Must say goodbye to Macs for Engineering School?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips, Advice and Discussion (archive)' started by jamdr, Sep 3, 2004.

  1. jamdr macrumors 6502a


    Jul 20, 2003
    Bay Area
    I'm a second-year engineering student and need to buy a new computer. My school "strongly recommends" the purchase of a PC laptop so that I will be able to run the software that all engineering students need to use, like Mathcad, among a lot of more specialized, smaller programs that are only available on Windows. So I guess I've already answered my own question--but I still really want a Mac and can't really imagine getting a PC to use everyday. Are there any other engineers here that have gotten through school using a Mac? If not, what is the most Apple-like PC laptop I can get? People say IBM is good, but I've looked at there computers and there are like 5 different series. Which one is most similar to the PowerBook?
  2. kgarner macrumors 68000


    Jan 28, 2004
    Back when I was an engineering student (never quite finished that) I actually got by quite well on my Mac. I could actually do things on my Mac that Windows guys were stuck in the labs for. I had a programming class in Unix, and I did all of my stuff at home and brought it to class.

    As for the applications, my school set up a Citrix server for those and I just accessed them over the internet. Never used a CAD program outside of my one CAD class. Never really found it useful to buy the programs as I didn't ever plan on using them at home once I graduated. "Let my employer pay for them," was my philosophy. Most of my classes were just the usual Word/Excel/PowerPoint type affairs.

    Since I didn't make it all the way the senior level classes could have been more involved with this stuff, but I don't know. I am working as an engineer (somewhat) and the main program I use is Pro/E. I think it all depends on what you are going to do once you graduate.

    As for most mac like PC...what makes a Mac distinctive (yes the hardware is distinctive, but what I like most about makes is how they work. That they look great doing it is secondary in my opinion), is the OS. Since all the PCs run Windows...well, I'd say it doesn't really matter.

    Good luck in school.
  3. MrSugar macrumors 6502a


    Jul 28, 2003
    Unless they force you, and "strongly recommending" isn't forcing, get a mac!! Get a powermac and run virtual PC 7 on it.
  4. jtgotsjets macrumors 6502


    May 20, 2004
    Lawrence, KS
    Sony (Vaio) makes some nice laptops, but at a pretty premium price point (bow to my alliteration).

    What's your price range?
  5. bobpensik macrumors regular

    Aug 21, 2003
    Calgary, AB
    yea get a PM or the most recent PB and run VPC

    that way you still get to use a Mac, and when you need to run Windows programs you are able to!
  6. mrviga macrumors member

    Jan 13, 2004
    Alright buddy, get ready to hear what you want to hear. I am a 2nd year engineering student at General Motors Institute and I have absolutely no problem using a Mac. In fact, many of my friends borrow my PB to do homework and stuff. I always use the schools computers to do any CAD work and it works great. If you don't want to do that, then chances are your roommate has a PC and you can use that. I know it sounds crazy, but use the computers they have in the lab. They are really not that bad...

    Now if you really have your heart set on having a PC for your own personal use, then you can invest in a crappy old beater machine. It will run the CAD stuff you would use just fine. Either way, you will have a Mac and all will be good in the universe.

    Get a Mac, enough said. I can't imagine not having mine. :)
  7. alphaq619 macrumors member

    Mar 10, 2003
    Bay Area
    Engineer grad's two cents

    It really depends on what type of engineer you plan to be. I graduated as a Mech. Eng. and I bought a 12" PowerBook during my senior year. Let me tell you, I wish I had bought it earlier. I used my PowerBook to type papers, work on spreadsheets, and do presentations (MS Office). I occasionally had to work on PCs to use Unigraphics. But really that was the only PC program I couldnt use on my PB. And I didn't mind, as long as I had my Mac with me to do everything else.

    I can tell you I had a professor who used ALL macs. The only PCs he had were Dells, but once he got them, he wiped out Windows and installed Linux. I would find out why your school "recommends" PCs.

    Again, it depends on your field. Take it from an ME, you won't regret getting a Mac.
  8. yippy macrumors 68020


    Mar 14, 2004
    Chicago, IL
    I am an engineer and a mac owner. Is working fine. If you need any PC spesific things there are always computer labs.
  9. hugov macrumors newbie

    Apr 9, 2003
    Electrical Engineering

    I agree with alphaq619, It really depends on what sort of engineering you are doing. I am 3rd year Electrical/Electronic Engineering (with some Software in the mix too), and I have a 12" G4 PowerBook.

    It can run all the software I actually need to run on my own machine, that is a decent wordprocessor etc (I actually use LaTeX), a spreadsheet, a programming environment (I use SubEthaEdit and the terminal (for ease of swapping to Linux or Windows to hand in the code), or sometimes xCode), graphics tools (mostly OmniGraffle for flowcharts, block diagrams etc), and so on. I have had good experiences running lots of different embedded GCC ports for programming microcontrollers, directly on Mac OS X. Matlab and Maple are the tools we use most for maths stuff - both have Mac OS X versions but I don't have them (use them on the uni's computers).

