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Switcher Hangout The place for switchers to discuss their new machines, and how to work with OS X. General support can be had here for newbie stuff, like "How do I restart my new iMac?" :)

Sage advice for the new Mac switcher


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chas_m

 
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Here's my list of thoughts/advice/suggestions for new Mac switchers. Not all of it may apply to you personally but humour a brotha and read it anyway:

1. Follow Apple's intentions until you find a genuine good reason not to.

For example, when you get your Mac you'll notice some folders have already been set up, like Movies, Pictures, Documents etc. That's where those sorts of things should go (and the default programs will put them there automatically), and Apple has good reasons for this. Until you get into a situation where you *need* an alternative arrangement, just go with Apple's flow. Don't trash the "Music" folder just because you don't plan on loading any music on. Don't keep all your crap all over the desktop. Don't install an anti-virus, and DON'T tinker around in the System and Library folders. Which leads me to:

2. Use Apple's default programs until you find a genuine reason not to do so.

There are plenty of great alternatives to the programs that come bundled on your Mac, but unlike in the Windows world, the bundled programs on your Mac are **INCREDIBLE** in terms of quality and design. You will be blown away. I know some people prefer (for example) Firefox to Safari, or Entourage (soon to be Outlook) to Mail, but AT FIRST, while you're learning the Mac, use the programs Apple supplied. Especially iTunes, which will not only amaze you as you explore it, but will also subtly teach you how most other Apple programs work.

3. Don't pirate. Pay for what you use.

I'm not speaking to you directly on this, but in general Windows users pirate like crazy -- to the point that they are not even aware that they're doing it. Particularly when it comes to software, the Mac platform NEEDS to retain the best programmers, and that means those programmers should be paid for their work. Hunt for bargains, take advantage of sales, but I think you'll find that most Mac software is of WAY higher quality than most Windows software, and we really like it that way, so please pay for what you use.

As for entertainment, I think you'll find iTunes so much easier and more enjoyable (and for the most part reasonably priced) to use you'll appreciate the value. As my dad always said, "Nothing is ever really free. You always pay Peter when you rob Paul." This is why Mac users sometimes come off smug -- because we understand VALUE versus just PRICE.

4. I know it's hard to believe, but security is handled, and its a non-issue to you.

What (very) little "malware" (not to be confused with viruses) exists out there for the Mac is all non-critical "trickware" that relies on you being stupid (specifically by downloading "porn codecs" and pirated software). So don't do those things. Your machine ships with its ports closed, in stealth mode (right out of the box), no viruses no hackers. Your best "protection" against any future problems (not that I expect any) is to stay in touch with the Mac "community" via forums like these. Should a miracle occur and a virus for OS X develops, you'll hear all about it here MONTHS before it has a snowball's chance of actually reaching you. But again, there are very sound reasons why this will probably never happen.

5. Watching videos.

One of the very few areas where the Mac is lacking "out of the box" (apart from a complete lack of bundled Solitaire [!!!]) is in full support of the million-plus various Windows video codecs out there. So, after you get settled in and start running around on the web, download Flip4Mac WMV Player and Perian (both free) and install them. You should also keep VLC around as an alternate player. This will make video support a non-issue 98% of the time.

6. Switch 101. Visit.

7. Macs don't need much maintenance, but they do need a little.

The primary thing you should do is use Time Machine and/or a clone program (like SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner) to back up your stuff to an external drive. They make it bone simple and automatic.

The occasional (repeat, OCCASIONAL) running of a maintenance program like the simply-named (and free) Maintenance or the not-free donationware YASU should take care of everything else. The Mac is surprisingly self-maintaining but it still needs your occasional attention. Another important tip: keep a fair amount of HD space free at all times. This won't be a real issue at first, but over time you will start to fill up that hard drive. I always tell people to keep AT LEAST 12GB free at *all* times. Mac OS X needs a lot of "elbow room" for temp files, virtual RAM and other functions. Once you go much below that, you're asking for problems and may see the machine palpably slow down.

8. SERIOUSLY, keep liquids and foods away from your computer.

We all like to drink and eat at our desk. We're nerds, that's what we do. But you would NOT BELIEVE how many posts in any given Mac forum start off "so I had this beer (wine, soda, acid, grape juice, etc) ..."

Keep the liquids and food far enough away from the Mac that if you spill something you have time to clean it up before it reaches the machine. DO NOT drink over a laptop, DO NOT drop crumbs in your keyboard. It seems like a common sense thing but you'd be surprised. People rely on computers so much that they forget they cost $1,000-plus to fix when you do The Stupid Thing You Did. And no, stupidity is not covered under warranty.

