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Sun Sep 16, 2012, 07:34 PM

I need help with new Mac for my parents...

Last edited Tue Nov 13, 2012, 03:53 AM - Edit history (4)

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November 13, 2012

OK, folks, I'd been away for while in part because I did go forward and buy the the iMac for my parents. I went with the 27"-er! What I did was tell my parents to go to the local Best Buy and ask them to show them the 21" one because I could not afford the 27".

My mom said it was good. She also really like using the trackpad.

So, I went and ordered teh 27" without telling her, and made the Best Buy people swear that they would say to her that it is a 21". And the fellow from my parent's church as well.

I also bought a new wireless inkjet printer and Time Capsule.

I know somebody did recommend color-laser, but one requirement I came to realize while talking to my parents was that the one thing they hated about the last printer I left was all of the buttons and options. It was confusing and they would botch up the configuration rendering it useless. And walking them through how to bring it back was quite painful for them. And could take hours for me.

Anyway, she was super gleeful when she saw the display. I made sure that I got the Apple Care on a 3 year contract and everything.

Now the fun part.

I talked with Apple's service people and they said that they could help my parents out via screen sharing as part of the service. So, I went and told my mom about this.

Then she says, "So, can you do that with us like you used to with the old computer?"
"No, Mom."...
"Why not."
"Different OS."
"I really wish that you could connect and help us on the screen like you used to..."

Ahhh crap!!! And with that, I went to the local electronics show here in Japan and bought an entire Mac Mini setup that matches my parents (minus a printer, and the fact that I use a Japanese keyboard).

Connected it via HDMI to my 37"?... I can't remember... but it is plenty big) flat screen TV.


Set it up so that all menus and dialogs would be in English to match my parent's experience, but still let me type in Japanese whenever I want to.

And after a quite a lot of trying... then waiting for my mom to get better from being sick... and Super Storm Hurricane Sandy + Nor'easater and the follow-up Nor'easter... and more than a week without power.... we finally got screensharing to work last night.

I spent quite a lot of time (4 hours) walking her through things, cleaning stuff up, helping her use GoogleEarth to see her hometown (yes... even with screensharing, it worked... I say the ocean shimmering and everything.). She was really happy about that. When the Linux system went unstable a couple of years ago, it would still run, but the graphics card wouldn't go to high performance mode. Result: GoogleEarth stopped working.

Now she is happy.

I am actually quite happy with the Mac. The service people are really good. The computer takes care of itself, really. And the horsepower is good. Heck, thanks to it, I didn't have to buy a DVD player.

So, Mac is the way to go for a supportable environment even when you are half a world away.

I use Linux for myself and for my devel -- I do quite a bit of Java and need an environment that faithfully keeps up with updates to the latest and greatest version of the JDK. Linux does that for me and does it will. And the Linux environment is really completely under my control. The only limitation is my own level of understanding and time.

But for relaxing and doing online cloud-based document stuff, the Mac is quite nice. Big screen, easy to see.

And when I need GoogleEarth, I can run GoogleEarth on the Mac Mini full screen and still use my twin display Linux machine for documents work and other research.

All is good.

Anyway, thanks for the input. You can add me to the Mac fold.

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My parents have been running on Linux since forever.

I set them up with a GNOME environment and they have been happy with it for years.

The problem is that I have been living overseas...
The computer I let with them has finally come to see its last days (hey, all hardware meets its end someday, right?)...

They really wish I could return from overseas and build up a new Linux system for them, but I can't.
They totally *do not want Windows*. (Please, don't suggest this...).
Please do not suggest Linux.
We are already Linux users and know the pros and cons.
If you feel that you must suggest Linux anyway, send it to me via direct message and do not post to the thread ーーー I'd be happy to explain to you directly why your Linux solution is completely unworkable.

My parents are not techies at all.

