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Mac just for fun: what do I need?

by Claptrap / February 13, 2006 8:38 AM PST

I did a course a few years ago in my local college art department, which was offered only in Mac. At the time I was a novice computer user, but I found Win98 so much easier to use compared to Mac. During most of the course, I wasted my time trying to get my head around the operating system, so I thought maybe I should get a second-hand Mac, just so I can keep up with the actual course I might take in the future. What is the lowest spec of hardware and oldest OS I could buy, to be able to keep up using the latest OS? (What version/name is it anyway?) I have heard each version of OS is totally different from the previous one, is that so? If that is the case, how do Mac users cope?

The art department gets most money, and therefore has always the latest hard and software; but one of the teachers said the latest OS is not as user-friendly as the one before, what is your opinion?

Practically all of my software is free; either installed from magazine disks (usually older versions of the software) but increasingly I use free open source software, like OpenOffice. Are there any free software for Macs, preferably downloadable? I can still buy software in main stream shops, that will run in old machines like my Pentium II - what is the situation with Mac?

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Mac for fun
by Dan Filice / February 14, 2006 1:49 AM PST

I can't answer all of your questions (others here can), but for starters, No, each Mac OS has not been totally different from the previous. The BIG change came when the Mac went from OS9 to OSX (ten). Since OSX, there have been three variations, which differ slightly. The latest is OSX Tiger. All of these OSX systems could still run the older OS9. Just recently, the Mac's have begun using Intel chips. The big thing here is that these Macs no longer will run the older OS9, but for the most part, who cares. OSX is very similar to Microsoft XP in the way the windows display, but the OS is still Mac. Don't let the Mac frustrate you. Get a Mac and use it for a little time and you will see how great it is. As far as a teacher stating that the "latest OS isn't as easy as the previous one"...he/she is nuts. OSX is way better, way more stable and emulates what the XP operating system looks like without giving up the intuitive Mac interface. This sounds typical of a PC user who has only spent 10 minutes using a Mac. My sister-in-law (school teacher) said the exact same thing until she got a Mac for her classroom and spent some time with it. Guess what...she's a Mac convert now.

The big question for you is: What do you want to do with the computer? If you want to do multi-media type stuff, any new Mac comes equipped with a software suite called "iLife", which includes a photo program, a music program, a video editing program and a DVD authoring program. These are perfect for the home user. If you want to do "business" type programs, then you will need to do some searching for these. I don't know of any sites for "free" programs like there is for a PC. Since the PC is so prevelant, there are zillions of hack programs that can be downloaded for free, but the bad thing about this is that there is a lot of junk and viruses that come along.

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Thanks, Dan, for the information
by Claptrap / February 14, 2006 5:47 AM PST
In reply to: Mac for fun

My PC is not very powerful and I couldn't afford a new Mac either; what would be the minimum spec for running OSX? If there is anyone from England reading this, maybe someone can say how much I should expect to pay for a second-hand one?

How do you think the intel processor is going to affect the OS, do you think there's going to be a new one soon, possibly something very different from the current affair?

My demands from the computer are simple enough: a bit of office work, like databases, spreadsheets and word processing; and for fun I do image editing and listen to music, sometimes practise HTML, Visual Basic and C++ or other language that takes my fancy. At the moment I have my eyes on Ruby, which I have never heard of before. Apart from the occasional letter its all just for fun and interest.

The teacher I mentioned is one of the art teachers and the art departmnet only uses Macs so I expect he uses Macs all day. He did mention he has a pc at home but hardly touches, it... Maybe he just knew the OS9 so well he didn't like the change.

I heard similar kind of complaint from another teacher when Win95 replaced the Win 3.1: according to him the new operating system wasn't really any better. Now I agree with him in one aspect: if you know the old DOS commands, you can get around lots of things that are not accessible otherwise. For example, sometimes I cannot delete stuff from my folder (in network) at school, because Windows claims the file is accessed by another person - which is not possible. Using DOS prompt, I can force the deletion of the file.

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by Dan Filice / February 14, 2006 6:31 AM PST

Any Mac that you buy that was made starting 3 or 4 years ago, comes with some version of OSX, whether Panther, Jaguar or Tiger (listed in order of appearance). I felt the same way when I left OS9 behind, then after using OSX for awhile, I fell in love. If you use a Mac, you simply need to unplug your mind from the PC world because things do operate differently. You can't quit a program simply by clicking on the "X" in the upper right. On a Mac, this closes the window but leaves the program active. But I hate having to aim my pointer at the X to quit. A simple quick keystroke quits a program, another closes the window, another cycles between open windows. If you are interested in doing anything with music and video, the Mac IS the machine. The Intel chip will not change the inherent Mac way of operating, but it will make the machine faster and allow software developers to make easy cross-platform versions of a program. Time will tell if you will be able to boot as a PC. For your needs, I would simply look for a used Mac that is within a couple of years old. It comes loaded with everything except Microsoft Word Office, which I highly recommend since is has the complete suite of programs you need. Any fairly new Mac will have a processor that is hovers around 1Ghz. Ram is typically 512K and you should add more Ram if you plan on doing any video work. There may be people panicing about the new Intel equipped Macs so they may be selling their "old" machines. Maybe some decent buys. I don't know about the UK, but in the US there are some great places that sell refurbished Macs.

