Mac Pro for College? Computer Science Major

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by dergaderg, Dec 19, 2011.

  1. dergaderg macrumors member

    Feb 9, 2009
    is a Mac Pro necessary for a computer science major.

    I have a 11 inch air for taking notes and such, and that is really easy to take to class.

    I have a monitor, mouse and keyboard already so i wouldn't need to buy those. I want a mac and I don't really feel like having two laptops, and I like expandability of a Mac Pro.

  2. Ayemerica macrumors 65816


    Oct 18, 2011
    Atlantis but in space
    I would get an iMac before a Mac Pro. The Mac Pro line is pretty much dead, and over priced. I wouldn't be surprised if apple got rid of the Mac Pro and replaced it with two lines of iMac's. iMac and iMac Pro.
  3. theSeb macrumors 604


    Aug 10, 2010
    Poole, England
    It's really not necessary. I managed to complete my Computer Science degree with a Celeron that ran at 300 MHz (and could over-clock to 450 MHz ). You don't need a powerful computer to complete your degree. Even if you do post grad graphics or intensive simulations, you'll be using machines in labs. We had Silicon Graphics hardware lying around. I would recommend monitors - the more the merrier.


    The Mac Pro will be refreshed in a couple of months so, no, it's not dead.
  4. cherry su macrumors 65816

    cherry su

    Feb 28, 2008
    Not at all. In fact, you'll be fine with an 11" Air. If you were doing high performance related work, then hopefully you'll get access to school servers.
  5. tamvly macrumors 6502a


    Nov 11, 2007
    MacPro if it were me. Lots of expansion possibilities for other OS's.

    But get an Air, too.
  6. Cindori, Dec 19, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2011

    Cindori macrumors 68040


    Jan 17, 2008
    get a hackintosh.

    I don't really know what "major degree" translates to in my country, but I'm taking my second year in Computer Science Master and I don't think that during my education I will ever encounter software that can't be run on a Mac Mini...

    srsly wait until Jan /feb when we prob get support for new hardware, get a hackintosh with new ivy's, ati 7000 for like $900 that will run circles around a ultraspeced $3000 Mac Pro 2012 in ≤4 core applications.

    then get a good MBP for the money you save.
  7. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    you don't need an MP, or even a high-end computer.
  8. theSeb macrumors 604


    Aug 10, 2010
    Poole, England
    Normally the first step to a Computer Science degree is a Bachelor of Science (Computer Science). Some countries have an Honours degree as well, which is an extra year, and some include it in the normal Bachelor of Science accreditation.

    In other words, computer science is the major subject that the candidate has chosen and took all of the necessary computer science courses every year. However, to be able to graduate with a Bachelor of Science, one must get the necessary amount of credits by taking other courses that have been approved by the faculty. If you only take the computer science courses, you won't have enough credits to graduate and you normally have prerequisites for the following year. So, for example, to be allowed into the 2nd year Computer Science course you need to complete first year computer science and first year Mathematics.

    So I took Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Statistics and also a short course in Electronic Engineering to make up the credits with all of the computer science courses. Computer science was my major.

    Once your B.Sc (Computer Science) is complete, you can then apply for post-graduate studies (Master of Science), if you wish.

    Back to the topic: Building a hackintosh is actually a great suggestion because it will teach him more about computers.
  9. george-brooks macrumors 6502a


    Oct 31, 2011
    Brooklyn, NY
    I am a college student and I do have a Mac Pro. However, I also have an 11" macbook air for the same reason your have it and also a current macbook pro with maxed out specs. Now, I am a photography major who lives with 2 film students, so the Mac Pro does indeed see some pretty heavy use. However, I think it is total overkill and had I not already owned it before coming to college, I probably would've settled for an iMac. Keep in mind that you will probably have pretty limited desk space in your dorm and that the Mac Pro really does take up a lot of space. I find that I do 90% of my work on my macbook pro. Portability is really important for college, there will DEFINITELY be times when you want the power of your Mac Pro but would probably prefer something a little less powerful than it but more powerful than the MacBook Air and portable. I think an iMac or a heavily upgraded MBP is the best option.
  10. milbournosphere macrumors 6502a


    Mar 3, 2009
    San Diego, CA
    Bingo. Sure, it's nice to have 8 cores to play with at home, but for any real performance testing, you should have access to a Solaris server or something similar running some form of Linux/Unix. For everything else, your air should be okay, although I'd put some money in a nice external monitor. I don't think coding on the 11" would be very fun...
  11. minifridge1138 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 26, 2010
    You could buy a Mac Pro, but I think that would be massive overkill.

    A better question, is what will your school be using?
    Is it primarily a Linux, Microsoft, Mac, or other environment?

    I highly recommend running the same OS as your professors. It will simplify many things.

