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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Can LTS provide an alternative to Macs?

Published: January 31, 2014
Section: Opinions, Top Stories

When my computer broke, I was told to use any one of the public computers available. There was one problem: All of them were Macs, and I own a PC. I never intended to transfer to a Mac, so I did not. But why did it seem like I had to? Brandeis technology operates under a false assumption: Students only use Macs. Even though they believe this assumption, Brandeis Macs allegedly run both OS X and Windows to reflect the technological diversity of the campus. But they don’t work.

If one walked into the library, one would not know that a single Brandeis student owns a PC. Brandeis needs to understand the dual-system Macs do not work well when run as PCs, and that PCs are used by many students on campus. The university needs to change their system to signify the technological needs of a good portion of the student body.

According to Brandeis tour guide statistics, the spit between PC and Macs on campus was at 50/50 a few years ago. On the Brandeis LTS website’s New Student Checklist, the page clearly states, “You can buy either a Mac or a PC—if you prefer PC, we like Dell or Toshiba.” Brandeis seems to accept and allow PCs on campus. Many professors have PCs in their offices, lecture halls and classrooms. Students can use LTS to repair their broken computers, as I have done.

Yet one would not know this if they walked in the library. Most computers available for student use are the dual-system Macs I mentioned earlier. It seems useful in theory; two systems on one computer becomes more efficient. In practice, however, the dual systems fail. Many programs when used on the Mac’s version of Windows 7 forces the computer to operate in OS X. For example, the popular file saving and sharing service Dropbox does not work solely on Windows 7. When one has the program open and downloads a document, in order to work on it or submit it for review, the computer kicks one back to OS X.

The same problems happens with Adobe Reader, which constructs, converts documents to, and reads PDF files. So Macs cannot function on Windows if the user needs to peruse PDFs or Dropbox, which causes a constant game of switching between the two systems to get one’s work done. It takes three times as long playing this game to write an essay as it would to simply type it up on a public PC.

I said “most” and not all deliberately, since there are PCs on campus, but rarely for student use. Of all the PC’s available on campus, a supermajority are for professors and staff in classrooms or in places where students cannot access them. The Romper Room and the Student Library in the Shapiro Campus Center are all Macs, and so are the other computers in the Library. The most visible two PCs on campus for student use are in the library, and are mainly available for microfilm readings. Yet they run Windows 7, and most of the time I and other PC minded students are in the library, we congregate there as our technological safe haven. And when we do, we are kicked off.

In a computerized world, users of PCs have every power to operate computers to complete essays, projects and exams. Brandeis’ “Mac-Only” policy hurts the PC users on campus.

The solution of dual-system computers seems to work in theory, but in practice, they isolate half the campus just as much as the Mac-only computer rooms in the SCC do. The Brandeis community works under the assumption that PCs are only used by gamers and members of the older generations, and Macs are the go-to computer for the college student. This assumption errs greatly; PCs are used by numerous members of the student body.

We as students are expected to be knowledgeable with modern technology, as we grew up in the generation where computers and the internet were part of our upbringing. We are assumed to be the only generation to keep moving forward. But we aren’t, nor should we be. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “For everything that is given, something is taken. Society acquires new arts, and loses old instincts.” In this case, LTS ensures progress by moving to a Mac-based system or even a dual-system with both operating systems but loses the power of the original computer: the PC. We lose the basis for all computers, in the name of meaningless progress.