my mac needs to play nice with the new kids in september
July 31, 2010 3:53 AM   Subscribe

i have some questions about going back to school with my mac.

i am signed up to go back to school in september, and i am so confused by these computer requirements my head is spinning.

i have been informed that i need to have a PC with adobe CS5 and microsoft office suite with publisher, or a mac with these programs plus a dual-boot to windows.

my computer (a macbook, just over a year old) does not meet the minimum specs outlined in the email i got from the program director. i wasn't really thinking about going back to school when i bought it, so it is just a bare-bones out-of-the-box model: osx 10.5 with 2 GB memory.

as far as i can tell from the apple website and the instructions i found to set up a dual boot, my computer does not have the ability to run 64-bit Windows 7. i would also probably need to upgrade the RAM.

what are my options here? assume that i did *not* budget $800 for new software (i was told before i applied that i could lease a computer from the school). i do not want to buy a pc. can i run microsoft publisher in osx? would that ruin my computer or void my warranty?

i realize that the "minimum requirements" that the program director outlined is in some sense an ideal, and i am probably not the only one who is going to have these issues. i emailed him to ask what happened to leasing, but i got his out of office autoreply.

any thoughts, hivemind?
posted by janepanic to Computers & Internet (26 answers total)
 
If you do end up needing to run Windows, Parallels might be more convenient that dual booting. Your Macbook should be able to run this just fine.

I don't know of a Mac-native app that reads/writes the Publisher .pub files, but Parallels can make that easier to deal with.
posted by john m at 4:09 AM on July 31, 2010


Almost no program for Windows exists in 64-bit form without a 32-bit counterpart - That shouldn't be an issue (but it is weird that you can't install a 64 bit version of Windows on it. Oh well - Not the end of the world).

It is also odd that 2GB of RAM is deemed insufficient. It's relatively cheap to upgrade to 4GB, at least compared to the software expenses you're looking at.

Nothing you can do in software will ruin your computer or void your warranty. The worst that happens is you have to reinstal OSX and your software, and restore from backups. (Always keep backups).

The software you're talking about is pretty insanely expensive, but if that's what they require, that's what they require. I'd probably lease a PC, rather than upgrade my Mac, buy the software I'll only use for a year, and so on.
posted by Rendus at 4:14 AM on July 31, 2010


There's no technical reason why you can't dual boot a 64 bit version of Windows on that machine, it's just Apple being Apple saying that you can't. Here's a thread showing how to do it. However, I don't see any reason why you would want to do that if you only had 2GB of RAM, because there will be few benefits.

As to the cost of purchasing software, the OS X version of Office does not have a version of Publisher, so that means if Publisher is a hard requirement you're going to be buying a Windows license and the Windows version of Office and running it via virtualization or dual booting, but it really depends on the actual courses as to whether that's a hard requirement or not. You should also consider the Academic version of Office which is like an $80 download direct from MS with a qualifying .edu email instead of the full retail cost.
posted by Rhomboid at 4:56 AM on July 31, 2010


thanks for the responses so far. i didn't think about the possibility of a student discount through microsoft. perhaps i will call them.
posted by janepanic at 6:08 AM on July 31, 2010


RAM is cheap to upgrade - you should be able to upgrade to 4GB yourself. Buy 3rd-party though, Apple's is way expensive.

Why the f*ck do they want you to use Publisher? Ugh. I think that's the only Office program that you'll run into that's not on the Mac version...you could probably use Parallels or Crossover to run it rather than full-on switching over to Windows with something like VMware Fusion (with Fusion you have to boot up Windows, with the others the program runs inside OSX I believe).
posted by radioamy at 6:11 AM on July 31, 2010


You can get the CS5 suite with an education discount for $450.

But what class or program is this for that would require Microsoft Publisher? Because Publisher is complete shit for any sort of professional work. Are you in a design or publication major program? If that's the cause I'd ask about final formats the projects need to be submitted in. Even if it's Indesign or Illustrator files, the latest version of Indesign can open earlier versions just fine, so you could squeak by like that. Hell, if all they want is PDFs, you use whatever version of whatever program and just make a PDF at the end.

