Computer Science//Macbook Pro Question

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by xandrex, Mar 1, 2008.

  1. xandrex macrumors newbie

    Mar 1, 2008
    Okay, so there have been a few threads that discuss parts of this post, but they didn't quite get an answer that worked. So here I am, hoping you all can help.

    Although it's quite some time away, I will be starting college in the fall and I long ago decided I want an Apple. No more Windows as my main OS for me.

    I will be going to school with the prospect of being a computer science major. So, this leads to a few questions.

    1. I'm almost completely set on the Macbook Pro for a few reasons. Would you recommend this as well assuming CS as my major?

    2. Is there enough software that a CS major could use on OS X or does it all require Windows (Boot Camp and/or Parallels)? I'm assuming a MBP would run it fine if so?

    3. This may seem like a strange question, but how much is a computer required for my classes? Some pictures I've seen of classrooms for CS majors are pretty much computer labs. Is this typical or will I have to use my personal computer often? Will I mostly be using Windows or will Mac be acceptable?

    4. Part of the reason I'm getting the Macbook Pro is that I need a graphics card (among other things) for the *occasional* game I play. I'm rather a fan of World of Warcraft and a few other games. So, would it be better to invest in glossy or matte screen? Nobody has really mentioned which is better for games. I doubt I'll watch movies much (maybe occasionally) on it. I don't know about photo editting. I, on a rare occasion, use it on my PC.

    5. Any must have programs for Mac in general? This will be my first and I want it to be great.

    Thanks in advance! I hope you guys can help. I'm pretty set on what I'm getting, but my mind irked me to ask. Peace of mind, I suppose.

  2. macthille macrumors member

    Oct 16, 2007

    I just ordered the new MBP, I'n currently on a first gen macbook.
    I'm studiyng computer science in Sweden and I don't know how it compares, but I'll try my best :)

    1. Yes =)

    2. Here in Lund most of our CS teachers (so far) uses macs... On the computers in school we use linux (mostly) and what you can do in linux you can also do in OSX. But if you really need to use Windows or Linux you can ofcourse use parallels or dualboot.

    3. At our school we can manage without having a laptop and instead use the schools computers. But I really think it's nice to have all my work on a computer that I can carry around everywhere, to the library, when I visit people or family, when studying with friends etc.
    And I also hate to use computers that are not my own... Don't know why...
    Many students in my CS class have laptops and the mac/pc ratio is about 50/50.
    Most of the PC-users seem to run linux on their laptops.
    And there is ofcourse also "the war of the platforms" at our school.. But that's normal ;)
    I rely on my mac pretty heavily, it's my only computer at the moment.

    4. That's a hard question.. It's mostly all about taste. Personally I love the glossy screen and I use my computer for photo as well. That said I have an external screen too...
    I just think the colors in the glossy are so deep.

    5. Hmm.... There are a bunch of them, I think I'll have to come back in this one :p
    It depends of what programs you use and so on =)

    I'm really looking forward to my MBP to arrive. I ordered it to be able to play some games to. And it feels more "stable" and solid.
    And also I'm a geek who likes shiny fast stuff :p
    It was expensive but studying is free here in Sweden so... :rolleyes: :cool:

    Good luck!

    I hope I answered some of your questions. Otherwise just ask :p
  3. xandrex thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 1, 2008
    Thanks! That answers most of my questions very well (though anyone else who wants to chime in can...I'm all ears).

    More related to the major rather than the computer itself...what software can I expect to use? Will most of it be Mac compatible or will I need to use Windows often?
  4. wk127001 macrumors member

    Feb 24, 2008
    I'm a CS student at RPI in my junior year and I can honestly say the best answer to your question is whatever makes you the most productive is the way to go. The advantage of using a Mac is you get all the awesome sweet simplicity and stability of unix PLUS the ability to use commercial software (ie WoW, photoshop whatever). If you know your school in particular pushes a unix based path of study you'll be pumped with a Mac, RPI happens to do this. I've heard other schools pushing windows more so your mileage may vary.

    2. Honestly I doubt you would ever have a mandatory need for Windows to do your schoolwork unless you are developing an application for windows specifically.

    3. You will prefer and use your laptop several hours a day over a computer lab. Most assignments are OS independent. Computer Science isn't specifically about Windows or OS X, it's about the underlying principals behind all computers. Windows and OS X are just abstractions. There is much more to computers than just the OS, which you'll learn.

    4. I use a matte screen, but I've never tried a glossy one. From what I've read it's just personal preference. Go to an apple store and check them out.