9. Don't put Windows on right away. Learn the Mac first.

Too many switchers use the Mac's ability to run Windows as a "crutch" to allow them to continue the bad habits that made Windows such a hassle in the first place. It's important that you UNlearn a lot of what you learned about Windows in order to really go beyond the basics of the Mac and enjoy its full awesomeness. Certainly people have perfectly valid reasons for perhaps installing Windows on down the line, but I think it's really important to immerse yourself in the Mac "mindset" and really spend time getting the whole Mac experience down pat before going back to Windows.

10. Keep in touch.

There are tonnes of great resources for Mac users and enthusiasts. This is one of them. Ask your "dumb" questions. We'll answer them with a smile!
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cwa107

 
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I hope you don't mind, chas_m, but I thought this post was so brilliant and well done, that it warranted a sticky in the Switcher's Hangout.

Liquid and computers don't mix. It might seem simple, but we see an incredible amount of people post here about spills. Keep drinks and other liquids away from your expensive electronics!
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Agreed 100%. Excellent and most helpful post especially for switchers.
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wsd73

 
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Excellent post! Thank you for sharing

Wendy
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Great Post
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chas_m

 
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(blush) Thanks!
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I couldn't help but hear Yoda's voice when I read "...UNlearn a lot of what you learned..." in point #9.
Excellent group of tips! Great idea to sticky this one! If only reading it were mandatory.

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TGITC

 
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Excellent post. I switched aproxx a month ago, and I agree with every thing you say
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Man... And to think that I came "." close to agreeing with everything you said! But what was I thinking, that you'd prefer Songbird to iTunes ? Silly me.

Doug
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Great sticky thread, especially....
Quote:
Ask your "dumb" questions. We'll answer them with a smile!
Yes we will, once we stop rolling on the floor laughing, wiping the tears from our eyes, and messaging all our friends with the links to your posts
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Very good indeed. Lets hope it gets read.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug b View Post
Man... And to think that I came "." close to agreeing with everything you said! But what was I thinking, that you'd prefer Songbird to iTunes ? Silly me.

Doug
We ban people who don't like iTunes.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by chas_m View Post
Don't keep all your crap all over the desktop.
I don't care how much it offends Steve Jobs' aesthetic sensibilities, I'll keep my crap wherever I find it convenient. It's my computer and my desktop, thank you very much.
Quote:
Originally Posted by chas_m View Post
4. I know it's hard to believe, but security is handled, and its a non-issue to you.
I find this incredibly difficult to believe. In fact, I'm inclined to call shenanigans: This is the worst advice you could give anyone about computer security.

You're right that security is easy on a Mac. But the worst thing you can do is become overconfident. Mac OS X won't protect you if you don't use good passwords, let other people use your admin account, leave services on when you don't need them, or don't think about what you open.

The reason I we hear about Mac threats months in advance is because there's some poor fool out there following your advice. Someone has to be the warning to others, and you're setting people up for that task.
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chas_m

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by technologist View Post
I don't care how much it offends Steve Jobs' aesthetic sensibilities, I'll keep my crap wherever I find it convenient.
You missed a line at the beginning of my post. Here it is again:

Here's my list of thoughts/advice/suggestions for new Mac switchers. Not all of it may apply to you personally but humour a brotha and read it anyway.

See? Nothing about "rules," "commandments" or "thou shalt nots." They're suggestions. Follow them or don't.

As it happens, keeping a ton of stuff on your desktop will slow down your machine (numerous examples in these very forums), but again its your computer, do what you want.

Quote:
You're right that security is easy on a Mac. But the worst thing you can do is become overconfident. Mac OS X won't protect you if you don't use good passwords, let other people use your admin account, leave services on when you don't need them, or don't think about what you open.
I think I caveated what needed to be caveated about it. I think its pretty clear there that I'm talking about online security, not anything to do with those who have physical access to your machine.

The essay could probably use another graf about tips for physically securing your Mac as well, but I just wasn't addressing that at the time.
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Yes, do keep in mind that this is slightly out of context since chas_m was originally replying, stating his opinion to a new switcher. I just liked it so much, I broke it out into its own thread.

I agree, we can go into more depth on each topic brought up in this post. But without getting too technical, I believe it's a pretty good set of guidelines and worthy of a sticky.

Liquid and computers don't mix. It might seem simple, but we see an incredible amount of people post here about spills. Keep drinks and other liquids away from your expensive electronics!
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