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Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by JDALouis, Jan 9, 2009.
What computer is good for a computer science student?
This iMac I'm trying to sell might be great for you!
Are you asking Mac specific or are you just asking in general? If I were a CS student I guess I'd want both Mac OS and Windows. But if you're looking at Mac specific, I would tend to think that your best bet is a higher end iMac, MacBook Pro, or even MacPro. What does your instructor recommend?
Id say any computer that fits in with your budget (a nice laptop with a couple of gigs of RAM and 100GB or more HDD) - Id love to say a macbook (bootcamp it with Windows and/or Ubuntu - depending on the requirements of the curriculumn)......
and of course you can always set up a couple of VirtualBox VMs on the Mac side (no need for bootcamp and VirtualBox is both free and great for study purposes).....
a refurb Macbook or the base Unibody model would suit you fine.
It depends on the school and what they teach. When I was a CS major(damn, five years ago now) we had to do a lot of Java and C so it didn't matter what OS we ran but some schools teach Visual Studio so you'll need Windows(Could also Bootcamp or Fusion). Programming doesn't require a lot of anything, 90% of the time you're typing code which requires little to no CPU power. Everything I've written up to date(including apps in my sig) has been written on a plain old white macbook*.
Get what makes you happy, in the end that's the only thing that matters.
Just to give you an idea, I run Leopard as my main OS with Windows XP and CentOS running in VM's all day everyday. They never shutdown and my computer runs fine.
*I am upgrading to the 17" when they hit the store because I use my computer so much that I want the bigger screen.
I will be doing mostly programming with some database work. I am floating between two colleges right now and one says I need a pc. I don't have enough money for a mac pro (my first thought with separate hard drives for mac and windows via parallels.) I was just curious what others used and/or using now. I am happiest on a mac, but I am concerned what limits I can do with windows running vm.
What is VirtualBox VMs?
The other issue is I am running a quicksilver 867 desktop (with a 23 inch cinema display with an ACD connector), so I would need an intel mac for anything virtual.
Would I really be happy doing my whole cs degree from a small laptop screen? Desk space is limited with the powermac and 23 inch screen.
Looking for another point of view - Thanks,
just install windows on a mac using bootcamp.
No one can tell you if you'll be happy using a laptop, I got my way through college on a 13" thinkpad and that worked fine for me.
You've never heard of VM's before and you're going to be a CS major...that's scary but another conversation. Check out
It lets use run Windows and Linux on your Mac which works great for what you're [going to be] doing.
I know what VM's are. I am family with Virtual PC, and now Parallels and Fusion VM. I am not familiar with Virtualbox. But thanks for the sarcasm.
Bootcamp requires an intel mac. My current desktop is a G4 powermac.
VirtualBox.org is a free virtual program to run Windows in Mac OS X. Boot Camp is another good method. Any Mac with a big enough hard drive will probably do the job (HD space to install Windows in addition to OS X). You will probably want to buy a notebook as much easier having your computer with you everywhere. I would recommend either a MacBook or MacBook Air. I personally would go with the Air but it has limited hard drive space. I love the portability of the Air. Depends on the program, but with your degree, you should not need the newest, fastest, or best of any computer.
I would recommend you buy from Apple and get AppleCare which is a three year extended warranty. Could buy from their refurbished or clearance section of the store. Also, look into educational pricing.
color accuracy probably won't be your top priority so a MacBook is not auto disqualified. you probably want something with a good vertical resolution so you can see more lines of code at once, unless you insist on putting everything into one line (scrolling left to right instead of up and down) So how about a 17" MBP with the 1920x1200 screen?
I powered through my 3 years of Computer Science with my "trusty 'ol MBP (see sig)". Most colleges/universities nowadays are pushing for OSS which means Java/MySQL generally. The portability would definitely be advantageous and then envy of everyone in class staring at you while waiting for their windows laptops to boot up (when yours just wakes up from sleep in like 3 seconds) is priceless
You will probably start off with something where you log in remotely to their server and upload and compile in some sort of Unix-like environment. My first programming class in school was C and we logged into a Solaris machine. But when I got into OOP, we used Visual Studio so we def needed Windows then.
