The human factor.
You can't discuss
computers without taking the human factor into account, and that's
mostly what this section is about. All sorts of people use
computers for all kinds of reasons; some consider it little more than a
necessary evil (filled with ritual pain), while others use computers to
create and accomplish spectacular things with relative ease.
What makes the difference?
Computer Aversion Therapy:
someone to hate computers - to become filled with dread and loathing at
the thought of having to touch a computer - is easy. Here's how:
give 'em that old hand-me-down, freebie computer you can't use anymore.
The processor should be at least four generations old, with a
hopelessly small capacity for obsolete RAM, an iffy optical drive and
puny hard disk..... make sure it's a real doorstop, one with an ancient
OS and equally outdated software.
hook 'em up to the Internet with an old browser and a dialup modem.
is, if you think you're doing someone a favor by giving them that old
computer you replaced last summer because you couldn't use it anymore,
guess what? They won't be able to use it, either. Make a dedicated
rolodex out of it, or use it to store recipes in the kitchen. Sell it
on eBay for parts, or make a sculpture out of it, or a birdhouse. Or
use it as a doorstop. But please don't condemn someone else to a
frustrating experience you know enough to avoid yourself.
By the same token: If someone wants to give you an old, outdated
machine that cannot run a current OS or modern software, don't think
you can make a silk purse out of it. Rather than drop $$$ on RAM,
drives, OS and upgrades, put that money toward a new Mac. Anything
worth doing is worth doing right.
Come 'n listen to a story 'bout a man
It's been about a
dozen years ago now, when Jed [not his real name] decided he might want
to get himself a computer. He wasn't sure he'd like it or use it, so he
wanted the cheapest machine he could find just to try it out. Cheap =
old and obsolete of course, so that's what he got, along with a dated
and a dialup account.
Jed used that old machine to discover all the wonders of the internet
(such as they were over dialup) and became comfortable with select apps
that filled his needs. His first old Mac was soon replaced with another
old Mac, then another, always a (cheap) old machine on its last legs. Now, all these
years later, he's using an 8-year-old Mac
with a vintage OS and he's _still_ on freakin' dialup. Dude! He called
the other day because his old printer was
on the fritz.
Jed might've saved himself tens of dollars over the years, but nobody
rides for free. Not for long, and certainly not
very fast. Jed won't find a new printer with drivers going back eight
years, so he'll be forced to find another hand-me-down machine. Again.
shows OS/CPU combinations for recent Macs and available OS upgrades.
For example: OS 10.5 is the end of the road for G4s and G5s. Being
current today means running MacOS 10.6.8 or
later on a Core 2 Duo or newer i-series Intel
Anything older than that can be thought of as a Lemming having
fulfilled its destiny.
1985 Lemming commercial>
The newer the machine,
the longer its useful life will be and thus the higher its resale
value. Macs typically go obsolete long before they fail, and
obsolescence is a gradual process usually driven by internet ops and
peripheral devices. The Core Duo (CD) processor is already obsolete
really, but a C2D processor probably has another year or so left in it
- largely because 10.7 and 10.8 are both built on 10.6. Rule of thumb:
Divide price of current model machine by 2 and don't buy anything
cheaper than the result.
You cannot be
serious about security and run Windows.
If you look at regular maintenance time and resources spent in the
ongoing fight against malware, data theft, network threats and
so-called "hackers" - mandatory screening, updates and scans - well,
what if none of that was necessary? What if all you needed was a little
common sense? Common sense _should_ be enough to stop you from
downloading and installing things that may appear online out of the
blue (or in this case, green). Fact is, most Mac users today have never
seen a real virus.
However, that's not to say the Mac platform is totally immune to
There are attempts to hijack communications, spyware apps and
you-name-it out there, but - so far - these all require your active
participation as admin for installation, and computer malware aimed at
the Mac is easily avoided and removed without impairing data or
Aside from hijacked communications, the most serious threat
currently facing Mac users are a few phony anti-virus Trojans that pop
up online with bogus infection reports. (How ironic is that?) Other
Trojans lurk around the web pretending to be "viewer" apps, utilities
and extensions; if installed, these will incessantly nag you to
send banking info, and therein lies the potential harm.
line: Computer malware aimed at the Mac is easily avoided
with a little awareness and common sense. Check our Security and
Protection page if you are concerned about computer security or if you
think you might've been "hacked."
dives with new twist on an old tale...
some ways it's the same ol' story (see "Apple's Relentless Bad Press,"
below), but with a new theme: Unreal market expectations. Having soared
to the top of Nasdaq with record profits and growth, outperforming even
the most optimistic forecasts for years, suddenly analysts are
disappointed. What, no brand new mind-bending gadget? Apple hasn't
created a new product (and market) in weeks! Where's the iPhone 99?