The Windows and Mac thing? I personally would ignore the fuck out of that. You can swap CS suite files between platforms just fine and you could boot in Windows or install Parallels if you really, really, really, REALLY need to boot into Windows for some messed up college IT policy reason. The only way I can think of 64 vs 32 bit mattering on the Windows side is if you're doing some super high end image editing, where the 64 bit would help with accessing more memory.

Bottom line? I'd treat these requirement as the college insisting I need the latest, ultra expensive edition of a book, when I can go get the last edition for half price. Doing that would make things a bit harder on myself and I'd have to be more on top of things, but if it means I could at least metaphorically give the college administration the middle finger, then I'd go for it.

The details of your particular program may make that harder or impossible, but I'm betting not. The only thing I would say for you to go ahead and do now, before you get the teacher's reply, is to upgrade your RAM. You can never have too many chocolate cookies or too much RAM.
posted by nomadicink at 6:28 AM on July 31, 2010


i am taking a 1 year community college course in public relations, which includes 2 full-credit sections of print design. i don't really have any other information about project file formats, but i will definitely ask.

this is probably going to make me sound like an idiot, but i am not even sure what it is about publisher that is so special that i couldn't do with something else, like pages? do you think if i just showed up on the first day with adobe cs5, iwork and a big, naive smile i'd be ok? also yes i am going to upgrade my ram.
posted by janepanic at 6:50 AM on July 31, 2010


this is probably going to make me sound like an idiot, but i am not even sure what it is about publisher that is so special that i couldn't do with something else, like pages? do you think if i just showed up on the first day with adobe cs5, iwork and a big, naive smile i'd be ok? also yes i am going to upgrade my ram.

This is a good question to ask them. I could contrive a number of reasonable answers, but they would all be speculation.

When I was in college, they had labs with computers you could use that had everything you needed. If you used your own machine, they didn't care how you did the work - but if the files were handed in a format that the professor/grader could not use or whatever, then the work wasn't handed in and the usual hilarity would ensue. So, whatever you do, you're going to want to be sure that you don't run into file format incompatibility issues.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:05 AM on July 31, 2010


I find it odd that they would specifically list Publisher as a requirement if they also list CS5, since the Creative Suite includes InDesign which is indisputably superior to Publisher. If it's only a matter of capability then you most certainly don't need Publisher if you have InDesign, but I'm guessing that perhaps they have some course that teaches Publisher. If that's the case you'll have no problem doing the work with InDesign, it's just that you might have to learn the program yourself without help from the teaching materials.
posted by Rhomboid at 7:06 AM on July 31, 2010


Yeah I can not imagine why you would need to learn Publisher...maybe they want you to know it in case you work somewhere that doesn't have a real design program? The thing is, there isn't much to Publisher. It's basically Word without Word's annoying layout problems.

The only reason I personally still use Publisher is that I create flyers that our account reps use - but I design in InDesign, export to JPEG, dump the JPEG in Publisher and put in a text box for them to fill in the information.

Other than that, swapping files between Windows and Mac is not a problem with Creative Suite. I will recommend getting whatever version of CS that your school is using though - it's a bitch if you want to use say, a CS5 file in CS4. You can't just save to be compatible with a previous version like you can do with Office, nor is there any reader/converter to read newer files. You have to export and do all this annoying stuff.

I'd definitely talk to the professors. When I was in school I took a sortof general overview computer course which included a section on web design, and the syllabus said it required FrontPage (I think? Is that the crappy Microsoft program). I asked my prof if I could use Dreamweaver, and he said he didn't care what program I used as long as I completed the project and had a functional HTML webpage - FrontPage was just what they had in the classrooms and labs.
In terms of the cost of CS, do we have any MeFites who work at Adobe? They can get the entire CS Design Suite for $100.
posted by radioamy at 7:21 AM on July 31, 2010


You can swap CS suite files between platforms just fine

Yeah, this. I have a Windows box at work and a macbook pro at home and they open each other's files just fine. The only trouble comes with fonts, occasionally - like, a font was added on one machine that doesn't exist on the other. But otherwise, it's not problem.