That's what my brother did. He's also in the comp sci program, started last September.
I am sorry to mention that I am taking it all online (Franklin University in Ohio). So I won't need to take a computer to school per se. (Seems to be very good program option, still Calculus based - not a paper-mil school. A lot of online discussion via mic and headphones, and chat rooms provide by the school.)
The 17 in' MBP would be very nice, but same price basically as a Mac Pro (very hard on present budget.)
Present class I am in is a Java course, I am also taking Discrete Math, and gen ed stuff to round out semester.
Thank you for all your reply's with this, I have been really struggling with this issue for awhile, but especially since school started this week.
In that case you'd probably be better off with a Mac Pro or the High-end iMac. Whatever software that requires proprietary windows software can be solved by using Virtualisation or Bootcamp
Like it's been said here, Your main use will be Coding and Compling and running it to check your work. You can do most of that in Notepad. the rest is just topping on the cake. Also don't forget there are many compiliers out there and some are better then others.
The compiler we are using is BlueJ, with a version specific to Franklin for java. One issue is the submission software for the class is windows only (webcat).
I am thinking that an iMac would be the best way to go.
Too bad I can't get two internal hard drives in the computer. Anybody had luck with loading windows (linux, etc...) on an external hard drive through an iMac via VM software? I read somewhere that their is a way via bootcamp but it is not easy and doesn't work well.)
(I appreciate you all letting me get my thoughts out about this.)
If it needs to run in windows just use bootcamp with XP SP3, One reason Mac's are selling like hotcakes, You get both OS's.
In my day we had System Commander, You could run five OS's with it. The internet was a 400baud modem and borland compiler. Damn made me feel old again
I'm having more or less the same problem, the only difference is that I'm one of the guys that tries to educate CS students
Right now I have a PowerBook G4 (1.3GHz, 1GByte Ram, 17") and I'm looking for a new Apple laptop.
Being "super glossy" the MB and the MBP 15" are no choice for two reasons:
1) Giving presentations I'm used to "stroll around". I've checked the MBA and a MBP in my local store. It's realy harder to recognize things on the MBP screen as soon as you are some meters left or right near your laptop.
2) Some of my students have the new MB or even MBP. Standing behind them it is realy hard to see something on the screen of there laptops, thus it harder for me to give them advice. If I would use such a laptop it would be hard for my students to look at the screen of my laptop.
These "super glossy" screens of the MB and MBP are really nice if you really are in front of the screen and if you can control the position of the laptop (or the light) but as soon as you are not in front of the screen or more people have to look at the display a "not so glossy" screen is better!
So from my point of view I have two choices: A MBP 17" (nonglossy ;-) ) or the MBA (which is not so glossy as a MB or a MBP 15").
If you compare the weight of the MBA and the MBP 17" the MBA will win. For almost everything I'm doing now, even my old PowerBook is fast enough. Programming is okay, creating lecture with pdflatex (from time to time with Keynote) is fine. The only application that slows down my good old PowerBook is Word :-(
Both, the MBA and the MBP 17" will give me a decent performance boost ;-)
With 99% I'm going to buy a MBA, the only thing I that lets me hesitate is the fact that the MBP 17" will have 8 hours of battery live.
Sounds like a MBA would work very good for you pstoehr.
The 17 inch screen is nice though, I use to have a 17 inch G4 powerbook, but had to sell it awhile ago.
I guess I need an intel mac for school.
I did it
I did it ...
I bought a MBA (1.86GHz, SSD) together with Cinema Display.
This compination is great!
After downloading the latest software updates I've done my first "real world" stuff with the MBA and it is great! Compared to my PowerBook G4 it is amazingly fast!
The screen is great (no grey lines and no flickering) and in combination with the Cinema Display the ideal computer for doing some serious programming stuff or writing lecture notes.
No more heavy laptops (like the 17" PowerBook) for me!
Going back to work
I'm a laptop guy. I love them. Even as I type this while sitting in my own home, I decided to do a bit of work in the kitchen, as it's closer to the window and I can see my cat play outside.
The portability, even at home, is nice.
MacBook + external LCD + external FW harddisk.
Install bootcamp and load Windows and Linux.