Okay, I've never used a Mac before. I used an Apple IIe in my school days for education, but I think things have changed quite a lot since then. I always wanted to buy an Apple IIc though, but they were way too expensive.
My mum wants to buy a computer. Initially I was going to just get her a mid-priced Dell desktop, or maybe a laptop. But she has never used a computer before in her life, and I'm thinking that Windows XP may not be very user friendly for her - especially with all the security issues like viruses, trojans, and spyware, plus the general upkeep of the system. I've been a Windows user for years and I know how much maintenance it requires. I've often heard that the Mac is a good computer to purchase for a first time computer user, so I'd like to get some opinions.
I'm looking at the Mac Mini 1.25Ghz with 40GB hard drive, 512MB, CD/DVD-RW, and airport. She just needs a computer for basic word processing, e-mail, and web browsing. Is this a decent system for these tasks? Is 512MB RAM enough?
Word processing will be one of the primary uses, since she's writing a book. I know many people use MS Word, but buying it for Mac is out of the question. If she got a Windows system, she could use my dad's Office XP educational edition, since the license allows you to install a number of copies in the same home. Therefore, what free options are available for the Mac? Is OpenOffice a good solution in its current state?
I really want to know if OSX is more user friendly than WinXP for new users. As I said above, my mum has never used a computer before. Has anybody purchased a Mac for their computer illiterate family and friends? What do they think of it? Do they learn quickly? What frustrates them?
Web browsing. She'll either use Safari or Firefox. I know that some sites (like banking) require Internet Explorer to view properly or even to get into. With my Windows machine, it's no problem to just load up the page in IE. I just noticed MS offers IE5.0 (Windows is up to 6.0 and 7.0 beta already) for the Mac. Will they continue to offer new versions?
She needs a 17" LCD monitor, but it must have a native resolution of 1024x768. Anything higher I don't think will be good for her eyes. Any recommendations? Not too expensive.
The Mac Mini does not include a keyboard or mouse. On the Apple store, it'll cost $100 just to add them! This seems too high. Are there cheaper keyboards and mice available from 3rd parties? Should I go for the one button or two button?
I'm a bit concerned about the Airport wireless card, since it must be installed by the retailer. It will be connecting to a Linksys BEFW11S4 using WEP encryption, but the router will probably be upgraded and therefore require WPA encryption. I hope the airport will be compatible for years to come.
Well, I think that's about it for questions. I am of course researching on the Net, but it'd be nice to get some suggestions and opinions on here. I know I can get a Windows PC with more power and features for cheaper than the Mac Mini, but power is not as important as ease-of-use and simplicity. I want something that she can get into easily and not have to worry about things going wrong.
I apppreciate any replies.
Is it a good idea to buy a refurbished Mac from Apple?
Last edited by Mighty Turnip; Nov 15th, 2005 at 02:27 PM.
A couple of things
1. If she is writing a book her docs will be precious so make sure she has a simple back up plan to an external drive: factor the price of one into your budget.
2. For word processing a lot of people like Open Office. I have MS Office for Mac, but my preferred processor is Nisus Writer - gets rave reviews for a reason and the output is fully compatible with MS Word docs, see the app here: Nisus Writer
I'll relate a story that may help. My neighbour runs her own business, a huge chunk of which involves e-mails, word processing and putting together simple docs. Her PC was getting old and started to give trouble. Then the HD died: it was a 5 year old machine, so it served her well. She told me she wanted something simpler and more reliable and so borrowed her son's IBM notebook while he was on holiday. Nice machine, but she finds the interface complex, even after a course on running XP. I lent her one of my Mac notebooks for a few days. She had no trouble managing her files, the interface etc. She is in her late 50s. Next week she is purchasing a Mini.
As for the value, I actually think the Mini is better value for the stated use than the cheap Dells you mention. Out of the box she can do evertyhing she needs (the Mini iuncludes a word processor, though not a great one) and can manage photos etc, without adding any applications. With the Dell you will need to add and manage security software etc.
I am certain the Mini will work nicely for the stated needs.
A MacPro 2.66 Xeon, an iMac G5, a Uni MB, a wee PowerBook 12" 1.5, an eMac, a couple of cameras, a lens collection and a wonderful iPod. Oh, and a delicious wife.
"Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little." Tom Stoppard
“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader".
Thanks for the quick reply. I will check out Nisus Writer. In fact, I still need to buy her some Christmas presents so this might be a good puchase.
I've just been looking at the refurb Macs on apple.ca. I noticed they have a iMac G5 17" for only $849! That's cheaper than buying the Mac Mini + monitor. But I've never bought anything refurb before so I'm concerned about problems. Just wondering if anybody on here has experience with Apple refurbs.