Nothing the news media hates more than success. Doom and gloom, that's
where it's at. Is this the END?!
No, Apple is doing spectacular things in spectacular fashion as they
always have, and they've got the profits to prove it. If there's any
trouble brewing it's in areas that the news media and stock analysts
can't fathom. These things don't lend themselves to snappy sound bites.
They're complicated, they require a grasp of facts and history the
"mainstream media" is ignorant of, and let's face it - facts, history
and truth were never the media's strong suit anyway.
The real problems facing Apple may be a side effect of its meteoric
growth and market pressures, but it has nothing to do with iPhones.
Apple is a computer company. The _only_ computer company to do it all -
hardware, software and OS - and they've done it better than anybody
else ever could. Apple set the bar for personal computers from the
start, and every move they've made has been closely followed by
competitors who avoid all the risk and expense of R&D by copying
Apple, with Microsoft famously bringing up the rear. That's a lot of
pressure, and nobody can keep it up forever without making any
mistakes. Forget Google and Samsung, smart phones and techie trinkets,
the missteps that matter are those in Apple's core business (no pun intended): Computer hardware and
First and possibly biggest problem is the new MacOS, versions 7 and 8
(Lion and Mountain Lion for you cat fanciers out there). Who decided
that rolling Facebook and Twitter into everything was a good idea? If
we want Fbook we know where to find it. Removing visual cues in the
Finder wasn't helpful, reversing scrolling direction by default wasn't a good
call, adding more Windows-like crap is really in bad taste, and there
are a bunch of other things that go into the "it's not a bug, it's a
feature" category. The OS isn't expensive, which is a plus, but if you
can't download 8GB in less than a week what difference does price make?
And the ever-lovin' cloud, a disaster in the making, just asking for
trouble. Ooo, the cloud, the cloud! I can almost hear the Martians from
Was hoping 10.8 would fix 10.7 but not so. Stick with 10.6 (Snow
Leopard) as long as you can, that's my advice.
Hardware? Nobody makes nicer equipment than Apple, truly droolworthy.
But I'm not sure folks were ready to say goodbye to optical drives just
yet, and the ever-changing port types and adapters are hard to keep
track of. Constant upgrades are expensive, beyond comprehension to
many, and it leads to conspiracy theories among the more simple-minded
who speak of planned obsolescence. Would be nice if developers would
take some time off for awhile and let people get used to what they
already have before you go changing everything.
Speaking of updates, the AppStore is causing havoc among developers and
customers alike. If you go looking for Apple software on Apple's web
site, guess what? It's not there!
What genius decided _that_ was a good idea? And ask an iOS developer
what he/she thinks of AppStore policies if ya wanna get an earful.
iTunes 11 is to be avoided, the new iMovie turned a great program into
dumbed-down autocrap, and virtually everything you do these days is
phoning home with configuration info, location data, looking for
updates or syncing something somewhere in the mofo cloud. Wanna speed
up your computer while you work? Unplug ethernet and kill wifi (and
that applies to PCs, too). Spotlight indexes everything it comes in
contact with, like it or not; and as a search tool it sucks anyway,
especially since it refuses to search anywhere within the OS making it
useless for troubleshooting - and that's by design.
Some of these complaints may be seen as minor irritations, but others
are potentially serious in many different ways. The real threat facing
Apple today is not about iGizmos or new gadgets. It's about the highly
prized ease-of-use that Apple computers are famous for, the very thing
that made Macs different in the first place.
