June 13, 2004
Bringing Mom to the Mac

My parents just began an experiment. My dad bought my mom a Powerbook. She’s had difficulty mastering Windows, probably due to inadequate education and training resources combined with the myriad of little frustrations that can accompany the user experience on that platform, and this has been compounded by my relative lack of experience in acting as helpdesk on Wintel.

I have long encouraged them to consider trying a Mac, and one of my primary arguments was that I would finally be able to provide reliable helpdesk support to them. This will help me to effectively gauge the level of user-experience versus education needed to bring them into a happy relationship with their computers.

This is the first of several blog entries I will be producing to document some of the written support I will provide them. The bulk of this entry concerns local and online resources for reference, help and user education.

One of my future entries will deal with the vagaries of disentangling a LAN to enable port-forwarded service mapping - all from the security and comfort of my office chair, on the opposite coast from the physical LAN itself. Current smart money is on the active presence of two competing DHCP routers in the LAN. That will be fun.

Mac Reference Books
Mac OS X: The Missing Manual, Panther Edition
by David Pogue - Amazon link.

This is essential. If you only pick up one of these books, make it this one. Pogue nearly invented the modern user-oriented computer book, and has been writing in that vein, and about the Mac, for about twenty years.

The Little Mac Book: Panther Edition
by Robin Williams Amazon link.

This has been the long-standing standard introduction to Macs. It is written with the assumption that the user has no experience or knowledge of computers at all. Williams style is exemplary and inclusive, communicating the sense of affection and joy that so many of us on the Mac side experience with our machines. It should be noted that I have not seen this edition of the book.

Mac OS X Hints
by Rob Griffiths, David Pogue - Amazon link

This is a compendium of the public-contribution website linked above. All of us are smarter than one of us, and these hints are great. The website is the best single place to go when you have a specific question such as “How do I…” or “Can I…” or “Why does it…”

Rob’s website is also a genuine phenomenon, and he deserves high praise for the way he took the tiger by the tail when it became apparent that he’d created the most crucial independent information web site for users of Mac OS X. The fact that this good fortune - both his and ours - resulted in publication may do something for those seeking proof of a just world.

Mac OS X for Windows Users: A Switchers’ Guide
by David Coursey - Amazon link.

I am not directly familiar with this book, but Peachpit sets the standard for user-oriented Mac books, and it may therefore prove of value. Anyone actually had face time with this book?

Useful Websites

MacWorld and MacAddict are the two main US-market Mac-oriented magazines. MacWorld’s website is much deeper than MacAddict’s and includes hundreds of articles and reviews.

Mac OS X Hints
Mac OS Hints is the basis of the book suggested above.

MacFixIt is a long-standing, community driven website for Mac users to share knowledge. They have a tiered access policy, though.

Apple Discussions
Apple Support
Since my parents have Applecare, they are entitled to as much technical support as you’d like. Please note, however, that there is a difference between support and training, and issues which reflect a lack of training will probably produce a somewhat brusque response. By all means, do complain if that’s the case.

Personally, I have found the discussions board (the second URL above) a much better source of help and information, particularly on issues of training. At the moment, the site is inaccessible from my computer, but that won’t be the case forever. I often find myself looking here first for information.

Unfortunately they rotate the messages offline after only about three months, which is a real shame, but this is the online location where you will find the highest density of courteous and helpful Mac users in any area of need you might have.

Other Sites
I haven’t linked to a raft of other sites such as TidBITS, Macintouch, The OReilly Mac Dev Center, and so forth, primarily because those are sites that are most helpful to experienced users. I will introduce my folks to them in time, but not yet - wading through the data at those locations might well prove overwhelming at this stage.

Connecting Wintels and Macs
Connecting Mac OS X to Windows PCs, by Wei-Meng Lee and Brian Jepson. 11/19/2002 article at O’Reilly’s Mac Dev Center.

This article may be a little dated. I know that I myself am in need of a brush-up regarding wintel networking and this may be a helpful place to start.

mike whybark. 857 words. Posted at June 13, 2004 11:52 AM
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