Oh boy. Here we go. I'll try
to make the points as brief as possible (always a challenge for me).
Mac or PC:
Given that they're not game addicts, Mac all the way. I think that the Windows platform is simply too precarious an environment for young people, given the ease with which trojans and viruses can be surreptitiously installed. My good friend in Vancouver -- a man of "pure" soul and integrity -- somehow contracted some porn adware that he couldn't get rid of... and it had exposed his daughter to pornographic images. Your friends there DON'T need that.
Also, they'll possibly grow into the whole illegal (but seems normal because everyone does it and don't understand the principles involved) peer-to-peer file swapping thing (hopefully not). Using a Mac for this is safer, as you never know what you're really downloading from someone until you've decompressed it and run it... and all the malware out there is windows compatible. Mac users fly under the radar.
So, unless there is specific Windows-only software they require, get them Macs.
As for preparedness on the Windows platform for future employment/whatever, I see that as an illusion. The reality is that, if they grow up to work in a corporate environment, they'll get a handle on opening programs and handling files by using their Macs and the orientation to Windows will be pretty painless. They would NOT be allowed to do anything else, anyway. ANY system installation, tweaking, troubleshooting etc. is strictly delegated to the IT department and they don't want people screwing with the PCs. So, if one was left to that extent of their Windows end-user experience, what's to really learn? How to troubleshoot Windows problems is about all that's left. And who needs that? They can cut their word processing and spreadsheet (and even database) teeth on Appleworks and graduate to MS Office/Mac when the time is right.
Well, if the G5 iMac is out of the question, price-wise, then I'd go with Mac Minis. Don't allow your dislike of the iMac's look to prevent them from making such a choice based on THEIR personal tastes, however. These would be thier
macs; not yours. Even though the eMac has some speed surprises here and there when compared to the Mac Mini, the existence of the Mac Mini has really driven a nail into the concept of the CRT in my view
: big, heavy and hot. That's what they are. Given how the specs on LCD panels have improved over the past couple of years -- and how the prices have gone down -- I'd suggest CRTs only in the cases where rock-solid colour accuracy and detail are required... although when I watch movies on my LCDs, the picture is pretty damned nice. The thing with LCDs is to make sure you get ones with a MINIMUM of 16 millisecond response time. many are getting down there as are their prices. DVI connection would be bonus, ad i have a DVI compatible 17" LCD waiting for my Mac mini that i bought for $305.00 after rebate (and they're even cheaper now). Having said that, my two work LCDs are VGa and watching movies on them is a pleasure. if they want to go cheaper and they're not intent upon watching movies on them, LCDs with 25 milliseconds would do.
Also, keep in mind that there have been many reports of the Mac Mini having brightness weaknesses with some CRTs.
As for Apple redesigning the G5 iMac, I got one thing to say: LMAO! Not gonna happen. Taste is obviously subjective, but the overwhelming response to Apple's work on the G5 imac has been nothing less than GUSHY! This, from not only Mac-centric reviewers but Windows-centric ones, too. And besides, the design is only just over six months old. They'll run with this form factor (and it is IMO the best form factor they've done for the iMac... although the G4 was excellent as well) for at least three years. So get used to it.
As for quiet, the Mac Minis are very quiet.
As for the eMac being EOL'd, I've heard rumor of this but I can't confirm it (maybe some ehMac Mac retailers can pipe up on this?). But, if they ARE EOL'd... then when in the lifespan of a computer design do you think you can get the best deal on it? The beginning of its life, when everyone wants one (like the Mac mini)? Or.....?
The reason why BestBuy doesn't have any Mac Minis with Superdrives is because Apple offers the Superdrive as a build-to-order option, ONLY.
As for whether or not a Superdrive is necessary, it depends on what they want to do with their computers. Do they shoot video? and do they want to author it to DVD? That's the obvious question. beyond that, a DVD burner is handy for archiving large projects... if one does large projects that is. If they're going to be using it for "typical' consumer use and NOT to author home movies onto DVD, then the stock combo drive would be fine.
