Best Choice for a First Time Mac User

In an email, the question was raised what is the best Mac for a first-time buyer that just wants to do some basic web browsing, photo editing, and light video editing? While the biggest and most expensive models can accomplish these tasks very easily, let’s take a look at which options would best suit these needs.

The current line of Mac minis is capable of doing everything listed, even basic movie editing through iMovie, however, if you want a smooth experience with smooth multitasking, you’re probably best going with an iMac. The i3 processor is quick and responsive, even when dealing with 1080p video on iMovie. Having a capable monitor built-in is a big plus and in terms of value makes up a lot of the difference price-wise between the Mac mini and the iMac.

If you want to go with something more portable, the MacBook is a good budget choice for web browsing and photo editing but not recommended for video editing due to it’s underpowered processor and lower resolution display. A MacBook pro at a couple hundred dollars more will give you a powerful platform with a capable of handling quite a bit.

Here are some builds I think bring the best price for performance without being overkill for what you’re asking for:

iMac 21.5-inch: 3.06GHz ($1,199)
This is the base model iMac though the differences between it and the step up are minimal considering what you’re wanting to do with it.

Mac Mini 2.4 GHz: 320GB ($699)
One of the wonderful advantages to the Apple warranty is that you don’t have to have to buy or install additional RAM through them. A $100 upgrade to 4GB of memory can cost a fraction of that if you use quality after market RAM. See for spec requirements and installation instructions.

This particular model is the least powerful out of the suggested options, and I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re planning on doing a lot of full HD video editing, but it will handle basic tasks fairly easily. Make sure you have a monitor, keyboard, and mouse at the ready since they don’t come included with the Mac Mini.

13-inch MacBook Pro: 2.3GHz ($1,199)
The MacBook Pro combines a decent amount of performance with portability. The Core i5 processor is significantly faster than the one found on the MacBook and the Mac Mini. Even large external monitors will connect to the MacBook Pro without overwhelming the video processor.

As far as software goes, iMovie is a capable movie editing platform included with new Macs without any added cost. It works very well to do most basic tasks and encoding your final product can be done through QuickTime, also included, with decent quality.

Photo editing can be done on a very basic level through iPhoto, though if you would like a powerful alternative without adding to the price, try Gimp. Gimp is the open source answer to PhotoShop and includes a lot of great features.

How to Save Hundreds on Your Mac RAM Upgrades

I recently ventured in to the local Apple store to look at pricing for a new machine. Some time was spent with an Apple representative who walked me through the pricing and options for a Mac mini, iMac, and MacBook Pro. One thing these machines all had in common were literally hundreds of dollars for RAM upgrades. In one case in particular, a RAM upgrade from 4GB to 8GB on a MacBook Pro would net me a $400 dollar increase on the price. Considering that this is an addition to what was charged on the initial price for 4GB, that’s a steep $100 per GB.

This is where many frugal computer users begin to head back to the door proclaiming that Apple products are only for the rich. While this can certainly seem like a serious drawback to the brand, there is a silver lining in this cloud.

While each manufacturer has their own warranty agreement with their users, Apple has a remarkably easy one to work with. Apple support explains its warranty policy regarding customer upgrades a bit further: “Adding memory (DRAM, VRAM) or other user-installable upgrade or expansion products to an Apple computer is not considered a modification to that Apple product. Therefore, it is not necessary to obtain Apple’s written permission to upgrade or expand an Apple computer.”

In short, the act of upgrading the RAM yourself with a cheaper aftermarket product won’t void your warranty. There is a stipulation that should you or the RAM you install damage the product, you would not be able to take it in to an Apple certified service center for warranty repair. Thankfully, Apple provides detailed instructions on how to exchange RAM for each one of its machines. It also explains exactly what kind of RAM needs to be purchased for a successful match.

Here is where the financial benefit of doing your own upgrades comes in. A search on prices 8GB of RAM suited for the 13 inch MacBook Pro at between $80 and $120. That is a savings of $85 to $90 per GB and you’ll still have the original 4GB as spare.

There is a clear benefit to upgrading your own RAM after purchase, though it is important that each computer user be aware of the slight risks involved and weigh whether or not this method works for them.

