6 questions from a 1st year grad student

Discussion in 'Buying Tips, Advice and Discussion (archive)' started by dman8950, Sep 21, 2005.

  1. dman8950 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2005
    Location:
    Lafayette, IN
    #1
    Hello, I am a 1st year grad student looking to upgrade my 500MHz g3 ibook (dual usb, circa summer 2001). I have a few questions, so here we go:

    1) The age-old question: laptop vs. desktop. I think my old ibook can last me a little longer, but those pbs are attractive.

    2) Is it worth buying a new laptop with updates looming in the future?

    3) I am strongly considering a 20" iMac g5. Will this run virtual pc? Will it be too fast for me to ever want to use my ibook again?

    4) Speaking of old ibooks, my battery recently died. It was my 2nd battery for this machine, and I'm not crazy about buying another one. Does anyone know where I can get a replacement battery that will last more than 11 months? I would imagine that battery life will be improved if I use the new iMac as my primary machine, but $100 is alot for a 4-year old machine.

    5) What do you think is the best value? 12" ibook, 12" pb, or 20" iMac?


    6) Campus has several computer labs, but I'd like to be able to stay in the apartment. The last printer I had was a free lexmark that came with the ibook. Ink cartridge dried up every summer over break. Is there a cost-effective way to print these days? Should I buy a cheap laser printer and manually refill the toner?

    I think that's it for now, thanks everyone.

    -Dan
     
  2. mwpeters8182 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2003
    Location:
    Boston, MA
    #2
    Hi, I'm a 2nd year grad student. What are you studying?

    I would go for the desktop, and just continue to use the iBook when on campus. I've got my $1500 powerbook, and my $500 PC, and I find myself using the PC more when I'm @ home, and only use the PB when I'm on campus. It still gets a lot of use, but I probably could have gotten by with my old G3 iBook.

    I'd go for the iMac, and see if you can find a battery somewhere for your iBook. It's nice to have a real fast computer when you need it, and a portable computer when you need it. Then again, I'm doing a lot of number crunching, so it was important to have something with some speed.

    MP
     
  3. dman8950 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2005
    Location:
    Lafayette, IN
    #3
    Thanks MP.

    I'm studying nuclear science and engineering, specifically plasma physics (so I will be doing a lot of number crunching too). I haven't started working yet, but I plan to work with a professor doing ionoshperic plasma experiments.

    I think it'd be good to have a nice fast machine at home too, but didn't want to give up my portability. I think the plan is to go with the iMac and get a new battery for the ibook, then see how long I can ride the g3. Maybe the current pbs will get significantly discounted when the new line comes out next year.
     
  4. hhlee macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    May 19, 2005
    #4
    buy a "good" laptop, meaning one that you can work comfortably on for the next few years. i started out with a 933 g4 ibook and found myself needing more plugs, wanting more hd space, needing more ram, etc.

    when you work in lab, chances are you'll default to your laptop for working. your laptop will probably be more modern than anything your prof gives you (unless you're lucky). you'll also have spotlight to search through your massive number of files, along with lot of the unix commands you'll need. when you run your simulations, you'll probably want to submit those to a cluster.

    if you want to upgrade to intel pbs asap, get an ibook to hold you over - i think they're still quite comparable performance-wise to the powerbooks.

    get a crapola pc instead of running virtual pc, it'll probably be faster. (look on fatwallet forums, i think there's a sale for an emachine for <$200 after rebates) but i'm pretty sure you'll never need to turn it on. :p


     
  5. hhlee macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    May 19, 2005
    #5
    haha, i bet MP and I could probably look across the river at you. are you over @ MIT?

     
  6. moonislune macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2005
    #6
    Another grad student chimes in...

    1) PB's are attractive but I think you'd be more than impressed with the processing performance difference between a g4 and g3 Ibook. The bus speed difference between the g3 500 and g4 is significant.
    2) Yes, apple may be switching to intel but its not like they are opening up their OS to non-apple hardware....so they'll support their older processors for quite a while.
    3) the G5 is nice for a home machine but when are grad students ever at home? I agree, go with the cheap intel or amd box.
    4)If you bought a new battery for the G3, it would work in a g4 ibook. I bought a new battery before selling my g3 500 and now have two batteries for my ibook g4. The color of the casing on a new battery will be a different color white than the color of the casing on the g3 500.
    5) The best value is a g4 ibook refurbed from apple.com. They are selling for $699.
    6) toner is just damn expensive. I try to print as much as I can at the school library. If you print in large quantities (over 300-400) pages a month, the laser printer might not be a bad deal. Typically mine lasts a few months, but the cost of the toner catridge is around $80 for my hp laserjet.

