS M1330, XPS studio 13, Sony Viao SR and a few others.

Back to the question: Is a mac really o.k? The Rice computing page states no official preference between macs and pcs. Do engineers with macs have to reboot into PC-mode using boot camp? Does Parallels Desktop work well enough to run the engineering programs/apps she will need? Is there any mac "tax" associated with the mac versions of the software (by that I mean are mac versions of code significantly more expensive that pc versions).

Any comments/input by current mac users would be greatly appreciated. It would be nice if we could avoid the "pc is better than mac, mac is better than pc" endless loop.
Post edited by MSmom&amp;dad on

Replies to: Engineers and Macs

  • cdz512cdz512 - Posts: 1,303 Senior Member
    First off I want to ask which one is she most comfortable with. I know many people want macs for college (like me), however, there is the biggest issue becomes when PC users switch to Macs and still try to do things the PC way. It takes a while for many PC users to understand how to use the function and the controls of Macs. So biggest thing first is that she has to be comfortable with a Mac, and I mean like know how to install and uninstall, how to save and move things, and all the other basics first. Basically what I mean is that I don't want her to get a mac, but then spend her time trying to understand how to configure something on a Mac while doing her work or don't know how to recover something if the computer suddenly shuts down. However, if she is a mac user, then there is no problem.
    The good part is most of the programs that Rice uses are both Mac and PC friendly. There are always going to be issues with transferring files between Macs and PCs and vice versa so you have to know that. Majority of students uses PCs (and this goes for nearly every school) mainly because of the price.
    Boot camp is totally fine, trust me. My high school requires personal laptops and I have friends that uses boot camp with no trouble. Now parallel desktop becomes tricky. First you have to make sure you know how much space (RAM) you are allowing the parallel desktop program to use, the bigger the faster parallel desktop is going to work. She should have little trouble, however, it also depends on what software she uses. The most troublesome part of parallel desktop is making sure you save the windows before you close out. What I mean is that in certain parallel desktop software, you have to "save" the "Windows OS and all the work you have done on it". This can cause huge trouble if your Mac suddenly crashes or shut down, or if your computer has trouble because some programs won't save. I suggest using boot camp because you can "roll back" your Windows if your computer crashes.
  • zapfinozapfino Registered User Posts: 2,835 Senior Member
    Just do a Google search using the terms, “Engineers and Macs” and you should be able to turn up some relevant links like these:

    Is anyone a civil engineer who uses Mac? - Mac - Apple

    IBM study shows that its own engineers are hot for Macs - Ars Technica

    Apple - Business - Profiles - Joselow Consulting Engineers, Pg. 1

    Apparently you can use VMWare Fusion as an alternative to Bootcamp or Parallels if you need to run Windows software.

    When you mention Mac versions of software, I assume you’re referring to the more the popular or common programs that are available on both Windows and Mac platforms. For popular software like Microsoft Office, I saw it for $149 in a Mac version and $144 in a Windows version----both the student edition. This would be from an online vendor like Academic Superstore that discounts software to students.
  • blackeyedsusanblackeyedsusan Registered User Posts: 2,520 Senior Member
    Yes -- a Mac is absolutely fine for engineers. My son is a rising junior at Rice pursuing a dual degree in ECE and CS and he's been using a MacBook Pro the whole time. He even convinced one of the professors he does research with to replace all of the PCs in the lab with Macs. If she wants a Mac, it will be fine for engineering.
  • zapfinozapfino Registered User Posts: 2,835 Senior Member
    cdz512, I know you're trying to be helpful, but I think you greatly exaggerate the difficulties of switching to a Mac. I use both Macs and PCs. There are a few things that are different, but it's not anything remotely close to a steep learning curve to figure it out (presumably, this is especially the case for an engineering student). It's much more difficult to switch to a Windows-based version of Word, for example. The interface is 100x more inconsistent than anything I've ever seen in a Mac version.

    You mention that you "don't want her to get a mac, but then spend her time trying to understand how to configure something..." Again, this is 100x more likely using a Windows. In fact, spending your time trying to understand how to configure something is the typical user experience for many people using Windows.

