MU Engineering students have a suite of brand new, top-of-the-line computers to use for conducting research and completing class assignments. The Media and Software Development Lab and Classroom or Mac Lab housed in C1205-1206 in Lafferre Hall features 82 high-end iMac computers, each with 32 GB of RAM, a high-end graphics card and a 2 TB solid state hard drive. The project to replace all of the computers in the Mac Lab actually started last year and was completed just before classes started Jan. 21. John Harrison, the support systems administrator for Customer Service and Support Services in the College, says it took several months to install and configure the new computers because they have to run two different operating systems simultaneously, what’s known as a dual-boot configuration.
“We really needed these to be dual-boot computers since there are not alternative Mac labs on campus,” he said. “The iMacs were old and out of warranty, so we asked for a special one-time funding for these devices and the dean approved. It was not inexpensive but it was important and the dean knew it was important, so she authorized us to move forward.”
Brandon Guffey, director of administrative operations and faculty success, says the College spent close to $305,000 to replace the computers in the Mac Lab.
“We realize it is important to invest in our students by providing the technology and resources they need to be successful,” he said. Guffey noted the College also is opening a new computer lab in E2420 on Feb. 3, which will have 10 computers loaded with all of the standard engineering software a student needs to be successful.
System support analyst Dwight Murray began work installing the new computers in late September and says he picked up some new skills along the way.
“We hadn’t really used the management software we needed to install, so I had to learn how to use the entire system while I was trying to figure out how to implement a dual-boot lab environment,” he said.
Harrison says Murray ‘s work was complicated by the fact that the two operating systems don’t always work well together.
“Apple doesn’t do the best job of deploying Windows drivers for their hardware and vice versa—some of Microsoft’s applications don’t have what it takes to run Mac software,” he said.
Despite those concerns, Murray managed to get all of the new computers configured as dual-boot computers just in time for classes to begin. Harrison said other than a few minor issues, it’s been a remarkably smooth transition.
“When you consider the scale of this project, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how well it all works and how few issues we’ve experienced,” he said. “This is where it pays off to invest the time and do it properly from the start. I’m very glad Dwight was able to figure everything out and do it properly.”