    5. Firefox, VLC media player, Xcode, Eclipse... the standards. You'll develop your own preferences... support open source if you go that way.
  5. xandrex thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 1, 2008
    Great. This forum really is helpful. Pretty much all my questions answered in about an hour. :D

    Great to know that most of my worries are no longer relevant. Everything seems to be falling in place. New MBP...hopefully this summer after the *possible* upgrade/uplift to the system.

    I was definitely worried about Windows/Mac problems because I've seen threads where some people are forced to use Windows specific software to a point where they could rarely use their beautiful OS X. My college says this about their facilities, "Equipment includes clusters of UNIX workstations; high-end microcomputers; Power Macs; and peripheral equipment including digitizers, plotters and laser printers." The mention of UNIX and Power Macs is certainly reassuring.


    (As said before, hearing more opinions and such is definitely a please share!)
  6. macthille macrumors member

    Oct 16, 2007
    Hmm, At the moment we're programming in Java and we use Eclipse for that ( availble on all platforms).
    But that's up to you (or the teachers maybe :p) to choose.

    Many use LaTeX when they have reports to do (as am I) and there are many great text editors out there. I personally use the free Smultron, BBEdit is also good.

    Matlab... Booring, but thats availble on macs to :p.

    Xcode ofcourse...

    I guess it's a possibility that you might be forced to use windows (but I don't think so). In such cases parallels or boot camp is great to have.
    I haven't got into any situations like that.

    It doesn't really matter which OS you choose in that perspective. Atleast not over here.
    Computer science is cross platform =)
  7. MacBookJoePro macrumors regular

    Mar 10, 2006
    I'm a computer engineering student at my school. I've been using a mac since I started. Most schools (unless licensed by microsoft or receives heavy funding from them) will teach students the different languages in programming through linux. At my school, my programming classes do don't have a required lab so there are no computers when i'm in class. However there are a lot of students who do bring in their laptops to take notes and whatever. I don't trust the school's computer lab because their are unprotected and your data is open to everyone. I was able to remote desktop into any computer in the lab and look at everyones files (I was bored one day).

    I would personally prefer doing work on my own computer that why Its always in one location and everything is where I want it to be.

    here are some specific answers to your questions:

    1. YES HELL YES!!
    2. Xcode will pretty much cover all the languages, plus more.
    3. I guess this question depends on how much homework you get. For my CS classes I personally don't have my laptop on since the teacher mostly lectures. After class I would then use my laptop to go through any programming examples and try to apple new things that I learn.
    4. Thats based off preference. A lot say glossy, a lot say matte. I like glossy because it makes my movies look better. hehe.
    5. Get what wk127001 says.

    Hope this helps.

  8. bstreiff macrumors regular

    Feb 14, 2008
    Austin, TX, USA
    It really depends on what the CS program at your college is like.

    I go to the University of Texas at Austin. Here, intro classes use Java (which means you can use any platform that you want), and upper-division classes tend to use Unix-based systems exclusively-- most of the software used is open-source and available on OS X as well. Failing that, OS X lets you use X11 and ssh quite easily. (If it's any indication: Most of the CS professors I know of use MBs and MBPs if they bring a laptop to class to lecture with.)

    In fact, there were only two classes that I've taken that required Windows; a required electrical-engineering course (digital logic design) that used an extremely buggy piece of software that was written for the book (which was itself written by one of the EE profs), and a one-hour elective course in C#.

    I have friends at other colleges that have the philosophy that everyone should learn everything the Microsoft way; i.e., if you aren't running Windows you aren't running Visual Studio 200x and thus you aren't learning the latest and greatest .NET Silverlight ASP technologies yeah!

    I'm glad I go here. ;D
  9. macthille macrumors member

    Oct 16, 2007

    Allan R. Hambley? :O
  10. bstreiff macrumors regular

    Feb 14, 2008
    Austin, TX, USA
    Charles Roth; the text is Fundamentals of Logic Design. The buggy program in question was a thing called 'LogicAid'; I think I found three or four ways to consistently crash it and about another dozen that I couldn't figure out what it was I did wrong.

    The way the course was structured really sucked; it was self-paced. There were about twenty tests that you took whenever you wanted (each unit was meant to take you a couple days), but if you didn't score 100% on a test (which in some cases fell to the whim of the TA), you had to do several pages of homework before you could retake it.
  11. xandrex thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 1, 2008
    ^ Hope I never have to take one of those classes. Sounds dreadful, especially with all bugs.
  12. boobooq88 macrumors regular

    May 12, 2007
    Coming from a student majoring in computer engineering:

    Yes! It is plenty powerful and you can run any OS (in one way or another) and use any software (on any platform) you need.

