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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Why You Want a Mac this holiday season

If you want my opinion on which computer to get a loved one or yourself, I’d say “Go with a Mac instead of a PC”. I have several reasons for suggesting a Mac.

1. A Mac in the long term, if not the short term, will give you less grief. I recently spent a Friday evening and all of a Saturday trying to upgrade my aging Windows XP PC. Now I’ve added memory, an extra hard drive, and a new Ethernet card to this 7 year-old machine with no trouble. When I tried to add a new video card, a fancy one featuring an Nvidia GeForce 6200 processing unit, I thought I’d have the cat’s pajamas. Instead I might as well have tried to bath a cat. I finally gave up, put the new video card back in its box for another day or another owner, put the system back the way it came, and chalked it up to experience. Bad experience. And let’s not go into what reinstalling a Windows operating system involves. The horror!

2. You pay a premium for a Mac the same way you pay a premium for a really good car. I plan to buy myself a Mac Mini for roughly $950 next spring. That’s a lot of money for such a small computer. But my Mac Mini will come with sufficient memory, lots of hard disk space, built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and two video outputs. It also comes with a Thunderbolt port (?) for when the Thunderbolt external peripherals start coming down in price to the level of ordinary mortals. Best of all, it comes with the Mac operating system, which is what Microsoft wants to beat.

3. What about the “Mac tax”? As I said, you do pay more for a Mac than a Windows machine on sale at Frys. But what else comes with that. Well, I’ll bet the machine at Fry’s comes with trial-offer software, aka “crapware.” You’ll get a free subscription to Norton Anti-Virus. After the free trial, you get socked with an annual subscription for an overly complicated program. This is my advice. If you do have to settle for a Windows machine this holiday season, install Windows Security Essentials. It’s a FREE anti-virus program from Microsoft itself. Just Google “Microsoft Security Essentials” and you’ll find the specific place on the Microsoft site for the program.

4. You’ll probably find a trial offer on a Windows computer for Microsoft Office. It costs over $100 after the free trial runs out. Here’s my advice. Check out your work or your child’s school/college for a cheaper version. If you work for the Federal Government, Microsoft wants so desperately to get a copy of Office into your hot little hands that they’ll give it to you for $9.95. Check out your agency’s Web site for the Microsoft Home User Program. The Home User Program also offers Microsoft Office for Mac for a similar price.

5. If $100 is too much for a word processor, here’s my next suggestion. Google “LibreOffice” and get a free office suite. That’s right, FREE. They will ask for donations, but that’s another matter. You can get a perfectly good office suite for FREE for Windows or Mac. Note: LibreOffice is derived from the Open Office project. The developers had a fight, and the majority split off to form LibreOffice. Same great software. If you get documents from an Open Office user, they work transparently in LibreOffice. And LibreOffice works with all versions of Word and Excel and even WordPerfect!

6. What if your beloved already has a computer and likes their printer, keyboard, mouse, and monitor? They just want to get away from Windows? You want a Mac Mini as I plan to get. Now in addition to the Mac Mini, you’ll need to get a PS/2 to USB converter cable at Staples, and adapters for the kind of monitor your beloved has.

7. Now if they use a big-screen TV as their computer’s screen, a Mac Mini is already set to go. If they use a flat-panel screen for their computer, they’re set to go when they unwrap the package. If they still use a big hot heavy tube as their computer screen, then you need to go to the Apple store to ask for a “VGA adapter for the Mac Mini”. That’s about $20, but it beats having to wait until the Apple Store is open again.

8. Got any questions? Put a comment in the blog or e-mail me at

9. Happy Holidays, everyone!

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