    If you do decide to go Mac, i think a Mac Mini would be a good way to go. It won't take up much space and it should be more than powerful enough. Or go the Hackintosh route (building one is half the fun).
  12. goMac, Dec 20, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2011

    goMac macrumors 603

    Apr 15, 2004
    I had a Mac Pro while I was working on my computer science degree.

    It's not necessary, but it is very nice. When working on computer graphics or multicore development (which in computer science means 8 or 16 cores minimum), I had my own machine at home, which meant I didn't have to worry about getting lab time or spending nights in the lab.

    Don't worry about "running the same OS as your professors." In all likelihood, your professors won't agree on a common OS, and buying a UNIX based machine is actually a lot better choice than buying something with Windows. UNIX is the standard in computer science, Windows is not. Windows users are frequently stuck either using Linux, installing Cygwin, or remotely connecting to UNIX machines because of this.

    All this said, I also frequently did work on a Macbook Pro. A Macbook Pro won't cut it for multicore development, or some graphics classes, but in general it did fine.

    (For reference, this was during the second half of my bachelors, not a masters. For the first half of my bachelors I had a high end Windows box, which was both insanely powerful due to the hardware, and extremely useless because no one in CS actually uses Windows, at least not without Cygwin.)
  13. lemonade-maker macrumors 6502


    Jun 20, 2009
    This thread has mixed hardware with software. Hardware? Doesn't matter. Get the most you can for the cash you have. Hp x series, Mac pro/iMac, some dell stuff - doesn't matter. OS / software should be anything but windows, unless you're gonna do win dev. Ubuntu, Mac, fedora is fine. Functional programming is what you must know.
  14. goMac macrumors 603

    Apr 15, 2004
    Hardware and software are always mixed when you're talking about the Mac.

    Hackintosh is an option, but I'd avoid it for serious use. You want to be concentrating on your schoolwork, and you'll be busy. No time to worry about driver configurations or what hardware works best. You'll want something you know works. Very rarely do I see CS majors with custom built hardware for this reason.
  15. mobilehaathi macrumors G3


    Aug 19, 2008
    The Anthropocene
    Necessary? Dear god no.

    If you want a Mac, then get a mac. Hopefully your program dumps you into Linux to learn. In which case you Mac runs a nice *nix environment. You can also virtualize any number of other *nix OSes if need be.

    An iMac or mini would be a mighty fine desktop computer for the learning you'll be doing.

    That said, if you have the cash, the MacPro is a nice machine. Keep in mind though, you'll be able to access high-end computing resources on campus anyway.
  16. DisMyMac macrumors 65816


    Sep 30, 2009
    A new computer is rapidly becoming a better investment than a college degree.
  17. mobilehaathi macrumors G3


    Aug 19, 2008
    The Anthropocene
    A new computer is no more an investment than a car, which is to say not an investment at all.
  18. Varmann macrumors member

    Jan 3, 2010
    You have a nice portable to use in class. That is a keeper!
    You could do very well with just it. Heavy loads? That why they have computer labs!

    Want more?
    In an educational situation I would certainly go for a Hackintosh!
    I would also install as many different OS´s on it as possible. OSX, Win, Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, BeOS etc. The more, the merrier!

    That will teach you a lot, in addition to the courses you take. You will learn about the physical parts of the pc.
    You will get hands on experience by different OS, and see the important similarities and differences.

    Very handy when you are looking for a job inn the future! I got an edge in the mid-90's, at the interview with my new employer, when I told I had dabbled into Linux in my spare time, and also got X-windows to work (!):). It was unrelated to what I was expected to do, but it certainly gave me extra points.

    The mackintosh do not need to be powerful. Just try to use as compatible parts as possible, you will need that when going multi-OS. As long as you have a working "school computer", your portable, you will be fine. Do not expect your hackintosh to work flawless, it won't when you use it like this. But that is fine, and will teach you a lot.

    Good luck, if you go this route!
  19. goMac, Dec 21, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2011

    goMac macrumors 603

    Apr 15, 2004
    I really don't think this is important. CS students aren't concerned with these sorts of things. Your primary machine should be a reliable tool, not a lab experiment. That's not to say CS majors don't usually have pet projects like this, but you need a reliable machine.

    Learning to build a computer isn't really important either... It's not really relevant to CS. Beyond that, CS students are usually not looking at comparing OS's and building a computer is kind of remedial compared to most other things a CS student studies.

    Way too much emphasis on custom building for experience in this thread.

    This is exactly what you do not want.

    Compared to the actual CS program itself it's not going to teach you very much at all.

    If you're in the right CS program, you'll have chances to build insanely powerful hardware. We're talking hardware that uses $2000 graphics cards. So it's not real critical at all that you come into a program with experience building some Core i7 rig.
  20. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    A competent CS program would teach there is something called virtualization and virtual machines.

