The Mac Webb

Switching from a PC to a Pair of Macs

- 2003.01.23

A PC using friend dropped by the house a few weeks ago to spend some hands on time with my Macintosh systems in preparation for a Christmas purchase. He spent a great deal of time using my new 17" iMac and my iBook 500.

His initial thought and budget was geared toward one of the new 1 GHz PowerBooks. His major concern with that course was moving to a laptop as his primary machine. Although he loves the capability of the current PowerBook, he does like the upgrade options of a tower machine. As we discussed his uses, I realized that he could easily compromise.

The portability of a laptop is important as he travels about 40% of his work time. During his travel, he uses his laptop for basic office work, including presentations using PowerPoint. The remainder of his computer work takes place from his home office. His budget had been set at $3,000 plus change for the new machine.

Over the course of a few hours, I recommended the following plan. Don't settle on a laptop or a tower - buy both. We spent some time confirming that he liked the form and function of the iBook 500. I mentioned that for the best balance of rugged build and portability, the iBook was the best choice.

We then headed to the local CompUSA to allow him to get some hands on time with the new 800 MHz iBook. We noted that OS X performance was much improved over my older model. The faster processor and updated video subsystem made OS X a joy to use.

The next trial was a new dual processor Power Mac. We worked with the 867 MHz and 1 GHz systems, and he made the determination that the 867 would be a good fit for his usage and his budget. Once we had validated this machine, we headed to the Internet to find the best deals.

I directed him to Small Dog and a few other well-known online dealers and said good-bye for the weekend. I received a call on Wednesday with an invitation to come over for a new machine setup party.

In the technology realm, I find nothing more fun than setting up a new Macintosh box. Setting up two was to good to pass up, and I did feel a sense of responsibility to making sure his initial setup went smoothly.

Over the course of a few hours, we had set up the Power Mac in his office and were completing a repartitioning of the default hard drive. After the drives were set, we began the software installs on the Power Mac adding Office:X and about 5 GB of additional applications. We then moved his important office documents and presentations to the new machine.

He was having so much fun, he almost forgot about the iBook. I took a turn driving the Power Mac while he spent some quality time with the new iBook. During the installation process, he asked about buying a switch to allow him to use one monitor with both the Power Mac and iBook. I asked him how often would he want to use the iBook at his desk with a Power Mac already in place. Assuming where my question was leading, he answered that it would probably be cheaper to simply exchange the files over the network and use the Power Mac.

At this point, I grabbed a FireWire cable from my bag to show him my favorite (and most underutilized) Macintosh feature. I asked him to turn the iBook off and restart holding down the "T" key during startup. This caused the iBook to boot into FireWire Target Disk Mode, changing the machine into one large FireWire drive.

I showed him that he could simply mount the iBook as a drive on the Power Mac and then use all of the peripherals connected to the Power Mac to run the 'Books applications and access its data. In this manner, he could effectively think of his iBook as a traveling hard drive.

I explained that I knew of users who plug a Mac laptop into a desktop while in the office, and then carry the work, apps, and files home in their laptop. This eliminates the difficulties in managing work/office information and provides a simple way to back up data at the end of each day.

I left him after a long day of setup and asked him to call if he had any questions. I heard nothing from him and dropped a follow up call a week later. He was absolutely smitten with his new Macintosh computers and was proudly using his iBook as his primary office machine.

No machine has the balance of cost, features, portability of the current iBook line. He mentioned that he uses the iBook the majority of the time based on the ability to walk around the house with a wireless connection.

After we left, I thought of a few of the main topics we discussed which would be a value to all switchers.

The top 5 list of interesting facts you need to know when switching to a Macintosh (focus on portables):

  • FireWire Target Disk Mode. Your laptop acts as a hard drive (this also works with desktop Macs).
  • iPod as a hard drive. You can store applications, documents, even an operating system on your iPod.
  • Never turn off the machine. The sleep mode is great and allows for fast access to the machine.
  • AppleWorks will read and write .doc files.
  • Run at least two partitions. It is much easier to troubleshoot a machine with multiple partitions. LEM

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