What Does The “i” In Apple Products Stand For?

I don’t know how this started and why anyone would even care, but is there a definitive answer as what the “i” in Apple products stand for? You know which “i” I am talking about. The “i” in iMac. iPhone, iPod, iTunes and now the iPad. So my search took me near and far around the Internet and I found some attempts at explaining the “i”, but I am not sure as to the accuracy of the definitions.

The easiest and most plausible attempt at describing the “i” is that it just stands for the Internet. But if the Internet uses a capital “I”, would the folks at Apple just ignore good grammar and shrink the upper case letter down to size?

There are other claims that the “i” stands for individual. Because each of these products is for individual use, the “i” was added to show that these products were indeed made for you, me and “i”.

I found one web site in which some people added a touch of humor, not only to the letter “i”, but also what some of the other letters stood for as well. Here is what they shared:

iPod stands for a very clever acronym. It’s short for: Idiots Pour Over Dough

How about “Illuminati”? You know, that all-seeing eye and stuff, and how supposedly the “Illuminati” are trying to send messages through music. Well what does the I pod do? lol.

So there you have it. Some serious and not so serious attempts at trying to determine what the “i” really means.

What do you think the “i” stands for?

Comments welcome.

Source – About

Do You Want an iMac?

Brandon asked in chat the other night if an iMac is a good investment. I don’t know if I can view any computer as an “investment.” Yes, I think the iMac is a good computer. The issue I see with a lot of desktop computers is that they lose their value the moment you bring them home. The iMac is an excellent machine, to be sure. However, is it really something you need?

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I wouldn’t classify any computer as a good “investment,” no. Even an iMac will lose value over time. Get whatever machine it is that will fit your needs, whether it’s an iMac or a Windows machine.

Take care of your machine… baby it. Keep it in good shape and you just may be lucky enough to make a little cash from it when the time comes for you to upgrade to something newer.

Touchscreen Testing For The New iMac?

There should be an image here!It would be like an iPad…with a kickstand. Apple, in their rush to make the touch screen the next big thing in other devices, looks to be pushing in this direction with their upcoming iMacs. But is the world really ready for a touchscreen iMac just yet? Maybe, so long as the keyboard is still an available option for those tasks that really don’t do well with a touch screen.

At the point, it’s all still very much a rumor and little more. Regardless of a given timeline, no one can question that if Apple did decide to go the touchscreen, the marketplace would likely eat it up. The problem which would be interpreted by competitors, is how using a desktop without a keyboard is just silly. Funny, they once said the same of mobile phones….

The single thing we can all take to the bank with Apple is this. These days, they will be leading the way on the cutting edge. Unlike Microsoft, they are willing to take a walk on the wild side and try something new. But in the case of the touchscreen desktop, I believe that Windows and HP may already have beat them to the punch, no?

Can You Have Two Monitors on an iMac?

Liam has a brand-new iMac, and a 42″ television sitting around. He’s wondering if he can connect the television to the iMac to increase his workspace. As far as I know, the new iMacs will indeed do this. As long as the iMac is a newer one and has the video out to video in connections on it, this will work in theory. Also, the television should be at least 1080p. If it’s not, you won’t be able to push many pixels down the pipe.

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However, a second screen IS a second screen, any way you look at it. The quality may not be the best, but you’ll have more screen real-estate.

Apple Releases New Products – One Word: Wow!

Though I am not a Mac user nor an Apple product user, I always enjoy seeing what the people at Apple introduce. Their latest introductions can only be described with one word: WOW! Their new products include a redesigned entry-level MacBook, the iMac, and the Mac mini. Oh, yeah. They even have a new mouse. But will this new mouse really be magic?

Over at BusinessWeek they have a brief description of the new products:

The MacBook has been redesigned with a new polycarbonate shell, which has a unibody design similar to that of the Aluminum unibody found on the MacBook Pro. It has a new look, with rounded edges, has a seven-hour battery that’s built in, just like on the MacBook Pro. It also has an LED screen, which gives the entire Apple notebook line backlit LED-based displays, which I think is new. Its microprocessor is an Intel Core 2 Duo at 2.26 GHz and hard drive space starts at 250GB. Price: Still $999.