When I upgraded the RAM in my old powerbook, I bought it from Crucial.
posted by rtha at 8:03 AM on July 31, 2010


I've recently come across an emulator called Virtual Box that will let you install and run alternative OS's without having to reboot or shut down your Mac OS. I've been using VMWare Fusion to do this but Virtual Box is free and prettier. Reports from other users are that its pretty snappy too.

I've got both XP and Win7 installed on my current MacBook Pro and it runs either without any issues (so long as I've dedicated enough power to them).

Not familiar with publisher but schools get locked into specific programs and, though you can submit work done in another program and saved as the needed type, many schools are unaware that this is simple to do and make Publisher a requirement.
posted by fenriq at 9:04 AM on July 31, 2010


Yeah, kind of weird that they want Publisher. Publisher is what you use if you have no access to something a bit higher end or final color outcome is not crucial.

Now do not go broke buying software. You can get the latest version of the Office suite for $80 as long as you have a valid university email address. The package is better for Windows folks but hey, it is all of Office for $80 straight from the manufacturer. Also, as pointed upthread, you can get a student version of Creative Suite at a discount. Do not pay retail for anything while you are a student.
posted by jadepearl at 9:09 AM on July 31, 2010


to clarify, i have access to adobe cs5 and microsoft office through the school bookstore for an unspecified "discount," but because the program hasn't started yet, the bookstore couldn't tell me how much they were going to be (she also said that there is a new version of CS coming out, and that it won't be available to us until september).

everyone has been very helpful. i feel much better now about all of this nonsense.
posted by janepanic at 9:15 AM on July 31, 2010


Publisher, ugh. I used it in undergrad and it is the spawn of the Devil. Avoid at all costs. If you really must be familiar with Publisher (and really, who uses that these days?) I would recommend just using the lab PCs. Not worth spending the cash just for that one program.

When I was in school, my professors didn't care what program I used to do my projects as long as the finished submission was in the format they needed. Honestly, just do what you need to do in Indesign, convert, and submit. End of story. Oh, and upgrade your RAM, if you can manage it. My MB was pretty decent at handling CS4 with 2GB, but a little extra juice won't hurt.
posted by Tamanna at 9:15 AM on July 31, 2010


I would recommend just using the lab PCs. Not worth spending the cash just for that one program.

the computers in the lab! i can just use those! i did not think of this!
posted by janepanic at 9:26 AM on July 31, 2010


I find it odd that they would specifically list Publisher as a requirement if they also list CS5...
I don't.
The OP states he's taking a PR course. Unfortunately, PR (as well as a lot of marketing courses) are heavily MS Office oriented. Publisher is used by a huge number of PR and Marketing people who pride themselves on DIY. They live by Publisher, Word, and Powerpoint.

As for why they want both Publisher and CS5...I'm betting they will use only Photoshop in CS5, but the people putting together the course don't know you can buy Pshop separately.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:45 PM on July 31, 2010


And also, don't buy anything until you know you really need it. Once in class, you might find that there are workarounds that will work just fine.
posted by Vaike at 3:50 PM on July 31, 2010


Here's the link for the cheap MS Office suite: The Ultimate Steal
(Don't worry, it's totally legit - it redirects to a Microsoft site.)

Free trial of MS Office 2010 - I'm 99% sure the free trial is good for 180 days. So, this might be a good way to see if you really need it first.

MS Office 2010 is backwards-compatible with the 2007 version. In other words, docs you create in 2010 can be opened in the 2007 version. Don't even bother with the 2003 version, unless you can get a legit copy free or really really cheap.

Also - the bookstore at my school will be selling the academic version to faculty only for $40. Not sure yet about the pricing for students, but it will definitely be cheaper than the Ultimate Steal link above. Just a data point for you.

