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MacFixIT has moved… and it’s now Free!

A great resource for researching Mac problems and finding answers to technical questions has moved to CNET, host of many IT technical support blogs and forums. Their new address is:

http://forums.cnet.com/mac-forums/

And the best part is that the service is now free! In the past you could read much of MacFixIt’s great articles for free, but to get the best stuff you had to subscribe to its Pro service. I used MacFixIt for years when I managed a network with many Macs on it and supported Mac clients. They post articles on both hardware and software issues. Earlier this year CNET bought MacFixIt and as of September 3rd CNET is making all it’s content available for free. Thanks CNET!

Buying Your First Mac

You’ve decided to buy a Mac and now it’s time to pick the one that’s just right for you.

This article is aimed at the new Mac buyer. If you use your Mac in your work, you probably know more about your needs than I could ever cover in this article.

Quick Start

I started to write a long article with all the advice I’ve given new Mac buyers over the years. But buying a Mac, like the Mac itself, doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are four basic things you need to know:

  1. “Know Thyself.” What do you really need and want to do with your Mac?
  2. Laptop or desktop? Your answer to the first question will help you answer this one.
  3. What are my choices? What are the latest and greatest models from Apple?
  4. Room to grow. If you can afford it, buy a little more power to give you room to grow.

“Know Thyself!”

Before you buy anything you should have some idea of what you need or want to do with your computer now. You can do all sorts of cool stuff on your Mac, but what will you really be doing on it most of the time? Question yourself if your reasons begin with “Well, I really hope to…”. You may still be unclear about why you need a computer or what you want to do with it.

  • “My grandkids are always sending emails and I want to keep in touch with them better.”
  • “I received a digital camera for my birthday and I want to organize and store my photos.”
  • “I’m an audio engineer about to start my own business.”
  • “I’m a student and I want a computer for college to write papers, email and do research on the web.”
  • “I want to run my small business using Quickbooks.”
  • “I want to play games.”
  • “I want to edit home movies.”
  • “I got an iPod and need a computer to sync my music with.”

All of these are great reasons to buy a Mac. Some tasks, like professional audio engineering, require a more powerful Mac, but every Mac is powerful enough to do what 90 percent of people do on a computer.

So spend a little time thinking about how you will really will use this computer. Jot down your thoughts. Talk with people who know you to see if they think you will really do the things you dream of doing.

Laptop or Desktop?

A new survey just reported that 53 percent of adults who use personal computers use laptops. Laptops have gotten nearly as powerful as desktops so more people are choosing to carry their computers around with them. There are still reasons to prefer a desktop, but answering the first question will help you decide which is best for you. For thoughts on the laptop vs. desktop issue, see my article posted earlier.

Current Choices

Apple currently offers you three laptop models – the MacBook, the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro – and three desktop models – the Mac Mini, the iMac and the Mac Pro. As you move up the models the power, features and price also move up. The MacBook, Mini and iMac are the entry level Macs, but they are far from limited in features and power.

Mac Mini ($599-799) A tiny Mac that is a good choice for someone with a PC who wants to try out the Mac. The Mini can use the PC’s USB keyboard and mouse and VGA display. The Mac Mini does not come with a keyboard, mouse or display of its own. The Mini is also great for people with little space for a computer. It is not very easy to upgrade the Mini, but even the $599 model is powerful enough for the average computer user. Continue reading →

A Simple Way to Think about “Memory”

“How much memory do you need in your computer?”

“My computer is almost out of memory.”

“You don’t have enough memory to download that file.”

“You need more memory to run that program.”

“My computer said it didn’t have enough memory to complete an operation, so I deleted a bunch of photos.”

Computers use several kinds of “memory” be the useful tools (or toys) we use everyday to manage our lives and make our world work. “Memory” is simply the place a computer stores information. When running, your computer needs to keep some information instantly available. Other information is kept safe until you call for it, like when you open a letter you are writing to a friend, or the photos you took on vacation and downloaded to iPhoto. Still other memory is used to temporarily stash small bits of information it will need to do something, like remember what printer you normally use.

I could show off by throwing a bunch of letters around and defining all the different kinds of memory, but that would be as exciting and useful as your washing machine manual. Instead I want to paint a little picture to help you understand the two kinds of memory you might need to deal with when buying and using your Mac.