    There are few problems transferring files between Macs and PCs. The only one I seen recently is that Microsoft Word switched file formats from .doc to .docx. If you have an earlier version of Word for Mac you can download some free MS software that converts .docx documents to .doc. When using Word 2007 on a PC, you can you compatibility mode. Other file formats are generally crossplatform.

    As the OP did not want to get into any mac vs. pc issues, I tried to avoid doing so. While well-intentioned, however, cdz512's post gives a misleading impression about the issues I mentioned above. I question whether he has much experience with Macs, or even computers in general.
  • cdz512cdz512 - Posts: 1,303 Senior Member
    As a matter of fact I do and I am a Mac user. Also if I don't have any experience how would I know about boot camp? Think about it. And learn to STOP CONTRADICTING YOUR SELF AND MAKING PERSONAL ATTACKS. Because you are starting a argument, not me. I love you say I tried to avoid starting a agreement so when your last few sentences was a direct attack "I question whether he has much experience with Macs, or even computers in general". And of course you did not read the fact that I said I have to have laptop for schools. Also if I didn't have experience how would I find my way onto CC? So maybe you should stop making personal attacks and start an argument just because you don't agree with somebody else. Seriously if you say you try to not get into a agreement, then why do you get into one?

    Also no where in my post did I say "get a Mac" or "get a PC", start reading carefully, and learn to not contradict your own posts saying "I tried no avoiding to start a argument" but then making a personal attack saying "I question whether he has much experience with Macs, or even computers in general". I said get a computer she feels comfortable with. I'm sorry that you got a misleading impression but It

    And I don't see how your "100x more" is accurate, if in fact that is a "great exaggeration" because it can't be 100 times easier, there are people who have trouble and others that don't so nice contradiction there. If you read I just wanted to ensure that she would be fine with a Mac, some people aren't as good with transitions as others. Just because you might have had a easy transition doesn't mean others will.

    Also I hope you know that there is more than just .doc files. There are program files for specific programs.

    I even assured that she can use a Mac if you read. "The good part is most of the programs that Rice uses are both Mac and PC friendly." and "Boot camp is totally fine" (implying that using a Mac is fine)

    And I'm going to say what I said before: get a computer that will be comfortable.
  • zapfinozapfino Registered User Posts: 2,835 Senior Member
    While I do think that the emphasis of your post exaggerated the difficulties of switching, I do want to sincerely apologize for my rude remark. It was uncalled for.
  • schee410schee410 Registered User Posts: 500 Member
    Windows 7 may close the gap between Windows and (Snow) Leopard. Besides that, the most crucial programs will run on either, and you can run Windows on a Mac through one of the aforementioned programs (I use VMWare).

    It's all about what you want your computer to look like, and cost, and now that Apple cut prices, a lower-end MBP is well worth the cost.
  • cdz512cdz512 - Posts: 1,303 Senior Member
    Apologies accepted.
  • AntariusAntarius Registered User Posts: 4,614 Senior Member
    I went into college with a a mac and had some issues. As a result, I now own my mac, a desktop and a netbook

    I think you would be fine with a mac. I guess I do stuff incl. networking that needs a PC, but thats just me
  • MSmom&amp;dadMSmom&amp;dad Registered User Posts: 290 Junior Member
    Thanks for all the advice everyone - every comment helped.
  • AntariusAntarius Registered User Posts: 4,614 Senior Member
    You are welcome. Should you not purchase a mac, I would highly recommend an HP or a Lenovo. The former is what my sister got for college and the latter is my work laptop.

    Feel they are better in features and build quality compared to Sony and especially Dell. Better VFM as well
  • registrantregistrant Registered User Posts: 30 Junior Member
    A salesman at an Apple Store told us you could get Microsoft Office much cheaper from Rice than from him. I didn't check the accuracy of this.
  • AntariusAntarius Registered User Posts: 4,614 Senior Member
    umm... not as far as I know. Rice doesnt subsidize Office. You can get office with a student discount... but thats the same everywhere

    he may have been generalizing, because I believe UT sells it for super cheap?
  • phadephade Registered User Posts: 336 Member
    Just get Open Office, its just as good, free and legal.
  • AntariusAntarius Registered User Posts: 4,614 Senior Member
    i used that... there are some issues with it. i guess since aqua was released, its better on a mac.. but the 2.2 version 3 years ago was AWFUL
This discussion has been closed.