Dream turns to
nightmare as California circles the drain.
time when CA led the nation in technology and innovation with the
world's 7th largest economy. Now, state gov't has turned on its own
Remember Enron? Lest we all forget,
became a Fortune 500 company and the darling of Wall Street by raising
CA energy costs $20 billion in one year and bilking another $40 billion
from ratepayers with rolling blackouts and a manufactured "energy
crisis" - while a slew of state and federal
agencies looked on, either asleep at the wheel or
in collusion. Governor Gray Davis became the
second governor in U.S. history to be recalled, PG&E filed Chapter
11, and now PG&E customers are paying inflated utility rates to
bail 'em out. We all got robbed by Enron and now we're being robbed
PG&E and the CPUC to pay for it. Makes perfect sense, don't it?
Fast-forward ten years and the Enron scandal pales in comparison to
greed and graft in the banking industry, spreading thru gov't with
bailouts and pork projects at public expense -
no end in sight. Now we have Jerry Brown's massive water tunnel
and bullet train projects which promise to do for water and
transportation what Enron did for electricity. Still here? If so,
you've watched at least three mass migrations out of CA as expenses,
taxes and regulations build and multiply, driving manufacturing and
retail across state borders to greener pastures. Another migration
way; just look around at the shuttered businesses
and abandoned property. Meanwhile, the state continues to spend money
as if they have an endless supply, and they do. Yours. Once proud and
of CA is but a warning of all that can go wrong when fantasy and greed
reflects lifestyle and philosophy.
"Prosumer" is a targeted subset of
professionals in any given market. Whereas the vast majority of
consumers are generally focused on price, prosumers tend to aim for
technical specifications and professional quality. In the computer
world, the difference is often between those who only use computers as
an "information appliance" (email, Internet, word processing), and
so-called "power users" who design, illustrate, analyze, edit, explore,
program and create on computers.
The Prosumer market is a relatively small target, probably less than
10% of computer users as a whole. High-end products that appeal to
power users can be as specialized as they are expensive; as technical
requirements increase, competition and choices tend to narrow. A
decision often hinges on a critical component or a single
specification. Prosumers research their options to the nth degree,
usually with specs and plans in hand, prepared to examine, discuss and
use all relevant technologies. They take pride in being computer-savvy,
they use serious tools and get spectacular results. Picky lot they are,
Consumers, on the
other hand, don't wanna know all the grisly details - they just want it
to work. They know there's more to life than technobabble, and they'd
like to get on with it. They want the bottom line as quickly as
possible..... which is fine, provided they're getting good advice and
can afford equipment that works easily with a minimum of trouble.
Computer technology doesn't come cheap, especially with a
trial-and-error approach, and a seemingly simple decision can lock you
into an unpleasant routine for the duration. As they say, "the devil's
in the details." You won't get the right answers without knowing what
questions to ask.
Even if all you want to do is email and internet, at least
take a look around at the different equipment and software others are
using (and their degree of success). Ask lots o'questions. Compare ease
of use, speed, efficiency, capabilities, quality. Compromise any of
these for a low purchase price and you'll be paying for it every time
you use your machine. If delving into details is not in the plan,
taking a good look around can at least suggest a path to follow.
alternative consumers - deserve special mention here in CA. Altsumers
are in a whole different world of their own making. They've found
alternatives to just about everything that has ever proven effective,
including alternative foods, medicine, energy, lifestyle, you name it.
Using complex calculations involving geopolitics and organic chemistry,
decisions are made according to what products don't contain, or won't
do, or where they haven't been. Superstition, astrology,
pseudo-science, witchcraft, global nonsense - none of these things have
any place in a discussion about computer equipment. Only logic applies
Might be time to
drop a dime...
If this is
the Information Age, it's being driven by the Internet and we each need
to grab ahold of those handlebars and pay attention. The web can be the
ultimate research tool, but like any tool it may be used in a variety
of ways, even as a weapon. As you read this, fights are raging over
controlling access and content, mostly with taxes and profit in mind.
It's a fragile thing to be won or lost, minor changes can have drastic
effects. This subject, like most anything else you might be interested
in, can (still) be investigated on the Web using Google, Yahoo, and a variety of other
search engines. Using information technology has become mandatory, like
being able to read and write. We each must develop our skills at
dealing with search criteria and technique in order to be proficient.