The iMac is getting a major face lift. It too has LED-based displays of sizes of 21.5 inches and an impressive 27-inches. In fact the only non-LED based display in Apple’s line-up is the 30-inch LCD screen still offered. Apple VP Phil Schiller told me last night that getting an LED screen of that size is no small feat, so don’t expect an LED replacement right away.

The 21.5-inch model is a classic consumer design, sporting chips from Intel running at 3.06 GHz and 3.33 GHz. It will sport Intel Core 2 Duos at speeds of 3.06 GHZ and 3.33 GHz. Graphics options include the Nvidia GeForce 9400M or the ATI Radeon 4670. There’s support for up to 16 GB of RAM, and up to 2 terabytes of hard drive capacity. The starting price ranges: $1,199 to $1,499.

The entire iMac line will ship with a new mouse, dubbed Magic Mouse that replicates the multi-touch surface found on Apple notebooks, and which supports the same two-finger gesture movements for scrolling up and down and for moving back and forth between Web pages. Both iMac models will also have slots for SD cards, typically used in digital cameras. I generally wasn’t crazy on the whole multi-touch touchpad thing on notebooks, that is until I bought a MacBook Pro over the summer.

My congratulations to Apple. It definitely does make the nicest computer products on the planet.

Comments welcome.


Epson Printer Wonderment

Assuming you can get yourself past the amazing cost of ink, I must admit that the Epson Stylus Pro 3800 makes for one amazing printer. As my wife finally had a chance to complete unpack her stuff from our move back up to northwest Washington, which took place in Sept, she had an opportunity to also unpack this wonderful printer. Bundle the printer along side her Epson Perfection V700 Photo scanner and you might surmise that she is into photography. Let me just say you would be right.

Unfortunately she is not convinced that the color calibration with her Intel iMac is quite right. Considering the fact that everything appears to be set right, I sort of see what she is talking about with regard to color discrepancies between her monitor and the finished print, but I really have no idea what I am looking for. She has used other equipment that was calibrated that did indeed, yeild the results she was looking for. So clearly, the problem must be a real one.

Here is where I need your help. If you use a fairly hardcore printer like the Pro 3800, also use a Mac, what do you use for accurate calibration to help make sure the colors are set right? Am I even asking the right question here? Honestly, I am a pretty standard all-in-one printer user, so this is beyond me. Never tried anything like this. And on OS X – you’ve lost me. Definitely looking for any calibration advice anyone might have. Thanks!

MacBook Air – The Buzz Has Left The Building

I want to immediately point out that we have an iMac in our home and it is quite welcome here. In addition to that, I believe that MacBooks make great notebook computers, as do the Pro models. Yet despite the lighter, sleeker release of the MacBook Air, I have found myself questioning why we are getting pricier while the rest of the world is trying to reduce the cost of notebook computing? This is not a stab at Apple, rather the thinking behind an otherwise attractive notebook computing appliance. Seriously, I just do not get it.

Now to be ultimately clear, I realize that the official argument on why this new MacBook Air is priced at such a high price in comparison to what others might consider reasonable because of its portability. And this is fine and dandy. But come on, would it not be cool to see Apple do something for the casual market like the rest of the world? The Mini was one such example of the Ma and Pa computer, but the MacBook is doing nothing to attract new notebook users at $1099 starting. And $1799, I’d soon as spend the extra $200 and go Pro.

Help me get my mind around this. Is Apple simply choosing to ignore a market that is growing fast than any other? This just does not make a lot of sense from a business perspective to me.

Keeping Dog Hair Out!

Today, Sean asks:

I’m getting a new iMac soon, and I have a very large dog in the house, I was wondering if you know any tactics to keep dog hair out of your computer’s fan?

Yes, there are three things you can do that will help. Two of them painfully obvious and the other will hopefully pick up where the other two options left off. The first is to do what you can to keep the dog out of the room with the Mac. I am a dog owner myself and my wife’s iMac is in her office away from our dog. While the dog is not a big shedder, she’s still has hair that makes itself airborne fairly quickly. This is where keeping things dusted and vacuumed can come in. Again, this sounds really obvious I am sure, but this alone can make a world of difference. And finally, consider buying a really good HEPA filter. I am fond of this ionic contraption here, have one a lot like it around key areas.

