Mac Consulting

I get a number of requests for help with people’s Macs. They’re are often willing to pay, but the truth is that computer support (on any platform) is one of the things I least like to do. A typical question looks like this:

We’d like to upgrade or replace our aging Mac and have questions about how to upgrade or what to buy. We’d also like to network our computers on opposite ends of our house and are wondering about wireless. Further, we may need to run a Windows application occaisionally and need information about that.

After explaining that I’m not interested or not available for such consulting, my typical reposonse looks like this:

I’d recommend Cliff Pearson or Andy Mannone for such consultation. Cliff has taken over Mac cluster support since I left ITS, while Andy is a student at PSU and has done a lot of work for The Clock. Both are well skilled to answer your questions.

I then include the following boilerplate text:

For purchases, I reccomend the Apple Store online. You’ll get the same pricing everybody else can give, free shipping, and few-to-no hassles.

If there were a local retailer within 50 miles, I might reccomend them instead. This is central/northern New Hampshire, and there just aren’t many stores around.

I know there are alternatives (or maybe just an alternative) to Virtual PC, but this is my reccomendation:

Running Windows applications on a Mac is fairly easy with Virtual PC, though it does use a lot of disk space (you end up with a full install of Windows XP and all the Windows applications, in addition to everything else). Microsoft bought Virtual PC from Connectix and will be releasing a new version “soon.” Once released, VPC will be bundled with the ‘Professional’ version of MS Office.

Wireless is actually somewhat more interesting to me, but there are so many variables that it’s hard to make reccomendations that are more than guesses.

Wireless is a little more difficult, as range is difficult to determine without testing on site. If you’re willing to experiment, you can start with Apple’s classic base station, the Airport Extreme, which has a built-in router, ports for both LAN and cable modems, and an external antenna port.

With that unit, you’ll be able to network a number of computers in your house via wireline and wireless (WiFi) ethernet, using your existing cable modem, DSL line, or even dial-up. If you find the range too limited, your options include either an external antenna or a repeater base station like the AirPort Express.

Note: I should point out that there are a variety of proprietary and competing wireless distribution systems. There is not yet a standard that allows base stations from multiple manufacturers to work with and repeat signals for eachother.

And that’s it.

One thought on “Mac Consulting

  1. Good post. We handle lots of request like this and find that most of the time folks just need a good reliable source of information. We provide much of this information for free on our blog. But we also provide consulting services when folks need specific, hands-on advice or service.

    Thanks for a great post.

    -Patrick

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