Now, I seem to recall that iLife '04 allowed burning of DVDs within iDVD onto Superdrive-equipped Macs over a network
. if my recall is correct, and if this feature has been carried over to iLife '05, then they COULD save a hundred bucks by getting one Mac Mini with a Superdrive and the other stock (I really hope that I'm not confusing recent feature additions to Adaptec Toast on this point...
)... they could also buy a stock Mac Mini, locally -- and sooner... if they can find one.
As for RAM, 512MB, as you already know. Are you comfortable installing it, yourself? Frankly, I'm trepeditous of me doing it. I don't think I'd break it, but it would break my heart to scratched the thing... and the noises the thing makes when "cracking" it open are fear inducing at first (or so I've read).
So, that's my recommendation on which Mac to get. The Mac Mini offers a good bang for the buck and flexible peripheral options.
What to get, where to get it and how much will it cost:
Regarding student deals, you'll have to do the legwork yourself on that. You will also have to confirm my assumption about burning iDVD sessions over a network and whether or not they'll be burning DVDs in the first place. if they want to burn DVDs, the bigger drive is a serious consideration. Not only is the DV media hungry for disk space, but iDVD (or any DVD authoring program) requires GIGS AND GIGS of scratch disk. if they don't want to burn DVDs the 40Gb stock drive should do fine. I think, however, that with the system and all the apps installed, that eats up about eight gigs right there. others may want to confirm this, but it's something to keep in mind.
I would definitely get them Apple's own keyboards. Not only are the Command keys labeled properly, but they also include TWO MORE USB PORTS., resulting in having two available USB ports when the keyboard and mouse are connected. Their prices have gone down (regular price: $39.00). As for mice, get them whatever they want to pay for, but optical should be a no-brainer. Keep in mind that Expose works really well when triggered off of a multi-button mouse. Also, I have a preference for trackballs, rather than dragging a mouse about the desk. Different strokes for different folks, though.
I have configured a Mac Mini setup at the Apple educational online store for a friend of mine who is a music teacher. I have attached a PDF of this test order. It'll give you an idea as to what to expect -- which frankly aint nothing to write home about! I added 512MB Apple RAM to this BTO order. You can get cheaper elsewhere, but the difference is not huge and it's a helluva lot more convenient f you're going to order via the Educational Store. Now, if they wanted a gig of RAM? That'd be different!
And given that there's a $100.00 mail-in rebate on printers, I;d BUY ONE even if you didn't need it. For starters, it's new. And with the rebate you'd be paying the same amount of money as you would for ONE typical printer cartridge!
Also, if they want to get into basic Garageband stuff, I'd say that 512Mb could do the job. i loaded up a basic instrument setup in garageband and checked the memory usage. It was close to the 512Mb mark, but I don't think it would be suicide to run with it. heck, you could even trick one mac mini out with the Superdrive, 80Gb drive and 1Gb RAM, leave the other one stock (plus 512Mb RAM), stack them together, and if their rooms are side by side, run their keyboard cables to the "cluster" and swap them around when one kid is doing any heavy lifting. Sounds dumb, but it could save a few hundred bucks. And with fast user switching in OS X, each kid's sensitive emails from their girl/boyfriends would be safe from their bratty brother/sister.
As for cheap RAM and if you want to install it yourself, Canada Computers
has a mail-in rebate for 1GB of mac mini compatible RAM. there was a thread about it here at ehmac just a day or two ago. they also have great prices on LCDs. I got a 17" BenQ FP737s ("s" as in matching silver) with 16ms response time, nice brightness and contrast specs AND DVi connecability as well as VGA (it didn't come with a DVI cable though. That'll run you up to $30.00) for $305.00 after mail-in rebate. They'll surely ship to you in ottawa.
So, there ya go. that's my input. Guess it was LONGER than i thought it would be. how typical of me