    Hope this was useful and good luck in your studies!
     
  7. Mr. Anderson Moderator emeritus

    Mr. Anderson

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2001
    Location:
    VA
    #7
    Really!?! Wow, where are you going to school and where do you plan on doing your experiments?

    D
     
  8. Macky-Mac macrumors 68030

    Macky-Mac

    Joined:
    May 18, 2004
    #8

    haha...YES....I have both a G3 iBook 500 and a new 20" iMac G5 and I can assure you that you wont want much to do with the iBook if you get the Imac
     
  9. dman8950 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2005
    Location:
    Lafayette, IN
    #9
    Yep, I'm at MIT, where are you? BU?

    Hey Mr. Anderson. I'm going to MIT. The group makes seasonal trips to Arecibo (Puerto Rico) and Alaska to do experiments. There is another place, but I can't remember it right now. There is also a laboratory experiment here on campus, where they simulate radio wave-induced space plasma turbulence.

    I would really like to join the group, but as every grad student could tell you, funding is an issue. So, I've got my fingers crossed for some good news in the next few days. Maybe once they're just waiting for me to buy a new computer...
     
  10. hhlee macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    May 19, 2005
    #10
    Look over @ BU's bioengineering building... can u see me? ;)

     
  11. bankshot macrumors 65816

    bankshot

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2003
    Location:
    Southern California
    #11
    I haven't had the same experience. I regularly use a 1.25 GHz PowerBook and a dual 2 GHz G5 PowerMac at work. I come home to a 733 MHz G4 PowerMac and a 600 MHz G3 iBook. I use the iBook the most at home because it's so convenient and portable - great for lounging on the couch or in bed. For what I do, its speed is more than acceptable, and it doesn't feel too slow at all.

    So I guess it varies by person, as well as what you're trying to do with it. For web surfing, iTunes, command line, writing papers, research, etc, the iBook is just as good as the faster machines for me. If I were doing Final Cut Pro, huge Photoshop projects, etc, that would obviously be a different story. I do use my PowerMac when I need to do some heavier lifting, but that suits me just fine and I still don't miss the faster machines from work.

    Maybe I'm just slow. :D
     
  12. cheekyspanky macrumors 6502a

    cheekyspanky

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2004
    Location:
    South Bucks, UK
    #12
    That sounds so complicated, the thought of even attempting it scares me!

    Whats plasma physics about? how is the theory used etc?

    I'd say go for the iMac and make do with the iBook. You can use the iMac for the majority of your work I would guess, and the iBook would be sufficient for note taking and so on. The iMac is good value and has the best processor so if you're number crunching thats the route I would take.

    Good luck with the scary physics! :)
     
  13. Crikey macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2004
    Location:
    Spencer's Butte, Oregon
    #13
    Hi!

    1) Do you find yourself mostly computing at home or on the go? If at home, you can save with a desktop computer and buy a new battery to continue using your iBook on the go. Of course, the new notebooks are cool and if you're happy with your iBook you'd probably be really happy with a new notebook.

    2) Looming updates are always an issue. I think it boils down to your personality. I have a friend who bought a 466MHz Power Mac about a week before it was upgraded to 733MHz and who's never forgiven Apple, and another who in similar circumstances didn't care.

    3) I have a 20" iMac which I bought after arguing and arguing with myself -- it wasn't really any faster than my old G4 Power Mac according to www.xbench.com, and I already have a nice monitor. But now I love it. And I still use a 500MHz G3 PowerBook I borrowed from work and upgraded to Panther. I have never run Virtual PC, so I can't comment about that.

    4) If you get a desktop, get another iBook battery. I doubt you'll regret it. If you get a newer portable, just sell the iBook.

    5) Tough one. It was easier for me because I stumbled across a 20" 1.8GHz G5 iMac for $999 with Bluetooth, AirPort Extreme, and 512MB RAM. That was close to the price for an iBook. BTW, I found that deal at my college bookstore -- you could save some money by just getting a new battery for your iBook then waiting for the crazy discounts that accompany Apple model upgrades. I do think the current academic prices for the 12" iBook and 12" PowerBook are good deals, especially the iBook (the 12" PowerBook lacks some of the advantages the higher-end PowerBooks have over iBooks, at least for my applications).

    6) I solved the printing question on eBay, with a used LaserJet 4M Plus with built-in Ethernet and PostScript for $135. The cartridges aren't super cheap, but at the rate I print I'll only need to buy one per decade. It was made in 1996, but back then they used metal gears and chassis unlike today's plastic printers. I have way more maintenance problems with my office's 2000-era printers than with our remaining LaserJet 4 and 5 series.

