This year before actually arriving on campus I spent a lot of time reading the prospective student message boards. One of the big topics of discussion was always choice of computer: many prospective students wanted to get a Mac but were unsure whether it was going to “work” at Kenan-Flagler. This post is for those incoming students in the class of 2011 that would really like to get a Mac but are worried about about compatibility.
I bought a Macbook Pro and have never looked back. This post isn’t about why I prefer a Mac. While I (like so many other snotty Mac users) could talk your ear off about that, I’m trying to be a little more constructive here.
First off, realize that if you get a Mac you’re not alone. I’d estimate at least 5% and maybe as many as 10% of my class have Macs, probably about evenly split between the standard Macbook and the Pro. With that many users, there’s always someone to help you out if you run into a problem.
Here are my thoughts and tips:
- Install virtualized Windows. I personally use VMWare Fusion, but Parallels is fine too. Every once in a while you just have to use Windows (especially two Excel add-ons, Crystal Ball and tree plan, both used in Mod 1). In such cases it’s much more convenient if you don’t have to restart in boot camp.
- Entourage works fine and most people use it. You can respond to calendar invites, do busy searches, reserve rooms, browse public folders, and look people up in the address book.
- I don’t use Entourage. I used it for two months and then just got completely fed up. It’s a very average program, whereas iCal and Mail are both very lightweight and good. So, don’t think that you need to use Entrourage if you’re used to something else. You’ll need to get a little creative though (see next bullet).
- You need to keep your Outlook Calendar up-to-date. It’s important. The non-Entourage way I do it is actually kind of geeky, but I’ll summarize. My primary calendar is iCal (love it). This syncs to Google Calendar via Spanning Sync. Then I sync up Google Calendar with Outlook using Google’s really simple sync program. This all happens in the background–I just had to install the software and now I let it do its thing. If you use Entourage you don’t have to worry about any of this.
- Outlook Web Access works just fine in Safari and Firefox.
- All shared drives are accessible via FTP; there’s an easy how-to guide. I use an FTP program that I like a lot called Transmit and a classmate recommends one called FireFTP.
- Printing to the school printers is easy. Again, there’s a how-to guide.
- You’ll use Solver a lot. Fortunately, there’s a pretty decent Solver for MS Office 2008 now. I’ve found it to be functionally equivalent to the Windows version.
- Spend the $$ to buy extra RAM. When you’re virtualizing Windows Vista it really helps to have all the RAM you can get. I bought 4GB online for $80 and installed it myself. Super cheap and super easy. There are videos on YouTube that will show you how.
- The IT help desk will try to help you. They may not always have all the answers but they usually do pretty well.
That’s really it as far as Kenan-Flagler specific things. My last recommendation (really a plea): try out Quicksilver. It’s one of the things that can boost your productivity dramatically on OS X. Look around for tips and tricks on how best to use it. It takes a little while to learn but can make your life much easier.
Overall, I wouldn’t worry too much about getting a Mac if that’s the way you already wanted to go. Macs work just fine at Kenan-Flagler. There are times when you may have to work a little harder, but weigh that against the benefits of OS X and from my perspective there’s a clear choice.