Why? Because it is important to know what - and who - you're dealing
Spy versus spy.
still respect privacy and decency, and you think "spying" is beneath
you, please think again. You really do need to take those blinders off
cyberspace if you want a fighting chance, and don't wait until it's too
late. Do it immediately, before making any decisions or commitments,
before clicking that send button, make investigation a part of your
routine. It's not about spying or being rude,
it's about staying on top of changing circumstances and
making informed decisions.
If you (more correctly) consider online research to be a valuable tool
and useful asset, but not necessarily appropriate in social circles - I
sympathize, but can no longer agree. Personally, I believe those
sentiments belong in the past now, along with so many other matters of
civility and common sense these days. In some quarters, it's every man
So call it spying if you like - or researching or investigating or
shopping or sleuthing or advertising or promoting or networking - as
these terms all do apply. But also consider it prudent and necessary in
the modern world. And while you're at it, you might consider
investigating yourself to see what others will find out from
than you might think. If you're on Fbook, you've thrown open all the
windows and joined the party, so you might as well start there. But, as
research tools go, those social sites lack validation and we only want
facts here. I recommend skipping right past Fbook and others sites of
that ilk in favor of drilling much deeper for official records,
detailed stats, facts and figures from reliable sources.
The Internet may be the ultimate "killer app" of the computer world,
long as regulation and greed doesn't throttle it back. You should know,
and be aware, that many forces are at work trying to control your
access and redirect your attention (see Electronic Frontier Foundation for the
latest), so you must stay focused and be determined to get at the
truth. It helps to be resourceful as well. Your degree of difficulty
will vary depending on what type of info you seek and how sensitive
that info might be. Here are three broad categories:
Probably the easiest and most common type of search, whether to find
something rare and exotic, or just to get the best price. Plenty of
shopping sites out there (Nextag is one),
specialty vendors and even coupon sites where a little investigation
can save lots o'money. eBay might be the best
place to start, given its outstanding scope and size. And, it's fun!
Even if you have no intention of trading on eBay, it can provide
valuable part numbers, names and descriptors to help narrow your search
on the wider web.
Legal matters, jobs, health, history, investments, old friends, urban
myths - everything from politics to pizza, it's all out there if you
know where to look. Google it for starters and you're sure to find
something, then refine your search and keep drilling thru other search
engines and discussion groups until you find exactly what you're
checks: Savvy employers (and potential employees) use the net to
research job placement; landlords do background checks on potential
tenants; singles check out dates; there are countless reasons to
investigate someone's background before entering into any sort of
partnership with a stranger. Don't be shy. Think of it as self-defense.
private eye on the planet keeps a variety of go-to web sites and
sources for searching out answers and locating info, and so should you.
Create a folder for search sites in the bookmarks menu of your browser
(Safari, Firefox, Etc.) and start collecting site bookmarks that serve
your purposes best. We can help you sort thru countless resources
available on the web and suggest a few ways to obtain factual data you
may be unaware of, but be advised that most of these services require
accounts and many charge fees.
smaller'n a breadbox and doesn't do internet?
Made quite a splash, this little hockey-puck-sized box when we dropped
it on some friends. Unfortunately, the splash was in the middle of an
ocean during a torrential downpour and nobody had time for it. "You
gotta help us set it up." How hard can it be? Okay, we set it up. "You
gotta show us how to work it!" So, like it or not, I got a good look at
the Apple TV. And, y'know what? Do yourself a favor and get a MacMini
- HDMI (720 or 1080p)
- Optical audio
- 10/100 BASE-T Ethernet
- Micro USB (for service and support)
This is not
to say that the Apple TV didn't perform as advertised. Setup with
accounts and passwords and all was rather tedious, and five bucks a pop for
on iTunes is a bit much (Netflix has best deal), but even
the 720p unit was sharp and flawless. My concern
was bandwidth here in the backwoods of Nevada County. Would it stutter
and stall like internet video is prone to do over "broadband" around
here? Nope, because paid content moves over cellular networks. In fact,
it ran perfectly until just before our movie ended; with 00:08:25
just stopped for no reason, making us wonder at the prospect of getting
- Thunderbolt port (10Gbps + video)
- FireWire 400/800
- HDMI - 1920x1200 resolution (1080p =
- Gigabit Ethernet
- Optical/analog audio
- USB 2/3 ports
- SDXC card slot
The real problem with the Apple TV is
no internet access, only paid content thru subscription services, most of which are
available on the web without an Apple TV. Eliminating the middleman is
well worth the difference in price between
an Apple TV and a MacMini, with infinitely more choices and fewer bills
- provided your bandwidth is up to it.