Now if this was a PC, I would tell you to also look into using a can of compressed air. But this is a Mac and I am still feeling my way around the best way to do this and whether or not compressed air is such a hot idea. For me, the jury is still out there. One thing I will tell you is if you are dropping the cash on a new iMac, be darn sure you get that with AppleCare. Seriously, my wife’s old iBook would have been a real pain had she not had it on that model way back when. Anything over a grand that you can not repair yourself ought to be protected if possible. Good luck!

Do you have an IT-related question? Perhaps you are just burnt out on writing on the walls with crayons? Whatever the comments may be, drop me a line, and you too can “Just Ask Matt!”

Also, don’t forget to check out “Just Ask Matt,” Linux Edition!

[tags]imac, dust, Air Purifier[/tags]

PCs Looking Like The iMacs?

Mac users will of course point out that this appears to be copying the success seen with the Apple iMac. Perhaps, I am not going to argue this as I don’t care. It will be interesting to see how PC users perceive this form factor over that of the typical PC. This new look is certainly sleek and would present something worthwhile to the user not looking to upgrade anything, but the do-it-yourself crowd might not like that too much?

It’s going to be your call today, people. Hit the comments, let me know if you think this type of PC has any chance at all of truly taking off the way the good old fashion tower has. If nothing else, at least we know it would clear off a lot of extra space and maybe, just maybe, consume less power as well.

[tags]iMac, PC, desktop computing[/tags]

The New iMac – Holy Cow!

As I mentioned yesterday, there was an iMac in my wife’s future. In light of recent household headaches, we opted to pick up a 20in iMac today, rather than Sunday. Despite the Mac’s location being in my wife’s office rather than my own, I can see this becoming a big help to me when needing to review something Mac related.

My wife, who is currently installing Photoshop, is having a ball, as she has missed having access to OS X for nearly 5 months now. This is a huge improvement over her old iBook and PPC version of the Mac Mini. She is definitely going to have a blast getting to know some of the new features and is looking forward to Leopard’s release as well.

My first impressions – wow, just wow. It takes a lot of what I love about Linux (no stupid driver CDs, most hardware just works) and ties it in with even better hardware detection – very slick. When first setting it up, I detected my wLAN immediately during a very friendly setup process. The printer installation(my little HP) was as basic as it would be on Ubuntu, just set it to search and boom – there is the printer. Most humorously is how it is using the same driver exactly as I am on Ubuntu. CUPS knows no bounds it seems.

Is this something that I would use myself? Not exclusively, but I darn sure would take this as a welcome edition over Vista any day of the week. Because for the most part, everything I have tested thus far just works – no nonsense. I cannot get over how tightly integrated everything is, but without creating unneeded restrictions. For instance, iTunes holds no interest for me, so I would be using Amazon and Songbird instead. Firefox instead of Safari and so on.

To be brutally honest; and there is likely a setting for this anyway, the only thing that bugs me is not being able to maximize the window(s) the way I might in Windows or Ubuntu. Again, if there is some method or setting, please do tell as it is annoying to have it half-maximize no matter what I try.

At the end of the day, I love my Ubuntu boxes. I have set everything up as I need it and I am always experiencing some crazy new application from But I must say, OS X is very impressive. An acquired taste to be sure, but I can see that OS growing on its users very easily.

[tags]OS X, iMac, Apple[/tags]

iMac Bound – This Saturday

As part of my wife’s school needs, we are in the market for a Mac. And because of the taxing nature of what she needs it for, it will be an iMac with two gigs of RAM. Personally, as a geek, anytime one has the opportunity to go out and by something amazingly cool like one of those slick looking iMacs, life is good. But something that occurred about this is that despite this machine being safely barricaded in my wife’s office, I should be able to convince her that I might need a user account on occasion! Yes, I have a few Linux boxes and a Windows machine running XP in my office, but there have been times when access to a Mac would have made certain things a lot easier. They include most specifically, widget and application reviews.