That 17" iMac G5 would be an excellent system for her.
That being said, the mini is definitely a good option as well, if you can get a good keyboard, monitor and mouse easily.
You say that buying Word is out of the question, but you say that your dad has the educational version. That implies that he works for some educational institution (or is a student) in which case there might be a site licence that will get you Office for OS X for the cost of the media. Alternatively, you may be able to use one of his licences for her copy (you'd need to find an install disc, but that's not too difficult). The only reason I'm encouraging you not to give up on getting her Word is that, while Nissus Writer, Mellel, OpenOffice, Pages, etc. are all great applications, if you can get her set up with Word, it's one less potential complication when she tries to send someone her files.
I converted my mother to a Powerbook last year, after her antique PC finally bit the dust. She had no trouble, but I wouldn't say she was computer illiterate.
Good luck and let us know if you have any other questions or problems.
My dad works at a university. We just checked the student/teacher edition of Office and it's $199.
I have a question about the new iMac G5 17" display. I'm concerned that the resolution may be too high for her eyes. Does OSX let you increase the sizes of fonts and windows? I know Windows XP lets you do this. My concern is with HTML that uses a fixed-width font. 1024x768 is ideal, but I know that LCD displays have a native resolution and lowering it results in a blurred display. I bought a laptop a few years ago which had a high resolution and I just couldn't use it because my eyes were so strained reading some web pages.
Sorry dude you can't find a 17" LCD with a native res of 1024x768, it just doesn't exist. Most 15" have a native res of 1024x768. Why not just get a 1280x1024 17" and up the standard font sizes, icon sizes, etc. like make the icon sizes 96x96 or 128x128, the icons are absolutely beautiful that big.
Home: 2006.5 iMac 20"
Me: 2010 MacBook Pro 13", iPad Mini Wifi 32GB Black, iPhone 4 16GB Black
Wife: 2011 MacBook Air 11.6", iPhone 4 16GB White
Are you backed up??? If so, why? Psyllium Fibre is not free but will do wonders!
1- Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the mini has wireless and bluetooth built in... so no need to worry about installing an airport card.
2- For the monitor, as mentioned, 17" at 1024x768 I think is a no go. Increasing fonts and icons is an option. Another option is to go 19" at 1280x1024. That would make pixels a bit bigger. And those 19" lower res LCDs are getting pretty cheap. I saw a few in T.O at around $350.
3- Safari has been almost flawless for me. It works with TD, BMO and RBC online banking with no problems. A few rare sites act funny, so I use Firefox. Haven't needed anything else in the past 3 years. And if a site actually does "require" IE, you can "fake it" in Safari and Firefox (though someone else will have to chime in... I've never needed it so I don't remember how).
My Mom is 84 and nearly blind and she does very well with a 14" iBook. She only does email and plays games and a little writing in TextEdit (she isn't interested in learning more). Mom is able to read the screen fine even when email arrives in small font.
Mom had zero computer experience before we plunked an old iMac on her table about 2 years ago. When it was clear that she would use the thing and really get a lot of enjoyment out of it, my sister bought her the new iBook. So far the only "maintenance" that has been required is that my sister uses TimBukTu occasionally to move windows back into the right places.
There should be no problem with the airport card and whatever wireless router you're using or going to use in the next few years. Apple recommends WPA, but works fine with WEP - I've set up my router using both at different times and both work fine with my iBooks and PowerBooks.
The beauty of a laptop is that she doesn't need to be tied ot a desk to do her writing. She can take the laptop out on the deck or into breakfast room while she's having her morning coffee.
We got my sister and her husband each an iBook too and freed them from the tethers of desktops and they really enjoyed being able to wander around the house and sit whereever they wanted to and surf.
In case you haven't figured it out, I think Apple should just quit making desktop computers and concentrate on making laptops.
Yes, you can increase the font sizes and icon sizes so that the high resolution screen isn't a problem (in fact it'll be better for text). The only drawback is that the UI widgets get small.
The next incarnation of OS X (10.5) will be resolution independent, so this drawback will go away, but for the meantime, just set her up with nice big fonts, and show her how to use the splat-+ combination to increase the size of things and turn on Zoom (under Universal Access in System Preferences). If necessary, you can also increase the contrast of the text, and make it white on black using the Universal Access features for visually impaired people. I don't know what the state of this aspect of the UI is in Windows, but Mac OS X is very good at accommodating various handicaps (e.g. voice-over, adjustable mouse cursors and movement smoothing for tremors, visual as well as auditory alerts, sticky keys for people who can't press more than one at a time, etc.)