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Used Macs and prices
by taboma / February 15, 2006 1:13 PM PST
In reply to: OSX

Pete and Dan, Some sites I visited had G4 Macs for about $250.
Just go to google and enter? used Macs. Quite a few places to choose from and all kinds of models. All sites seem to offer guarantees.
The model that I use presently is a G4 Quicksilver Server That model is for sale between $400 and $450.
What an incredible buy. The original was about $2,900.
Most have no apps. Just the OSX operating system.
The re-sellers must have done a clean install. Which is good.
Dan, Good luck on your purchase. Very inexpensive right now.
Take your pick.


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Minimum Specs for OS X
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / February 14, 2006 6:33 AM PST

The absolute minimum for running a version of OS X would be the iMac G3, 266Mhz. Now you would not get a very good experience with it and would not be able to run the latest version of OS X (Tiger).
So, if you are looking for something fairly cheap, go for the Slot Loading iMac which will run OS X 10.3.9 (Panther) quite happily. Just top it up with memory and away you go.
Take a look at eBay for some idea of prices for them. Expect to pay around $250 (do your own conversions) for a decent machine.

If you liked DOS, then you will love UNIX and be at home with the command line interface that is available but unused by 90% of Mac users


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I'd suggest:
by forevermac / February 15, 2006 5:30 AM PST

You may want to consider a Beige G3 desktop unit. They're pretty fast for their age and will run OS8.6 through to 9.2. As for the OS changing constantly, the answer is a definitive no. OS X is different to OS9, but not in the way you use it.... only it's appearance. I'd suggest OS 9 for apps such as photoshop, avid videoshop, quark etc. You'll need a mac with 128 megs ram, 10 gig HD min, DB15 (mac video) to svga convertor and a 17 inch pc monitor minimum.



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Not a wise move
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / February 15, 2006 6:53 AM PST
In reply to: I'd suggest:

Shifting the poster onto an OS that no longer has any support, has no software being written for it and onto a machine that, that while capable, will only run the very earliest versions of OS X and an OS that is over 5 years old, is not really good advice.

The orginal intention was for the poster to move to OS X and not to step backwards.

On another note, would you be so kind as to not include the link to your website in your signature. Free advertising is against the CNET Forum policies, which you agreed to abide by when you signed up


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Thanks everybody
by Claptrap / February 16, 2006 7:38 AM PST

Your information and opinions will help me to ascertain what to look for when buying my first Mac. I tried to look at some UK sites selling second-hand Macs for prices, but all just came as "Server not found", so I'll have to leave it till another time. (Not IE problem, I have three browsers and they all do it about this time at night - and my machine is clean of viruses) :?

Sorry I havent replied earlier, but for some reason CNET did not allow me, not even see the threads till today.

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by taboma / February 16, 2006 2:52 PM PST
In reply to: Thanks everybody

I like your handle.
If you want a brand new inexpensive Mac look up the specs for a Mac mini. Comes loaded with MacOSX 10. Go to
Pretty good machines for the price of $499. Quick processor also.
I use one of these at work professionally. Amazing little ******.
Options are available for them.

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mac's are more than just "for fun"
by Penn2006 / February 17, 2006 1:32 AM PST

The Mac is not just "for fun" - it is a hard worker and much superior to any 'windows' ever built. That's because Mac IS windows - all windows wher you can access everything without typing in anything.
The lowest you can get away with these days would be a G3 running OS X 9 series but I would not recommend it. Move up to a G4 running Panther 10.3.9 and you can everything you want - as long as you have the memory. I recommend a G4 Mirrored-door model - the last Power Mac G4 series made. Put 2 gigs of RAM and a coupke of good harddrives - those usually came with a 40 or 60 GIG HD - not enough these days but you can add a 250 (238 actually) for about $160 most places.
Good luck

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- two additional things to add to comments about mac
by Penn2006 / February 17, 2006 1:41 AM PST appendum for previous remarks: Every version of Mac is not so different that you can't use what came with the version before in you new one. Likely some exceptions but not generall too bad. AN unlike Microsoft, updates between the main version numbers are always FREE. Microsoft likes to nickel and dime you and gouge you while Mac shows a little restraint and a lot more respect for its client base.
Lot of old software is still available, and the on-line Mac community is always there to help. If you buy one, join .mac - only $129 Cdn a year or $99 US a year - and the benefits are too numerous to go into here.
Good luck!