At the Office

You’ve arrived at your desk and you’re ready to get to work! You have two projects you need to finish today. One is a report you’ve been working on all week and the other is a new quote for an old customer. Since you’ve been working on the report all week, you keep it in a desk drawer so you can get to it quickly. For the quote, you have to pull your customer’s file from your file cabinet. You place both your report folder and your client’s folder on your desk and sit down ready to be productive.

You decide to open your client’s file and lay a few documents out so you can see what you need to complete the quote. Kate stops by abruptly to tell you that the boss is badgering everyone about their reports, so you slide your customer’s documents neatly to the side and open your report folder in front of you. After writing few brilliant paragraphs you discover that you need a chart from Albert to complete it. Albert agrees to email you the chart after lunch, so you close your report folder, slide it to the other side of your desk and pull your client’s files in front of you to finish your quote. Continue reading →

Out-of-Warranty Repairs

Granted this post is NOT for beginning Mac users. I am adding content to this site as I find things I’ve written to help others with their Macs or as something arises that would make a good post.

If you have a broken Mac that is no longer under warranty, repairs can be very costly. This is one reason that I always buy AppleCare for my Macs. The AppleCare Protection Plan extends your Mac’s 90 days of complimentary support and one-year repair coverage to up to three years. AppleCare costs $149 to $349 depending on your Mac, but a display repair on a MacBook can cost $1,000 and many general Mac repairs cost over $300. You see, it is “cheap insurance” as the saying goes.

If you are comfortable tinkering with electronics – and you are willing to risk your Mac – then you might want to try the repair yourself. Companies like iFixIt.com can be lifesavers by providing online repair guides and selling parts to fix most Macs and iPods. Doing your own repairs can be rewarding and save you a lot of money.

BE WARNED! Many repairs are not for the faint of heart and most should not be attempted if you are uncomfortable with tiny parts packed tightly into small areas. Electronic components are very delicate, succeptible to static electricity and often require special tools to work with. DO NOT ATTEMPT to repair a computer you are not willing to risk destroying.

Your local Apple dealer can probably repair your Mac for you or you can send it to Apple for non-warranty repair. Your safest bet is to locate an Apple Authorized Service Provider near you. Apple can also take mail-in repairs but you must call Apple Support to arrange it. There are also many companies that offer non-warranty repair if you send them your Mac. Again, make sure they are certified to work on your Mac.

And if you’re Mac is old and repair too costly, it just might be time to upgrade to a new or used Mac. In that case, you may be able to pull your old hard drive from our old Mac and and use it as an external drive on your new Mac. More on that in another post!

Desktop or Laptop?

One of the most common questions I get from friends who are about to buy a Mac is “Should I buy a desktop or a laptop?”

Several years ago this was an easier question because laptops were not nearly as powerful as comparably priced desktops. You got a laptop when you really needed portability. As the IT director for a small company. I did all my high-powered work on my desktop Power Mac and traveled with my PowerBook to check email, write letters and do lighter design and database work. Synchronizing documents between my computers was a pain and I often discovered while traveling that I had left an important document on my desktop. Continue reading →

“Find Out How” for Excellent Tutorials

Apple has created many excellent video tutorials to help you get the most from your Mac. You will find topics about hardware and software, connecting to the Internet, basic troubleshooting and much more. Check out their “Find Out How” series at Apple.com.

Watch Apple’s “Let’s Rock!” Event

Steve Jobs announced a bunch of new music products yesterday at an event called “Let’s Rock“. He announced:

Get a Mac Ads

If you haven’t seen the “Get a Mac” ads, you’re missing some great advertising art and depriving yourself of a good laugh. These ads, started in 2006,  feature actors John Hodgman as PC and Justin Long as Mac who discuss PC’s many woes, especially that bubbly new OS, Vista. Reward yourself with a much deserved break from work and check out the ads at Apple.com.

The Mac was launched into our cultural conscience by the famous 1984 Super Bowl commercial many consider the most innovative commercial in history. Throughout Apple’s history their ads reflected the innovation they bring to everything they design – from the Macintosh, the iMac, Mac OS X, the iPod and iPhone.

For those who love Macs and those who will

I just put this blog up September 9, 2008. I have a lot of content from things written to help people get the most from their Macs, so please check back over the next few weeks as I add to this site. I hope you find it helpful.