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Computer Envy

Once every four or five years, I buy a new computer. I’ve been doing that for about 20 years now. The first computer had 2 megs of RAM, dual floppy drives, no hard drive, and CGA colour. A year or so later I upgraded that computer to 4 megs of RAM, and it cost me about $300 to do that. There was a profound difference between 2 megs and 4 meg. (My current home computer has 512 megs of RAM. My work computer has 2,000 megs of RAM. It’s not nearly as much of a difference as there was between 2 megs and 4.)

Back then, when you bought a new computer, it was leaps and bounds better and faster than your old computer. Everybody I knew who had a home computer used to salivate over the new computers that were coming out, and we used to do a lot of comparing. We all knew exactly what we had (286, 386, 486, P75, P2, P3, etc) and how much memory and how much disk space and so on.

Now nobody talks about this stuff anymore. I can’t remember my computer’s specs. Every now and then I just go buy a new one when my old computer dies or can’t meet my evolving computer needs. The numbers aren’t that important anymore. A computer is a computer is a computer.

But I experienced computer envy this week.

iMacI was in training at Eliquo for a couple of days, and they just got brand new iMacs. These machines are so sleek and streamlined. There’s no box! There’s just a wide, slim monitor, and everything’s in there – the hard drive, all the ports (usb, firewire, etc), and the CD/DVD drive. I think there’s a webcam in there too. There’s a sexy silver keyboard and a mighty mouse, both wireless. There’s just one plug into the wall, and no tangle of peripherals and cords. See?

I’ve never used a Mac, but these things have two separate operating systems, one for PCs and one for Macs. You can run Windows and Windows software on it if you want.

I’m seriously thinking about getting an iMac the next time I need a new computer, which I expect will be within the next year. I know next to nothing about Macs, so I hope some of you might tell me what I oughta know before I make the decision.

Some of my concerns:

Will my current peripherals (camera, printer, scanner, GPS forerunner, backup unit, etc) work with the iMac?

Will my current files work with the iMac?

If I have both the Windows and OSX installed, can I work back and forth between them, or do I have to exit one OS to access the programs in the other? And are the files compatible between them?

Will I need to re-buy all my software?

How much of a learning curve is there?

How’s Apple’s service? (I see the closest Apple store is in Toronto…that’s not so good.)

Is the iMac made in China?

Is there anything else I should know?

11 comments to Computer Envy

  • Gillian

    I’ve used Mac for about 20-25 yrs. I’m looking at one of the new ones sometime in the next year. I can connect you with one of the Apple resellers who, as well as selling it, know virtually everything about it. If the iMac has USB, and I don’t remember, and your peripherals probably do, then most should work. Sometimes it’s the driver which is not compatible, or hasn’t been upgraded. Lots of software comes loaded on the Mac. You certainly don’t need to buy from
    Toronto, and unless there’s a problem with the machine which isn’t common, you shouldn’t need any service. There is a user group which meets at 101 Centrepointe Dr rt next to the library. I think I have the address right. It’s where the Ben Franklin Theatre is, and you could come to meeting while you’re thinking about it. The next meeting is Sept 24th. There’s lots more to say but writing it is too long.

  • You want simple? Buy a laptop – no cables anywhere, and the price is nice.

    I’m happy with my Lenovo 3000 N100 with a 1440×1060 15.4″ LCD & dual processors for $800 on sale. Thinkpads and Macbooks are sleeker and pricier.


  • We’ve been using Macs for some years and we talked my Dad into getting one a couple of years ago when he wanted to get a new computer. His learning curve was not bad, for a 75 year old who wasn’t very good with computers to begin with. I find Macs quite intuitive in how they are organized and I didn’t seem to find much of a learning curve for me, but I don’t go behind the programs at all. My husband used to know how to write simple code for PCs so the way he approaches a computer is more complex and sophisticated than what I do. But either way, we found the Mac very easy to get used to. And it doesn’t seem to crash or freeze, like PCs are always doing. But the second commenter made a point about laptops v. desk tops. For me, that depends on the purpose for the machine and space in the house. I didn’t know about that user group meeting – we live right near Centrepointe – but not sure I want to bother going.

  • Service! There are outlets here for sending one’s Mac away. Peter had a bad screen on his laptop and they replaced it under warranty and it seemed to go okay. But he’d be the one to talk to about that. I didn’t hear much swearing at the time. :)

  • Now I see why you’re wondering about Mac and viruses. : ) I can try to answer some of your questions. (I’ve been using a Mac since January, with great enthusiasm.)