The 90s were not
kind to "Apple's rabid fans."
That's what a pair of butthead staff writers at the SF
Chronicle called Mac users back in the day (front page, 1/24/96). In
fact, local news
media pounded Apple on a regular basis for a very long time. Stories of
Apple's imminent demise appeared weekly, if not daily. It was
relentless. Rumors were rampant. Every tiny hint of trouble was
reported in mindless minutia by media "experts" as though delivering a
postmortem. Almost gleeful, they were.
CalPERS (California Public Employees' Retirement System)
made headline news when it dumped all of its Apple holdings at almost
exactly the same time Apple hit its all-time historic low of $13/share.
Someday I'll do the math and figure out how much money CalPERS lost.
Buy low, sell high. Duh.
Not that Apple's history is lacking drama, no. It's one heck
of a tale, told on magazine covers, in strange, sometimes ugly
headlines and in more than a few books. There was even a goofy,
made-for-TV movie that was just plain dumbstupid.
So, why all the bad press? Makes no more sense now than it
did then, but the rumor mills are still churning away. Seems Apple has
to be four times better than anybody else
just to get a nybble of attention. Not to say the news media is capable
of getting their facts straight, but it's nice to see the Mac gaining
visibility and the recognition it deserves after so many years of
innovation and excellence.
We've used Macs to remodel houses, design and build
furniture and mechanical devices, make motorcycle modifications, create
artwork, design databases and produce printed circuits. It edits and
stores audio and video, photographs and graphics, text and data of all
kinds. Plus, it keeps the books, manages communications and provides
endless material for research purposes and entertainment. I mention
this because there are still people out there who wonder what they'd
ever do with a computer. Hello?
The first "killer
application" was word processing.
The ability to type and edit a document _before_ printing
was reason enough to buy a computer, just to replace that old
typewriter. Today, most folks recognize internet access as being a
whole new window on the world, with email serving as the new means of
written correspondence, both of which are excellent reasons to invest
in a computer. (Even if all you use a computer for is email and web,
using a Mac provides a big advantage due to security features and ease
of use.) But there is so much more you can do, it seems like a waste of
power to stop at communications without branching off into other
Your Mac comes equipped with software designed to manage a
great many basic necessities, such as communications, photos, text,
music, addresses, all sorts of things. It even comes with a set of
developer tools for creating your own programs. All the basics are
covered right out of the box. For specialized applications, you'll find
all kinds of additional hardware and software available for most any
use these days. Our Link pages contain a wide variety of recommended
products and vendors; there's also a link to Apple's index of OSX
applications where you'll find thousands of programs designed to do
almost anything you can think of.
odd thing about software:
Good programs always seem deceptively simple, with a
tasteful, coherent interface, easy to use and understand - which tends
to conceal the program's power. If you can accomplish a given task with
one click, it's because the program's designer has dealt with all the
details for you. If, on the other hand, you have to wade through an
assortment of buttons and dialog boxes to accomplish that same task,
then the programmer has decided to let you do all the work. Easy for
them, not so easy for you. And somehow, bad software seems to leave an
impression of "sophistication" due to the complexity of dealing with it.
It pays to shop around and test drive applications before
buying. The cumulative effect of using bad software can translate into
a considerable waste of time and repetitive effort, which will more
than offset any money saved in its purchase price. (Also true of
Operating Systems and hardware, by the way.) Having said that, you may
find you already have a program capable of assisting with whatever
project you have in mind and additional software won't be necessary.
I've often used simple graphics apps for remodel projects and precision
design work, everything from MacPaint to Photoshop.
Apply the power of your Mac to whatever holds your interest.
You might find an app onboard that can handle your project, or you
might decide to invest in specialized software to accomplish something
amazing. Just, p-p-please don't look at the Mac as an ordinary computer
or some sort of appliance. Use it! Explore just a few of the things it
can do and you'll be amazed.