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Mac Software
by squirri / February 17, 2006 3:28 AM PST

Open Office is available for Mac OSX- the worp processor is especially good. Also, if you buy any Mac more than about a year old it comes with Appleworks - an spreadsheet / WP / Presentation package that's a bit long in the tooth now, but works pretty well and can read and write(most) MS Office files.

If you are in the UK, check out the UK version of Macworld magazine - there are people selling refurbed Macs in there. FWIW I run Panther on my wife's old G3 ibook - 367MHz with 192MB RAM. It's slow but it works fine and is very stable. As others have said, I wouldn't look at earlier versions of Mac OS before OSX - but, of course, if you have a fast enough machine you can install what's called the Classic environment and run OS9 programs as well! Most things seem to work just fine.

There are loads of free / donation / shareware products out there for the Mac that do various audio and video tasks - sourceforge is a good place to start or

If you are in education you can get the student edition of MS-Office - sells for a bit less than GBP 100. I've used both the PC and Mac version and Mac Office 2004 is very nice indeed.

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I said Mac just for fun
by Claptrap / February 17, 2006 12:40 PM PST
In reply to: Mac Software indicate that I don't want to pay for a new, fast Mac as I have a perfectly serviceable Windows pc (which is stable and has not had a virus since I built it five years ago), which is compatible with the college computers - for anyone else but art students.

I am student with

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(NT) (NT) NT - Yep - both Unix
by squirri / February 17, 2006 8:39 PM PST
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I'd recommend Mac OS X Tiger on any system you can afford.
by kofster / February 18, 2006 2:24 PM PST

Man, everybody iis different. If you take two people that use different OS platforms and put them in a room, the two of them will argue why theirs is the best. People used to say that you cannot compare Macs and PCs because of the different architecture. However, as they (Apple) have made the move to intel, that chasm that separated the two systems have gotten significantly. I do not mean to sound cliche but I myself, like the thousands of other users do find the Mac platform to be superior. but I am not going to fight you down on that. I will try my best to not digress and se how much I can help you with your question.
I made the switch from Windows to PC just late last year because I myself do (graphic) Art and I was advised that the Apple was much more stable. I have not found any reason to dispute that since I have started using it. My use a 17" Powerbook G4. I am running a 1.67Ghz processor, 512 Mb DDR SDRAM, a 5400 rpm, 100 Gb(Actually 93Gb) hard drive. My operating system is Mac OS X 10.4.5. Tiger.
How do we, Mac users cope? We do just fine. Mac OS X Tiger comes with what we call, "Classic Environment." It allows the mac to be able to run native Mac OS 9 applications when needed. Actually, I have used mac OS 9 before and compared to this Tiger, I would boast a bit and say that Tiger has a breeze. I would even go as faras saying that it is the King of being user friendly. Expose is beautiful. It makes my work so much easier and Spotlight is a darling. The computer mulitasks brilliantly and I do not think that any other computer running a different OS with the same hardware specs as this powerbook will be able to do it so sweetly. Plug and play on the platform is heaven but I have only gotten problems with Dell printers and Dell all-in-one devices and I lament the fact that the laptop line still does not have physical support for right clicking. Other than that I have no complaints. My system has never crashed, I hardly ever have to force quit applications and when I do, it is because of 3rd party application add-ons and it is never a headache. And for a fact, I can also proudly hold my head high and say that there are no viruses that can affect a Mac OS X Tiger system. There is no spyware or malware that can affect it. So, tell me, compared to Windows swhen Microsoft often bring out security updates all the time and users afre talking about some virus that attacked their system, and some worm infecting files and stuff, when we have out systems and none of this happens to us; tell me, how do you think we cope?
Now everything depends on what you are going to use it to do. You are going to do Art so I am assuming that you probably want to do some stuff in Photoshop and if you aquire some other stuff through download or purchasing, you will most likely need a good 80 Gb system with at least 512 Mb RAM. To answer one of your questions; yes there are applications available for download for the mac. If you want help with chosing some when you do buy your mac, you can e-mail me that is not a problem, I would be glad to help. There are optional web browsers, the same Microsoft Office, with Entourage-the equivalent or better to Windoze's Outlook which by the way is so helpful. There are games, a bunch of applications that a lot of us will find very useful, all available via download and most of them are freewaare.
Now the next part that you have to consider is whether you want to go power PC with your purchase or do you want to buy an Intel based Macintosh. That answer should be simple enough to answer if you do a bit of reading on application Manufacturers that will have software ready for when the new Apples begin shipping out this month. If you are considering your performance and you are contemplating using software from Adobe, they clearly stated that their line-up of products will not nativelhy support Intel based macs to until the next year-2 years. [Correct me if I am wrong anybody] If you buy an intel based Macintosh computer now, your Adobe applications will be running in an emulated mode under what Steve Jobs calls, "Rosetta." People who have reviewd the Intel Macs or Mactels, have stated that Adobe Photoshop does not run at the speed that users will expect on these computers. Now I use Adobe and Photoshop as examples of software that you may use or for comparison purposes of other software/applications to their likeliness.
Bearing this in mind, that and the fact that you are a student, you would not have to worry about the Mactels. And if you want to stay on top of the classes or keep up, you can buy the G4 or G5 Power PC Macintoshes.
Now there are several ways you can go. You can buy a mac mini but you have to be prepared to have your own mouse, keypad and monitor to go with it. That may be the best way to go. You get a really good system. I think it is an 80 GB hard disk, 512 DDR SDRAM, built in 802.11b/g, and bluetooth, 32 Mb graphics card, 1 Firewire port and 2 USB ports and a DVD RW drive for US$699. If that is not your style, you can look at the iMac G5. A complete computer system with a built in Webcam and remote with a boss configuration of a 20-inch widescreen LCD, 2.1GHz PowerPC G5, 512MB memory (533MHz DDR2 SDRAM), 250GB Serial ATA hard drive, Slot-load 8x double-layer DVD Burner and ATI Radeon X600 XT with 128MB DDR video memory for US$1499.
Like I said, everyone is different and so too would their needs for hardware vary based on software necessity be. You will know what you will buy because of the amount of money you will have. You may be working with a limited budget that may not allow you to go for the iMac G5 so you may go for the Mac Mini instead. Or you may decide that you will buy an Intel based PC now and you do nto actually mind if your Photosshop does not excel in performance on it because you have the patience for 2 years and after that will be smooth sailing for you.
As it is, Photoshop flies on the G5 and 160 Gb-you cannot go wrong with that. the 20" wide screen is alluring but you may sacrifice all of that when you areready.
If I had to buy one, honestly, I would buy the 20" iMac G5. But you will just have to prioritize between your funds and what performance you want to get out of your machine and how long can you wait for your native Intel based software. Therin you will find out which computer to buy.
Visit the apple website, and I am sure that you will see something that you like. If not, call them and talk to one of the reps and see what happens. Plus i think there are specials for students in the US who wish to purchase their computers.
I hope I was able to help you there.
Take care. Bye.