    Enjoy your grad school experience!


    Crikey
     
  14. Gwendolyn macrumors member

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2005
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    #14
    I can't answer all of your questions, but I'm a grad student too, in my dissertation year, so I figured I'd chip in. (West/Central Mass, though, so I guess I'm not in the club :p)

    It sounds like a good idea to keep some kind of portable solution. You may find you want to take your work to your office or lab; I sometimes find myself wanting to print copies of a homework assignment or an exam while I'm on campus even though I wrote the assignment at home.

    For my purposes, I've found laser printing to be cheaper, since you don't have to worry about the cartridges drying out. I find that the investment in toner is expensive when you make it ($70-75 for mine), but you make it far less often than you end up investing in ink cartridges. I last replaced my toner cartridge about 5 years ago, and it needs another one now (HPLJ 1100A). If you can find one without the new "Smart Chips" that keep track of pagecounts, that might be ideal, as they would allow you to print until the toner runs out, unlike some newer printers that require new cartridges every X000 pages regardless of what's on them and how much toner is left. ...and since I did a lot of repairwork on printers as an undergrad, I might as well mention that in my experience, a lot of the common LaserJet problems are cheap and easy to fix yourself.

    If your Department has (or will get) a Department or network printer, the most cost-effective printing solution would probably be to take your work in and print it there. :) So it might be worthwhile to see what kind of resources your Department has for graduate students, since they may have computers and printers that you can use, in addition to regular resources that anyone can use on campus, that might influence your decision. For example, I can use the regular computer labs that the undergrads can use, but my Department also has some computing resources in the Department itself, that are available only for our graduate students. I don't know if yours has something like that, but hopefully they have something convenient like that for you.

    Good luck with your funding application, and with your decisionmaking! And good luck in grad school :)
     
  15. Mr. Anderson Moderator emeritus

    Mr. Anderson

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2001
    Location:
    VA
    #15
    Ha - Alaska is the place to go. What sites will you have access to - HIPAS or HAARP? I worked for the company that built HAARP and spent a lot of time in Gakona working on experiments there on the first phase of the array. I haven't been there in quite some time, though and with the new phase on its way to completion, its going to be quite a nice place.

    As for computing - if you're doing any heaving number crunching the PowerMac is the way to go - running simulations can eat up cpu time.

    D
     
  16. MacPassion macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2005
    Location:
    OZ
    #16
    Hi everyone!

    I'm a grad stud too and I'm just starting writing my dissertation...and actually, i'm going to switch to mac soon...(just convinced my mum and she is so happy w her Mac mini!). Can I ask few questions?

    1. which software do you use as a word processor? Some LaTeX implementation? Which one would you recommend? I'd love to see another program like texture or Scientific workplace..I like the wysiwyg thing...just much easier...but i love the power of LaTeX too...

    2. for number crunching....software? do you need to run virtual pc often? how does it behave with your crunching?

    3. would you suggest me to keep using my pc stuff and wait for the new MacIntel? or do you think your PowerPc will be as good as MacIntel for the next 2-3 years and all the software will be still avalilable and updated?

    4. do you guys use external screen most of the time? i found quite surprising that lots of you have an ibook instead of a powerbook...I find that the screen of the ibook is very disappointing...how do you cope with it?

    I have a 6 months laptop pc that i want to sell and buy a mac...but i'm really wishing for an update of the PB line...not much happy with their screen at the moment. I have a new Dell in the office, but the idea was to have a Mac laptop to use as my main machine and carry around home-school...or i can just use this Dell for heavy number crunching work and keep my mac clean......

    Thanks to everyone!!!
     
  17. dman8950 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2005
    Location:
    Lafayette, IN
    #17
    I agree, Alaska is awesome. I was up there for a vacation last summer, and fell in love. We were there a week before salmon season, so I was disappointed we missed all the bears and seasonal prices, but the fish we ate were incredibly delicious. Thats cool that you worked on HAARP. HAARP is the site that the group does their work. I haven't been there, but hope to make the trip the next time the group goes there. What do you do now?

    As much as I want the PowerMac, it's a bit out of my price range for now. There are resources on campus for the big simulations, so I think I can just submit those to the clusters here. Maybe I can convince my advisor that it's in his best interest to get me that dual 2.7 GHz PM...
     