    You will find that in Elec Eng most of the tools you need like schematic/PCB tools, DSP environments, and so on are way to expensive to actually buy your own copy (unless you don't mind piracy), so you will end up using those tools on the universities machines.

    Good luck -- stay Mac loyal.
  10. hugov macrumors newbie

    Apr 9, 2003
    "Recommends PC"

    I just remembered another reason some schools recommend Windows PC -- Microsoft has a deal with them where they get a discount on their M$ site license for recommending that their students buy Windows machines.
  11. iJon macrumors 604


    Feb 7, 2002
    yeah i hate that. i had about 3 friends sold on macs for going back to school. they all went to the engineering school and now they have these huge and awful dells. they just feel like crap, with their big plastic keys that make loud noises. but i did get about 4 of my other friends on the mac bandwagon and they are absolutley loving it.

  12. kilpajr macrumors regular

    Aug 24, 2004
    Auburn, AL
    Get a Mac

    I am a senior in Elecrical Engineering w/ Computer Option i.e. Computer Engineering. I just got my Powerbook about 2 weeks ago. The only problem I think you will have is using PSpice. This program is free but it is Windows only so to use it you will have to use VPC (actually this is what my professor did during class :) ). A couple of other classes I have had, we have had to use Sun machines, but we can ssh into those. You will also probably have to use Matlab which works with Macs, Linux, and Windows (although you will have to pay for this one). Also, all the programming classes I have taken could have been done on PC or Mac.

    You should have access to a computer lab to do anything you need to do, but most likely if you have to use the lab, students with Windows will to. Right now I am taking a VHDL class which we have to use a Mentor Graphics program for. They do not have a student version so everyone in the class has to use the lab.
  13. wwooden macrumors 68000


    Jul 26, 2004
    Burlington, VT
    consider this.....

    Like everyone said, if you buy the PC, you're still going to have to pay for the software if you plan on putting it on your computer. I don't know about other schools, but in my engineering classes or labs, they usually gave us plenty of time to get the projects or assignments done during class. Also, I usually found that if I had to do extra work outside of class, it was easier to do in the lab because there were other people there to help me if I had questions and they were usually working on the problems I was.

    I am in my fourth year and haven't have a problem or felt left out because I use a Mac.
  14. Phatpat macrumors 6502a


    Jun 15, 2003
    Cambridge, MA
    I'm gonna be a sophomore in Mech E this fall. So far my powerbook has served me wonderfully, and I have no regrets. Windows is definitely the majority, but I have many friends with macs. I've considered buying a PC for solidworks, but it's so much easier just to use the labs.
  15. Ryan1524 macrumors 68000


    Apr 9, 2003
    Canada GTA
    i'm going to first year engineering and i'm bringing a mac. this is despite being recommended a PC and despite the fact that i'll need PC to run Solid Edge in ONE of my classes. but then it's onyl for this one class, and i figured it's not worth dumping the PB for. Solid Edge is a cad program that they used to replace AutoCAD. i've settled with using the school computers or one of my roommates' machines - i have a strong feeling they're gonna have PCs.

    i hope all goes well. wish me luck as i venture with my mac into a mostly PC world for the next 4 years. :) :p

    ps: surprising note, the school bookstore said they sold as much macs as they do PCs. :)
  16. friarbayliff macrumors regular

    Jul 20, 2004
    MN / IN
    Yeah, I'm a first-year engineering student at Notre Dame. The use of macs is almost encouraged. My 12" pb works with everything that the school requires me to use, including some of the more complex cad and engineering programs. I don't know why a school would 'strongly recommend' either platform. Both work just fine - except my mac does it, all the while being the sexiest thing ever :)
  17. Timelessblur macrumors 65816


    Jun 26, 2004
    like they said before it really heavily depends on what type of engineeing you are going to become. Some it hurts more a lot more than others using only a mac. It pretty much a given that you are going to take some pain if you dont have a PC. At my school they recomend you get a PC.
    For examplethe EE/CS major it hurts quite a bit when it comes down to program since well there are compliling glitchs that will come up on a mac they should not be there or sometime the program will complie on the mac but will not work on a PC. (Due to the fact it opimized for the powerPC and not X86). Yes I do know some EE and CS majors who work on a Mac. Most of them bought a PC because it was just easier and less trouble some for there a lot of the engineeing work

    Other ones well there is just some heavy ended software that will only work on a PC and there is no real mac equivlent. I got a fair amont of it on my PC. I am a Civil engineeing student and I do have a good chunk of stuff on my computer that will only really work on a PC and software I use on a very regular Mathcad being one of them. (btw Mathcad is a great program and it is well worth spending the money on it.) I plan on later when I get into my design classes next year to get a copy of Autocad since I will be doing a fair bit more work on it. Year the prof give you enough time in the lab but sometime well lab computers suck well a lot of the time they do and they just have some problems. Plus it sometime just gets in the way having to go there and it just plainly easier working in your room.

