As a homeschooling parent, I truly believe that purchasing a Mac for your home is an exercise in good stewardship and families in the homeschooling community should seriously consider making the switch.
If you watch any amount of television or browse sites on the internet, you’ve no doubt seen the Apple advertisements featuring Justin Long as “Mac” and John Hodgman as “PC”. In these playful ads, the (overly?) confident “Mac” takes humorous potshots at PC’s weaknesses as an operating system. These commercials usually elicit cheers from the Mac fans and plant small seeds of doubt in the minds of Windows users. As funny as these commcericals may be, are they accurate? Are Macs better and more reliable than PCs running Windows? And, if so, should I buy one?
I believe the answer to both questions is Yes. As a homeschooling parent, I truly believe that purchasing a Mac for your home is an exercise in good stewardship and families in the homeschooling community should seriously consider making the switch. I submit for your consideration the following reasons:
Reason #1 – An Apple Macintosh will save you time & frustration
Time is one our most precious resources and as homeschooling parents we need our time freed to optimize our children’s education. Plus, we need no undue stress in ours lives (who does, really?). If you’re a Windows user, think about how much time and effort you’ve expended while fighting with your Windows PC over crashed applications, lost or corrupted files, OS freezes and the constant (and disruptive) need for system and antivirus updates. And let’s not forget the time spent on long support calls. Is it all worth it?
The fact of the matter is that Macs are more stable, freeze less and are generally trouble free. In addition, the Apple system software update cycle is relatively infrequent. In our home, our iMac is on all of the time and it is consistently (ab)used by the kids (ages 2 to 9) as well as the adults (ages withheld). In spite of this constant activity, there have been times when that iMac has not been restarted for a long as a month. Can you say that of your Windows PC?
Reason #2 – Macs are more secure than PCs
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, identity theft is a very real threat in today’s world. What could be more important than keeping your personal and financial electronic data safe and private? Having a secure computer is one great way to start. The operating system on Apple computers, Mac OS X, is built upon a solid, proven and secure UNIX core. It comes with a built-in firewall designed to protect your machine from outside intruders. And, as an additional layer of protection, Mac OS X has another optional feature called FileVault, which will encrypt your entire user folder. So, even if someone could get on to your machine, they’d not be able to read your data anyway. Is this sounding good? There’s more…
Viruses on a Mac are virtually non-existent. That is not to say that there won’t ever be any, but it does not seem to be a worry at this time. I personally don’t use any anti-virus protection on my Mac, which is one less set of hassles and expenses to worry about.
Reason #3 – Macs can run Windows
Yes, if you need to do so, you can also run Windows on your Intel Mac. This means that if you decided to switch to a Mac, all of the Windows software packages you’ve purchased over time will not have to be re-purchased (assuming you still need them – see below). You can install Windows onto your Mac’s hard drive and start your Mac into the operating system of your choice – Mac OS X or Windows (XP, Vista and, coming soon, Windows 7). All of this can be accomplished using a free Apple application called Boot Camp. Also, if you’ve rather not restart your computer just to use Windows, you always run Windows side by side with the Mac OS in a “virtual” environment using software programs like Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion (not free). The is also a free solution called VirtualBox from Sun Microsystems. Virtualization is very cool stuff.
Reason #4 – Macs will make you more productive
Imagine how efficient you’d be if you were unencumbered by all of the distractions and headaches that accompany a Windows PC experience. Now envision what it would be like to to actually use your computer for its designed purpose rather than struggling to get it to work. Yes, dear reader, this can actually happen. Based upon my years of experience, I am convinced that an Apple Macintosh is more reliable computing tool than a Windows PC and using one will make you a more productive person.
Reason #5 – Macs are economical
While the price point of a Mac may be higher than a comparably equipped Windows PC, you should know that included in the price of each Mac are a number of free Apple applications that cover 95% (if not all) of your general computing needs. And these applications are no slouches either. The features found in these programs could go toe to toe with many applications you might otherwise pay for.
Here’s a list of just a few of the free Apple software applications that homeschooling users might need:
- Address Book – A great program for storing all of your personal and business contacts. This application integrates into Apple’s Mail application (see below) is even more helpful when coupled with Apple’s MobileMe service (not free).
- iCal – Apple’s own calendaring application. Great for keeping track of your homeschool and household schedules. Also integrates into the MobileMe service.
- DVD Player – A very nice application to have on your computer if you’re using DVD coursework as part of your homeschool efforts. One nice feature of this application its ability to “remember” where you left off when viewing a DVD and it gives you the option to resume at that point, even if you ejected the DVD days ago.
- Mail – A solid, easy to use email client that doesn’t cost you a dime. Macworld recently gave this one “4 out of 5 mice“. In Apple’s new “Snow Leopard” release, this program (as well as iCal and Address Bok) integrate seamlessly with a Microsoft Exchange server.
- Font Book – An incredibly convenient font management program.
- Safari – Where would a blog denizen be without a great browser? Apple calls Safari the world’s fastest browser and I have to agree. This application launches quickly, renders pages fast and has a great history search feature.
- iChat – Apple’s own chat client that supports the AIM, GoogleTalk, MobileMe and Jabber protocols. Also features the ability to conduct multiparty audio and high-quality video chat, as well as screen sharing. My wife and I use this feature all the time.
- Time Machine – One of Apple newest additions to the operating system, this application will automatically back up your system to an external drive. Very easy to use and it takes the hassle out of backing up your data. Just set it and forget it, as they say.
- Preview – Apple’s answer to the Adobe Reader program. This program displays PDFs very quickly and can also open other graphic files. The most recent version includes the ability to manipulate those images to a limited degree.
- iLife – Apple’s own “digital life” software suite that consists of 5 very powerful applications:
- iPhoto – Great photo management and sharing.
- iMovie – Make your own movies easily from your digital footage.
- iDVD – Create professional quality DVDs, complete with menu screen and chapter divisions.
- GarageBand – Make great music quickly and easily.
- iWeb – Create your own high quality web sites to host on your own domain or on Apple’s servers using Mobile Me.
I’ve only just scratched the surface with this list. Perhaps in a future post I will go into greater detail with some of these applications and others that I haven’t mentioned (iWork being one of them). In the meantime, I highly recommend that you take the time to learn more about Mac OS X and the applications listed above, as well as the many others I didn’t mention.
But What About the Price?
Yes, it is true that you can always find a PC for less money than a Mac. I won’t argue with you there. But I believe you get what you pay for. Low cost generally means low quality. So, even if you obtain a dirt-cheap PC, you still have to contend with the issues mentioned above: a problematic operating system, the chance of getting very poor support, viruses and the risk of a machine that may die far sooner than you’d like.
This whole discussion boils down to this: would you rather spend a little more money and get a stable computer with a superior operating operating, or would you rather get a cheaper computer that may be fraught with issues that may continue to frustrate you and interrupt your life?
For our family, the choice was easy. Many of our friends agree. We’d would rather spend a little more money for the assurance that we will be able to confidently use our computer rather than fight with it. I think each of you want the same for yourselves. I encourage my readers to give the Apple Macintosh serious consideration. I think you’ll ultimately be very pleased and impressed.
UPDATE: The results of a survey conducted by RBC Capital Markets and ChangeWave Research revealed, among other things, that “81% of those who recently bought an Apple product in the past 90 days were “very satisfied,” while only 58% Dell Inc. buyers and 55% Hewlett-Packard Co. buyers said the same.” So now we have a 6th reason to buy an Apple Macintosh: greater user satisfaction.