    Yes there is enough software for OS X... but keep in mind that some schools (like mine) like to use applications that are windows only and so you may still need Windows or you may run into some issues...

    Which brings me to recommend using Eclipse IDE for your programming if your school has is (its a cross platform IDE for Linux, Windows, and OS X), which thankfully mine does :)

    But as i see in most cases... you should be fine with just OS X but it seems like you'll be getting Windows to play some games anyway so It shouldnt be too much of an issue

    In my experience at my school (this of course varies from school to school) it is not necessary to bring your own computer to class nor is it really gonna do you any good to do so.... however, it is nice to have a computer you can take to the library, cafe, or some other area around campus to do some work.

    In short: Necessary in class? No. ... Necessary outside of class? pretty much yes.

    Whether you'll be using Windows or OS X more completely depends on you and your school. (I know this doesn't help much but it's true)

    Well... for games, movies, etc I would strongly recommend glossy (just brings out the colors better). But for photo editing matte for sure (better color accuracy)

    So you gotta choose which is more important (gaming/movies or photo editing) and go with the screen that best fits that.

    Eclipse, Xcode, MS Office, VLC, Perian (not an app but very good codec plugin for quicktime), Firefox (if you like to use that over Safari)

    But yea.... Definitely get Eclipse. Its free and open source so no worries about money or anything as well.
  13. MacBookJoePro macrumors regular

    Mar 10, 2006
    We are currently using another book by him in my Digital System Design class. The book is called Digital System Desgin using VHDL. We are currently using a program called Xilinx (which only runs in windows) and that it isn't too bad. I'm running it using parallels and it still runs faster than the computers at school.

  14. Diode macrumors 68020


    Apr 15, 2004
    Washington DC
    A mac is one of the best introductions to unix (Darwin) for someone who has never used a pure linux/unix box.

    Lots of developers I know use macs .... They seem to be the new "in" thing for developers because it packs such power in a handy package.
  15. BowZinger macrumors member

    Dec 8, 2007
    I am going to college in the fall for Information Tech. (same thing school just calls it IT).

    Anyways the school that I am going to is Windows based but after sending a few emails to the IT head there, he told me that as long as you can find a program that is able to do what you need it to do and can be compat. with windows machines you are good to go.

    I went with the MBP (ordering soon :D) because it offers me the ability to use any number of linux distros, OSX and Windows all in one package which is great!

    I love mac and will always use it!
  16. xandrex thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 1, 2008
    It's great to hear the consensus is that it'll work it great. Granted, this is a Mac forum (so there's a slight bias), but it's nice to read all these comments. Didn't realize how many CS students (or of similar degree)...seems quite a few replied in a very short period of time. :D

    Well...the games I'll be playing should all be OS X compatible (I primarily play World of Warcraft but Spore is coming out on PC/Mac this fall and I know I'll have to load that). :p
  17. xandrex thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 1, 2008
    Hate to double post, but I remembered a question I was going to ask.

    All expenses considered, before I really investigated into the specifics of Apple hardware, I was leaning towards the Blackbook. However, I then remember integrated graphics and how they wouldn't work, especially for my gaming, so I discounted the idea of getting a MB and decided a MBP would be better.

    So, would purchasing the low-end MBP suit my needs fine? I've asked about the games I'll be playing on their respective boards (they all agreed a MBP would work fine with the game in question), but would all the specs of the current low-end version work? If so, I would assume (rightly, I'd think) that any new version that may be released would also work. $2000 is a lot to shell out and the student discount only lowers it to $1800 which is still a pretty penny. I would assume the lowest end would run all CS science (and various other programs) very nicely?
  18. wk127001 macrumors member

    Feb 24, 2008
    None of your assignments will stress any of the MBPs. Mine never have except for a couple search algorithms I wrote, but those took several minutes on everybody's machines. All said and done I still occasionally whip out my old thinkpad (t43p, a single core 2.0Ghz) and boot up ubuntu for some things and it's fine.
  19. xandrex thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 1, 2008
  20. FluJunkie macrumors 6502a

    Jul 17, 2007
    It should run everything you need just fine.

    Basically, if its maxing out a Macbook Pro, you should probably be running it on a cluster anyway. Or at least shunting it off to some workstation.

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