    Yes it is do able but I would suggest follow you school recomendtion. Apple are kind of weak in engineeing world lacking a lot of the software. My school recomends a PC for it engineeing students but pushes Macs on the art students area and it supports both plateforms. Trust me having a PC will save you a lot of heart ach and will make your life easier in your engineeing classes.

    Just make sure you keep you desktop a Mac. I going to say this right now it is very difficult to go though school with a laptop as your only computer. I tried it and hated it. got a new desktop over the summer.
  18. dieselg4 macrumors regular


    Oct 20, 2003
    Rockin' Pittsburgh!
    it made no differnece for me really

    though i was in school for architecture. The programs (Form Z, AutoCAD) were to expensive to buy anyway, and the labs @ CMU always had pretty high end equipment & up to date, so my personal computer made little difference.

    That was a Mac BTW.
  19. apple_iBoy macrumors 6502a

    Oct 28, 2003
    Philadelphia, PA
    don't worry about it!

    I've had a Mac all the way through my undergrad years and even now in my doctorate program. I was a chemistry major back then, materials engineering now. I can tell you that I've NEVER had any trouble getting done what I needed to because of my choice of computers. I did have to run Mathcad for awhile in Virtual PC, but that goes just fine. And actually I've found Mathematica (OS X native version) now suits my purposes even better. A lot of the modeling software that I've used could only be used in the labs anyway, because it often had some sort of hardware key like a serial port dongle that was necessary to make the program work. I would not worry about taking a Mac to school -- at least in the undergrad years, I would bet that the biggest uses you'll have for your personal computer are typing up nice little lab reports, using some excel, doing some IMing, and looking up porn.

    Not necessarily in that order.
  20. EMKoper macrumors regular


    Dec 18, 2002
    Stafford, VA

    I had a Mac-PC experience during my EE Masters... I switched to a PowerMac midstream... started on a Win2K PC and finished on a PowerMac G4 (2x 1GHz) . I completed my academic work and all my publications strictly using the Mac w/ my existing PC software using VPC6 (MatLab, MathCAD, and MS Office since I already owned them) and wrote all my reports and final thesis using TexShop, Gimp, & Graphics Converter. A complete PC to Mac academic transition in ~ 1 months time having never previously used a Mac ... sounds like a commercial, eh?

    That being said, my department did not insist that any particular software tool be used for anything. If your department insists on seeing a nice MathCAD printout when you turn in assignments it may, IMHO, be frustrating to run on with VPC which will probably be sluggish and have slower computational times (app is 10:1 slower versus my AMD 2200 XP PC). On a Mac, I would opt for using MatLab or Mathematica if possible since they are both better tools anyway and I seem them used professionally all the time.

    So, there are two schools of thought here...

    ... as an engineer in the real world you will have a variety of problems in front of you and you'll not always have the perfect tools to use or you'll have to use/learn some other tool that is available. That school says "hey, go buy a Mac and figure it out later" ...

    ... On the other hand, there is something to be said for making school as easy as possible so you can focus on accomplishing assignments, learning the material and leaving enough time to go drinking. Throwing another obstacle in your way may take away from your learning/social experience. That school of though may say buy a PC laptop.

    My recommendation ...

    Consider the availability of PC computer labs at your school and whether your current PC is "good enough**" to bail you out if you need it for some nitch software package. If this is the case, buy a PowerBook and be happy.

    ** What field are you studying and what are the specs of your existing PC? Most engineering students think they need more computing power than they actually do ... I finished my BSEE using a PI, 90 MHz using MatLab and PSpice heavily.
  21. jamdr thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jul 20, 2003
    Bay Area
    Thanks for all of the replies. I'm an electrical engineer and don't really have a lot of money, so the best PowerBook I could afford would probably be the 12" model. It's good to hear that many of you are getting through engineering school with Macs, but I still have some concerns. As far as using the school labs is concerned, that's definitely possible--but I figure that if I have to run over to the engineering buildings whenever I need to do an assignment, I might as well save myself a lot of money and not get a computer at all. Because really, the only things I'd be using it for would be email and AIM, and I would do all my real work on the school's comps.

    My school supplies its students with copies of needed software for very little money (Mathcad, for example, would only cost me $15). If I do get a 12" PowerBook and maybe an additional 512MB of RAM, would I really be able to run Mathcad in VPC at a usable speed?

    Edit: The previous post was very helpful. I no longer have any computer because I had to give it to a family member, and yes, I would like to be able to focus on schoolwork without worrying about whether I'll be able to run some software program. And unfortunately, Mathcad is a very big part of the cirriculum here, so it wouldn't really be possible to use anything else. I guess I'll start looking into some PCs, although I haven't completely ruled out a Mac yet, especially if someone can give me any indication of how fast VPC could run a large program like Mathcad.

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