  18. dman8950 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2005
    Location:
    Lafayette, IN
    #18
    Hey, I don't think I'll be much help since you are near the top of the mountain, I am just getting to base camp at the bottom. I will chime in on the number crunching, but it might not be at the level you're at. I mostly use Matlab and some unix code written by someone in my group. There is free LaTeX software on apple's download page (http://www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/math_science/latexit.html), but I've only used it for equations in reports, and not for a large document (like a thesis). I found two seemingly good sites that talk about TeX on the mac:
    http://www.esm.psu.edu/mac-tex/
    http://www.rna.nl/tex.html
    Not sure if those will help you, but that's all I got.

    Good luck with writing that dissertation

     
  19. MacPassion macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2005
    Location:
    OZ
    #19

    Thanks a lot! Actually, I'm at the beginning of the program..here in Australia the PhD is a 3 years program and you are supposed to have done much of the coursework elsewhere! And for number crunching...I actually do only statistical stuff....You are much more advanced than me!

    BTW, if you end up going for the 20'' iMac...I have to tell you: my flatmate has one and I really love that machine. It is fantastic: so fast and such a great screen! if you want to watch digital TV, get EyeTV and it is a great machine. You would never go back and watch a normal TV monitor...
     
  20. Mr. Anderson Moderator emeritus

    Mr. Anderson

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2001
    Location:
    VA
    #20
    Let me know if you go, I'd be very curious to get your thoughts on the array. I'm bummed I'm not ever going to see the full array, when I was working on it it only had 48 antennas, not the 160 they're putting together right now. As for what I did, I designed and wrote some of the software for the original system. I think they're still using a modified version of my array viewer - although with 160 antenna its going to be a little tight to have all of them on the screen at once. Also, we were all working out of the trailers closest to the array, not the main power building when you first enter the gate. They have a nice control room set up there now. And I also did a lot of work on the site itself - even though I was a software guy, I've worked on the transmitters, climbed the towers to install some of the hardware and took a lot of pics, some of which you might have seen. Before I left the company last year, the only things I had been doing with for the project were the posters and I also designed the HAARP mug. Not quite as exciting. I can't find the pic right now, I'll dig around for it on my other computer, but as far as I know I was the first of only a couple people to ever sit on top of one of the towers :D

    Now I'm doing freelance, 3D animation and working from home.

    Here are some pics I've taken.

    D
     

    Attached Files:

  21. Mitthrawnuruodo Moderator emeritus

    Mitthrawnuruodo

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2004
    Location:
    Bergen, Norway
    #21
    Checkout Apple's Advanced Computation Group and the Performance section at the Developer Connection, if you plan to code it yourself.
     
  22. Laplace macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2005
    Location:
    Huntsville, AL
    #22
    Man, its GREAT to find some other engineering types on the Mac platform. At my university (im in electrical engineering) there is no one on Mac, so finding information and software to function on my Mac is pretty much up to myself. Im still an undergrad myself though.

    Were any of you electrical engineering majors in undergrad? If so what programs do you suggest for electrical circuits, digital logic, etc.

    My univ. uses Matlab for Signal processing, but I have heard that Matlab isn't that impressive on the Mac, and that Mathematica is a much better program, but Im worried about compatibility issues with my classes and what not.

    Also, is there any kind of forum or usergroups that you guys know of to get more information on Macs for engineering?

    Thanks,
    Laplace
     
  23. mwpeters8182 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2003
    Location:
    Boston, MA
    #23
    My program-mate does make a good point - I do end up using my laptop more in the lab than I do the Linux machine that they give me. I've got them connected via a KVM switch.

    The nice thing about the Mac is that most of the numerical analysis tools you need will have X11/Unix versions, so it's pretty easy to get them up and running on the mac. The rest, you can use one of the lab computers for.

    Also, good point on spotlight. It comes in extremely handy for me, especially working in bioinformatics. I'll often end up with tons of data files that can get overwhelming at times.

    Matt
     
  24. mwpeters8182 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2003
    Location:
    Boston, MA
    #24
    MATLAB doesn't look that great on the Mac, because it's an X11 app, but it works fine. It looks like the UNIX/Linux version does. I've had no problems with it. From a signal proc. standpoint, I think MATLAB is the better program than Mathematica, as Mathematica is more of a symbolic math program.
     
  25. MacPassion macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2005
    Location:
    OZ
    #25
    Thanks for the links! Actually, coding it myself is not really an option....never done it and dont think I have the skill to (even if I wish i had the skills!). From your links I've found something interesting: http://developer.apple.com/macosx/adoptinguniversalbinaries.html....I've always been worry that if I buy a mac now it will not be of much use after the switch to Intel....but from there it seems that the application would still run smoothly on the PowerPC! Fantastic! Would you be optimistic too?
     

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