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Nice post, but
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / February 18, 2006 10:21 PM PST

While your post makes perfect sense for someone with enough funds to follow through, I think you forgot that the poster stated that he has NO money and is asking for the CHEAPEST way that he can run any of the OS X versions with least amount of expense.


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Mac Os in Pentium?
by Claptrap / February 20, 2006 9:37 AM PST

''Or you may decide that you will buy an Intel based PC now and you do nto actually mind if your Photosshop does not excel in performance on it because you have the patience for 2 years and after that will be smooth sailing for you.''

Now, that's a thought: will it be possible to install Mac Os to any pc in the future, the same way as we can install various unix based operating systems alongside with Windows and vice versa? (I know that at least Ubuntu linux comes as a Mac flavour and enables dual booting) Having to only buy the OS would be a serious reduction to the cost of owning a Mac, which in turn might see a significant increase of user base - afterall that was the tactic Microsoft used, allowing third party manufacturers to make the compatible hardware. But I doubt Apple is ready for such a radical change - it hardly wants it own computer manufacturing to fail. Unless there are bigger plans for something else.

Oh by the way, I'm sure it was on the BBC news that there is a Mac virus in the wild. It's called A-leap or something and it attemps to infect via instant messaging system. I don't know the full details, because I only saw a brief summary just before my friend flicked the channell. I don't think its going to be a big issue though, as the ''carrot'' is porn.

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Don't bother thinking along those lines
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / February 20, 2006 11:17 AM PST
In reply to: Mac Os in Pentium?

You will not be able to install the Mac OS onto a regular, none Apple produced, X86 machine.
It just will not fly and Apple will actively pursue offenders.

As for that so called virus, see other posts in the three Mac forums. It is NOT a real virus, can only be installed by someone with Administrative rights and cannot propagate by itself. It is classified by Symantec as a non-threat.
Just another attempt by the AV manufactures to sell stuff that doesn't do anything on a Mac.
You will read also of the BlueTooth "problem", a solution to which was supplied by Apple over 6 months ago and does not affect the latest OS at all.
The score is still Windows, many thousands, Mac OS X, Nil


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