Not to point out the painfully obvious here, but it’s tough to do a review for something that you do not have access to. And this brings me to my question of the day: what ten applications can you simply not live without on the OS X platform? Please do not say Firefox as this goes without saying. But if you wanted to point out applications like Cyberduck, NeoOffice and Vienna, I would love to read some of your thoughts and tips as to what I should be installing on my wife’s new Mac – thanks! Just use the comments section to make your posts.

[tags]os x, mac, imac[/tags]

Time For An iMac?

After reading more about the new iMacs, I’ve come to the harsh reality that my wife is going to need one for school. So it appears that we have no choice, Apple is about to make its entrance into our household.

Speaking for myself, I have never really seen the need for the Mac as Ubuntu does everything I need. But I must admit that ever since MainConcept decided not to bother releasing the now defunct MainActor program into the wilds of Open Source, I have been left looking for viable video editing tools.

In the past, I have been using a combination of KINO and KDENLive to meet my video editing needs, but I cannot help feel that having a Mac in the house will certainly be a welcome change as neither of the above options have seen much progress with new features lately. At least KINO has seen its share of recent bug fixes, but remains a rather ‘cutesy’ editor with no long term promise outside of the Windows Movie Maker crowd.

No, my best hopes were with MainActor, but their management made it clear that it is highly unlikely that it will be released with an open source license. It’s too bad really, because by allowing users to use this freely, they might have been able to sell encoding licenses through the free distribution of their application, with a non-GPL license, of course. Their loss, won’t be the first time a company misses the point, won’t be the last.

[tags]video editing, imac, apple[/tags]

My Great Mac Experiment

Warning: Contents contain high amounts of old computer nostalgia.

While I’m not exactly a frequent Mac user, I am more or less a not-so-closeted Mac geek. I actually got my unofficial start in the computer industry because of my passion for computers, and my Mac played a large part in that. It wasn’t my first computer, mind you, and I don’t want to diminish the roles my Commodore Vic-20 or Atari 800XL played. But my Mac was special.

For you old-timers out there, you might remember when the Mac first came out in 1984, they had a program called “Test Drive a Mac.” I test drove one, I think from an long-defunct Stereo store chain called Pacific Stereo, and I was hooked. Considering what was available in the PC world, it was truly revolutionary. By my senior year of high school (I’m dating myself here), I got my first job in the computer industry selling Macs (and early PCs) in a store near my school.

I remember taking my 128K (!) Mac of to college in its special Mac beige zipper case. I was one of the few people in my dorm that had their own computer (and ImageWriter printer), so guess who made beer money by typing papers?

Fast forward to today. I admittedly don’t use Macs much in my every day work in corporate IT, but I do keep very current on them. This is because more and more of my private and small business customers use them (perhaps part of a larger trend?). I got my wife an iMac G5 a couple years ago, and I love tinkering with it. I myself have an old PowerMac G3 tower in my home office. It was given to me by one of my customers, and with a new IDE controller and hard drive, it’s still very much alive and kicking.

So what exactly is this experiment I mention in my title? It’s this: a MacBook Pro. There was kind of a “perfect storm” of circumstances that motivated me to get one.

  • Apple had a great deal on some factory refurbished models – mine is a 2.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo 15.4″ (Glossy), 1GB RAM (I’ve ordered an additional 1GB of RAM), 120gb SATA HDD. These tend to go quickly because of the reduced price (21% off) and normal warranty period (I purchased with my American Express to give me two years). Last time I thought of buying one, I gave myself a day or two to ponder it, and when I went back to the Apple store online, they were gone. So the next time I saw some become available, I immediately made the purchase.
  • The move to Intel processors
  • Related to the move to Intel processors, the availability of Boot Camp and Parallels

So my big experiment, once my shiny new MacBook Pro arrives, is to setup Windows XP on it. I’m probably going to do this with Parallels, as I’m very keen on the “Coherence” feature that basically allows you to run Windows apps as if they were native Mac apps. I’m not quite ready to deal with Vista yet. But I’m excited about the prospect of having this kind of flexibility. I’ll keep you all posted once I get things rolling on this new rig.

[tags]Mac, Apple, MacBook, Commodore, Atari, computer nostalgia, iMac[/tags]