Taubman College

Computing

A personal computer is an essential tool for learning and professional work at Taubman College and the college strongly recommends that you have a computer to bring with you for your course and studio work.

Hardware Recommendations

The College does not mandate the purchase of a specific type or model of computer but recommends capabilities listed below. Taubman College uses both Windows and Macintosh computers. Laptops are recommended for portability and security. The College has installed the campus wireless network throughout the building; it supports a/b/g/n wireless cards

Feature Windows Macintosh
OS: Windows 7; Windows 7 64-bit recommended OS X (10.6 or later)
Processor: Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Quad, i5, or i7 Core 2 Duo, i5, or i7
Screen: 14" or better 14" or better
Memory: 3-4Gb (min); 6-8Gb recommended 4Gb (min.); 8Gb recommended
Graphics*: Discreet 512Mb; 1Gb recommended; Intel HD Graphics NOT recommended 256Mb min.; 1Gb recommended; Intel HD Graphics NOT recommended
Storage: DVD +/- RW DVD +/- RW
Flash Drive: 4 Gb (min.); 8+ Gb recommended 4 Gb (min.); 8+ Gb recommended
Ethernet: 10/100 or 10/100/1000 10/100 or 10/100/1000
Wireless: 802.11 b/g/n Airport or Airport Extreme
Other features/ accessories: Security lock kit**; insurance; 3 yr/extended warranty/multi-year service agreement; wheel mouse; digital camera; external hard drive for back-up and additional storage; case/bag

The expected useful life of a computer is three years. Architecture is a compute and graphics intensive program; recommended configurations are at the higher end with faster processors, more memory, and a discreet graphics card. Urban planning students will not need the higher end configurations as their software profile differs; a mid-range laptop will work well. Pre-architecture students will also not need the higher end configurations; pre-architecture work is not as graphically demanding and any machine purchased now will be two years old by the time of admittance to the program. Again, a mid-range laptop is fine. Sites like Passmark provide ways to compare the performance of the CPUs and graphics cards listed in vendor configurations and it's useful to shop the vendor sites (Dell, HP, Apple, Lenovo) as well as the university's Computer Showcase and other third-party resellers. Avoid including Office bundles, high-end Windows 7 versions, or anti-virus software-- those are all much less expensive at the Computer Showcase. While much of the college software is Windows based, a significant percentage have purchased Mac laptops and used Apple's Bootcamp or third-party virtualization software (VMWare's Fusion or Parallels) to run Windows applications. A few students have also chosen to combine a Windows desktop with a less expensive/lighter laptop.

For Summer and Fall 2011 there are a few more specific recommendations. Many laptops are coming with "Intel HD Graphics". If this is the only graphics chip listed (e.g there is not also a second listing for an included nVidia or Radeon card) this configuration is NOT recommended for Architecture students. "Intel HD Graphics" does not adequately support the OpenGL graphics language and Rhino 4.0, the College's primary modeling application, relies on OpenGL support; this dependence on OpenGL will be even more important when Rhino 5.0 is released during the coming year (http://wiki.mcneel.com/rhino/videocards)

In addition, many laptops will list both "Intel HD Graphics" and a second (nVidia or Radeon) graphics card. These laptops rely on a "graphics switching" technology to direct a software application to the appropriate graphics system, an attempt to prolong battery life by using the higher-powered graphics card only when necessary. In practice, some of these switching technologies do not work. The current MacBook Pro line (2.0GHz MacBook Pro - MC721LL/A; 2.2GHz MacBook Pro - MC723LL/A) will switch correctly in OSX but not in Bootcamp; in Bootcamp, where Windows 7 is running, all graphics is done by the Radeon card. This is fine for the graphics display but does result in shorter battery life. Customer reviews of the current HP Pavilion dv6tqe and dv7tqe lines (models 61XX) report they aren't able to switch to using the Radeon card for OpenGL applications, instead running them on the "Intel HD Graphics" chip where the performance is very poor; this system would be NOT recommended for this reason.

In short, there are great processors available now, particularly the 2nd generation i7 processors like the 2630QM and 2720QM. Graphics selection needs a little more care. Architecture students should avoid computers with "Intel HD Graphics" if it is the only graphics option offered as it won't provide adequate OpenGL support. For computers where both "Intel HD Graphics" and a second graphics option (nVidia or Radeon card) are provided check customer reviews to be sure there are no issues about whether the switching technology works.

Software Recommendations

Taubman College recommends the purchase of an Office suite and the Adobe Creative Suite CS5 Standard or Premium (includes Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat) -- these products are available at substantial savings at the University's Computer Showcase. Architecture students must also purchase Rhino; the college's Media Center has pricing substantially cheaper than educational online vendors. The University provides links to downloadable anti-virus software for Macs and Windows; all machines, real or virtual (Fusion, Parallels), running Windows should have anti-virus software installed. A University Blue Disc selection of software also provides the Cisco VPN software for accessing College resources from off-campus.

AutoDesk products are not required, but many student versions, including AutoCAD 2012 and 3ds Studio Max Design 2012, are available for free download from AutoDesk as part of the University's AutoDesk licensing relationship. Other online (JourneyEd.com, Campustech.com) and local companies (Ulrich's Electronics) offer educational pricing on many products.

Many students purchase Macs and use either Apple's Boot Camp or third-party virtualization products from VMWare ("Fusion") or Parallels to run Windows applications. While both Fusion and Parallels are continually updated, we have had more success running Fusion and we are able to offer all students a one year license at no charge through this page. Both approaches -- Boot Camp or virtualization with Fusion or Parallels-- require a Windows operating system. Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate is available at the Showcase at a very reasonable price; be aware that you must install Vista first (also available at the Showcase) as the Windows 7 DVD is an "upgrade only" version.

Student Comments

"The Adobe Suite, as well as most 3D programs, are all VERY ram intensive, and since there's often a need to have Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Autocad, and Rhino all open at the same time, get as much as humanly possible. Buy the minimum possible and upgrade it yourself - go to crucial.com. Graphics card - obviously this doesn't apply to many, having a workstation level (graphics) card (nvidia quadro, ati firegl) has been a really nice perk on my (laptop)." -- C.B., Architecture student

"I have found having my Compaq laptop very useful at Taubman College. It's now three years old, and tending to run slow with all the software I've installed on it this year--Adobe products, Rhino, AutoCAD. So more memory/speed is better. Having a big screen size is good for all the modeling we do." -- K.D., Architecture student

"I have a 12" Mac Powerbook and I've been very happy with it. It's not too heavy to carry around and I haven't had a problem with the small screen size (although I don't do much graphic-intensive stuff with it). I would say, for urban planning anyway, there's no reason not to get a Mac if you like them." -- C.L., Urban Planning student

"I have a Mac, and I am always pleased with how it performs while some PC-students have difficulties. However, this is a PC-based school. It is Rhino-based, and despite glitches with PCs, I would recommend a PC-laptop. Buy it before you come. You won't have time later. 14" screen seems small. Make sure you have Rhino, Adobe Suite (the latest), a usb drive, and a portable hard drive. Yes, more memory and high speed definitely make a difference." -- R.R., Architecture 3G

"My digital camera was also one of the best investments that I made. Assignments often require photographing, and it's also useful for quickly documenting your work." -- D.K., Architecture student