    Get a copy of VirtualBox/Parrells/VMware and can construct and experiment on numerous 'machines' all from a Mac mini or the MBA.
    Tweaking virtual machines has many upsides to them. Can make a copy and if it goes back just throw it away.. ( instead of having to do a complicated wipe and restore-to-previous backup). You can run multiple (smaller) images at the same time it working on a networking program between two computers.

    There are some downsides ( video game play). However, more time in video games at high frame rates isn't going to teach you much computer science.

    The following is the priority order I would put on a setup given where you started at.

    1. MBA (4GB RAM model )
    2. A larger monitor with multiple inputs (e.g., 2 DisplayPort )
    3. Mac mini with at least 8GB ( 3rd party can do afforable. 16GB will put you back another $300 but wait a year or so.)
    (if want to run two Macs and have fallback if MBA has problems ... and vice versa. ). [ can use same monitor for MBA/Mini].

    4. A high capacity FW drive array to archive stuff to. (like a file cabinet. )
    For example:

    Probably can buy all of that for less than a Mac Pro.

    If simply just have are large budget of 'free money' to spend then add

    5. A "lab" box. Here you can get some generic PC box that you can mutate for experimental purposes.
    [The upside for a "lab" box is that you can get back to more serious work... e.g. Homework , assignments, etc. anytime because that is primarily done on other computers. You can drop the experiment in place if need be. ]

    If buying the lab box means working longer hours for "not so free" money or going deeper into debt; then no. Time is a limited asset. There are either supplementary things about your classes , breadth in your studies (other topics), and just regenerative "down time" (socializing with classmates) that much more important than a bigger bling, bling box.
  21. 63dot macrumors 603


    Jun 12, 2006
    Exactly, a computer is a useful tool.

    If you want to invest, there's gold, real estate, oil, and a few others I still wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. A computer can lose 90% percent of its value in four years which has not happened, let's say, in real estate, yet. Our town had about a 60-70% percent drop in real estate values, which was more than the 25% percent drop experts say it would dip to. But being so close to Silicon Valley and the dot.bomb crash before this current real estate crash, it's understandable.

    But while not an investment of any sort, a computer is a must for any college student, but don't go all out with a Macbook Pro unless you intend to use it for what it can do such as high end graphics. Last time I checked, CS majors were not usually involved in that type of stuff. It's still Java, C++/C#, VB, Unix and the like, right? The MBA should be more than enough.
  22. goMac macrumors 603

    Apr 15, 2004
    I was involved with high end graphics and high end multicore computing as an undergrad. It's an option, but not required. It was nice having my own machine with 8 cores because even though campus had a 16 core box, only one person could be logged in at a time. So I could do modeling of my code on my local machine with 8 cores, and then run it on a 16 core box when I got assigned time to make sure it scaled.

    I also took GPGPU programming, which required a high end CUDA card. My laptop had CUDA, but I really needed a Mac Pro to stress test my code (or again, limited campus access.)

    So it wasn't a necessity, and you can get by with a Macbook Pro. If you have the budget, are looking at the optional higher end course work, and want a Mac Pro? It's certainly very nice to have.

    My program was C/C++ only, they would not accept any credits for classes taught in any other language (including Java.) That said, most programs use a fair amount of Java and C++.

    If a CS program is teaching VB... I'm not even sure how they'd get certified. If I were in a CS program and they were teaching VB as part of the coursework I'd run far away. :)
  23. 63dot macrumors 603


    Jun 12, 2006
    That's cool that you got to do the high end graphics and it sounds like fun.

    As for VB, well, Microserf you know. :)
  24. lemonade-maker macrumors 6502


    Jun 20, 2009
    VB, vc++, c# are old and unusable. You need skills in concurrent, functional programming like JavaScript (real JavaScript ), Scala, erlang, Haskell, xquery and others. Languages that hate state and mutable data. If your cs program is teaching mvc, php, vb, ruby, plain ole java, Microsoft junk - they are way behind the curve. Macs are good (so is Linux/unix). Windows won't get you where you need to be.
  25. bengle3rt macrumors member

    Jul 11, 2008
    "Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes." - Dijkstra

    And anyway, your school should have computer labs for your use and servers you can SSH/RDP into if they require you to run specific software.

    That being said, as a CS student myself, as I've gotten into the upper level courses and come to study things related to parallelism, it is nice to have a machine with a shxtload of cores/threads so that you can show linear gains in performance in some thing that you've written. For example, I wrote a fully parallel raytracer that takes 2.5 seconds to do something on my Mac Pro and 22 seconds to do the same thing on my Macbook Air, because of the vast difference in core count.

    If you go to school somewhere cold (like I do) and find yourself often deeply unmotivated to walk to wherever the lab is (like I do) then I can't fault you for getting the most powerful machine you can afford.

    Someone said something about monitors. Get lots of them. As many as you can. They will make your schoolwork go a ton faster.

    In conclusion - necessary? No. Really fxcking nice? Absolutely.

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