And like those above who have said to ask your professors about the requirements - this is definitely good advice!! If the professor's name is on the schedule, shoot them an email now, or just wait until the first day of class. Not that program directors are out of touch, but sometimes (IME) those emails are coming not from the person themselves, but from the department secretary, who is only supposed to tell you the party line, and not to deviate from what is essentially a script.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:57 PM on July 31, 2010


Sorry, I meant to say above that the versions and prices I mentioned are for the Windows versions of the software.

Which reminds me of an important point: you may not get much (if any) tech support from the school's IT department if you have a Mac. I've had students run into various problems and issues with Parallels, and nobody at school was familiar enough with Macs to offer much help. So you may be on your own with solving problems. If your workload will be tough, you may want to consider really putting any kind of new software through its paces before school to work out any kinks, or GASP! buying a cheap PC desktop for schoolwork, and saving your Mac for personal use.

Call the IT support number (should be somewhere on the school's web site) and ask them about their Mac knowledge, so that you can go in knowing what you're getting into, support-wise.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:04 PM on July 31, 2010


the computers in the lab! i can just use those! i did not think of this!

:-) I get this reaction from students all the time. You're paying for those damn things with your tuition money - USE THEM! The only problem is the lab schedule may not match your schedule, so check into it. Lab schedules should be posted somewhere on your school's site, or call and ask.

Another thing I just remembered (sorry to be so scattered!). Our school allows students to log in from home to the school's network using Citrix, and then they have access to all the Office products for free. Check if something like this is available, and if Publisher is on of the apps they let you use.

There really is no reason to buy MS Office specifically for Publisher (ptooey!), and free Google Docs or Open Office is completely fine for papers, as long as you know what format your professor wants submissions in.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:11 PM on July 31, 2010


i am taking a 1 year community college course in public relations, which includes 2 full-credit sections of print design.

It sounds like they want you be familiar with the high end (Indesign) and the low end (Publisher) of print design. Not a big idea, just realize that Publisher is shitty program that can give commercial printers problems. Avoid the program if you can.

To clarify, i have access to adobe cs5 and microsoft office through the school bookstore for an unspecified "discount," but because the program hasn't started yet, the bookstore couldn't tell me how much they were going to be (she also said that there is a new version of CS coming out

CS 5 is only a few months old. There won't be a new version of it for 18-24 months.
posted by nomadicink at 5:59 PM on July 31, 2010


Thorzdad - uuuugh yes. What I really hate is when people (usually media ad reps) "design" flyers, presentations, etc in PowerPoint.
posted by radioamy at 6:58 PM on July 31, 2010


Random thoughts;

Yes, technically Office exists on OSX. If however you are being taught a class by a school/prof that favors Windows, you WILL at times be in the dark about the amusing "quirks" that differentiate the OSX and Windows products. The one that angers me would be lack of visual basic for applications. No, I don't like it, but it is useful and important at times.

If you were a friend asking my opinion, I would strongly discourage you from running an unsupported by Apple OS with BootCamp. i.e. a 64bit version of Windows on that hardware.

Microsoft has discounted software for education; https://www.microsoft.com/education/license/howtobuy/USacademicretail.aspx Be warned however, that the license for that software may or may not say you can continue using after leaving school, and that you may or may not be allowed to use it for commercial purposes while in or after school is finished.
posted by fief at 12:44 AM on August 1, 2010


rtha - i never would have known that i have two 1GB cards (is that the right term) which are filling up my slots. it is very likely that i would have bought the wrong thing and been very confused when i tried to install it.

fief - i am not comfortable running windows on this thing, either, and not just because it sounds as though it would involve complicated brain surgery. the consensus here seems to be that it is not necessary, so i am going to proceed from that and not bother.

i have a list of questions to ask the program director when he gets back from vacation. i am armed with knowledge! and alternative options! and that is what i needed.
posted by janepanic at 4:50 AM on August 1, 2010


Generally, unless a school is huge enough to get a big discount from Adobe (the student price for CS5 at IU, for instance, is stunningly low), you will probably get CS5 from your bookstore for around $500. That seems to be the price for most schools. You can also get the student version through Amazon.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:19 PM on August 4, 2010


« Older Cheap ISP supporting virtual domains sought ...   |   Seeking A Good Internet Service Provider Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.