    Your hardware will almost certainly work. I don’t know about backup units though (if that’s a backup hard drive). You should be able to open almost any file if you have the necessary program.

    I don’t know about working with both Windows and OS X on the one machine. (I decided to leave Windows, period.)

    Windows programs won’t work. For word-processing, TextEdit is a minimal word-processor that ships with the Mac. It reads .txt, .rtf, and .doc files. If your w-p needs are minimal, TextEdit might be all you need. Many people buy Office for Mac, but I’d recommend iWork ’08, whose w-p/document-design program Pages is really a pleasure to use. There are several other worthy w-p programs for the Mac, both free (Bean) and commercial (Mellel, Nisus Writer, Scrivener).

    The learning curve is not that steep. There are lots of keyboard commands that make things easy to do, but learning them is, I think, a long-term project.

    I don’t know about service, but I’d suggest paying for Applecare to be safe.

    Something else to know about: Quicksilver, a free third-party program that in some ways is the best thing about using a Mac.

    Good luck with your decision!

  • Great useful comments, all of them – thanks very much! If I’m going to have to endure the hassle of a switch to Vista, I might as well switch to something good instead.

  • Guy

    Hey Zoom
    I hug my Mac every day. Never had a virus in 20 yrs of Mac use. Never had to send one in for repair (lucky I guess). I run Microsoft office. And if you have any questions give me a call 995-9433

  • James

    I’m fairly certain that they’re assembled in China but I’d guess the actual components within them are from a wide variety of sources — China, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea, etc.

  • TechWood

    There are two ways to ensure compatibility with your existing PC software and data.

    1. Dual-boot – you have to restart your Mac to run a windows operating system.

    2. Virtualization – you get a program such as Parallels for Mac and you can run windows right on top of your OSX desktop.

    The heart of OSX is for a *nix-like kernel so if you want to see a “dos-like” windows where you can key in commands – you just need to run the terminal and you’re there. Think of it as Linux with a really nice desktop and lots of commercial support for hardware and software in comparison to any one variant of Linux.

    If you run Firefox, Thunderbird and OpenOffice on a PC and do the same on a Mac – there will be relatively no hangups. You can also get MS-Office for the Mac – but I actually prefer OpenOffice to any of the newer versions of MS’s suite.

    The Mac keyboard can be a pain for the PC user. Luckily you can use other USB keyboards with them if you’re afraid the standard Mac keyboards are too minimalist for you. There are many shortcuts available via the apple/option keys similar to alt & windows keys.

    Here’s my thinking on the Mac’s – get a Laptop, a Mini, or a Mac Pro. I just don’t like buying a system that has both monitor and system built into one. The monitor goes and you have to send the whole thing away. It’s the same with a Laptop – but you expect that with portability. The Mini is a very nice and low-priced way to start our with a Mac and you can use any monitor, keyboard and mouse with it – wireless if you so choose. The box itself is about the size of two CD-Drives stacked on top of each other. A lot of power for such a little box.

    Overall – I think their laptops are the best offering Apple has, but with any laptop – buy their service and coverage to protect your investment. The 3-Year Apple Care is very affordable in relation to the system cost. The cost of buying the actual Mac laptop is the same as it was for a PC only a year or two ago – expect to spend between $1200 and $2000 depending on CPU/Memory/Disk configuration. The lowest powered Mac laptop is comparable to a very well equipped PC based laptop and likely within $100-$200 or perhaps even lower priced depending on the brand/quality of PC laptop you looked at.

    Macs were made for multimedia – and the audio, image and video capabilities built into the system software are stunning. Not just a collection of viewers, but creativity tools as well. When I tried out iMovie for the first time (about 7 years ago) I was amazed. To this day the original iMovie is much more usable than any of the more “consumer oriented” packages, I haven’t played with the newer versions but I have a friend that is just loving it.

    We’re in the process of becoming Mac authorized and I will upgrade my old iMac (it’s got a CRT in it) then. Our tech uses a late-model Mac notebook and from my experience with it, I’m impressed. We are seeing a growing demand for us to carry them and we thinks it’s worthwhile.

    My experience with computer users – both geeks and non-geeks is that once you go Mac you’ll never go Back!

    P.S. There are a few places to get Mac support and service in Ottawa.


  • Thanks Rob, that’s very helpful. Do you know where I can go and see some of these machines in action? The Mini sounds intriguing.