So, here is what I was thinking of doing and I would like to know from you folks if I have the right idea or if I am totally missing the mark. Here it goes:

* Buy my parents a new 21" iMac.
* Buy a good All-In-One printer (I was thinking HP... any suggestions)
* Pay a service to install the iMac and printer to their network and migrate their documents and emails to the iMac .
* Also *anti-virus*... any good suggestions would be useful. (Edit)
* Have the tech service configure my parents iMac and network (router) to allow me to remote desktop to them so I can help them out. (I used to do this with Linux).
* BONUS POINTS: Have the tech service configure it so that I can ssh into their iMac. Then I could configure things like remote backups and set up cron jobs and such.

* Purchase a Mac OS X 10.6 Mountain Lion on DVD (I can't seem to find the link for it at apple.com ... does anybody know how to buy the OS on DVD?)
* Using VirtualBox on my Linux system, create a virtual machine and install the OS there.

The reason for me running my own copy of Mac OS X in a virtual machine on my system is so that I can get used to Mac OS X... try things out *before* I give my parents advice on what to do... and do desktop sharing if Mac OS X is Mac specific, I would have my own running copy of the OS that I could use to do the desktop sharing.

This whole adventure is *very* expensive for me.
But I have to do it.

My only issue with Mac: the menu always at the top of the screen. It confuses me.
I talked with my Mom and asked her if she could get used to that change and she feels that she could... so I am willing to go forward.

I am technical.
Just far away from home.
So, please, don't hold back... whatever I don't understand, I'll ask about.


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Arrow 17 replies Author Time Post
Reply I need help with new Mac for my parents... (Original post)
6502 Sep 2012 OP
NYC_SKP Sep 2012 #1
Stinky The Clown Sep 2012 #2
BabbaTam Sep 2012 #3
6502 Sep 2012 #4
cprise Sep 2012 #6
6502 Sep 2012 #7
6502 Sep 2012 #8
cbayer Sep 2012 #5
6502 Sep 2012 #9
sir pball Sep 2012 #10
6502 Sep 2012 #13
Stinky The Clown Sep 2012 #11
6502 Sep 2012 #14
sir pball Sep 2012 #16
Poiuyt Sep 2012 #12
6502 Sep 2012 #15
sir pball Sep 2012 #17

Response to 6502 (Original post)

Sun Sep 16, 2012, 07:53 PM

1. Sounds like a good plan, reliable good and easy to remote support.


Through desktop sharing or remote desktop, if you can set that up, should be terrific.

My only advice would be to go with a laser versus inkjet printer, they now make all-in-ones at a good price and the toner carts outlast ink carts.

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Response to 6502 (Original post)

Sun Sep 16, 2012, 08:32 PM

2. Your general plan sounds good. Macs almost "install" themselves.

For the printer, we are very happy with a Brother MFC-9970CDW all in one color laser.

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Response to BabbaTam (Reply #3)

Sun Sep 16, 2012, 09:29 PM

4. I had considered that...

... the problem is support.

With a Mac I could call a tech service to visit them and set them up.

I haven't researched it yet, but doesn't Apple provide in home service?

My parents would be able to receive free help from other relatives, too. Not just me at what for me is 3am Japan-time.

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Response to 6502 (Reply #4)

Sun Sep 16, 2012, 11:40 PM

6. I'm pretty sure you have to go to an Apple store

You are much more likely to get in-house service from those Linux vendors he listed. Many PC vendors have service contracts with on-site technician outfits like Unisys and TRW (even my cheapo TigerDirect system got a house call).

I own a couple Macs and all I ever heard of was shipping RMA or going to the Apple store. No house calls from Apple.

Also, Apple has become very restrictive about how OS X is distributed which is why you can no longer find it (other than upgrades) in their online store. For the most part, even getting a full working copy of it is tied to having a physical Mac. You might have to turn to a bootleg, hacked copy to get it to work within a VM, and that will be missing all of the creative/productivity apps that usually come with a Mac.

The main challenge with Linux in this context is that if you really want to help them out yourself, and you are not running your own OS that is the exact same distro and release version as your parents are, then telling them how to navigate through some mundane processes could be next to impossible.

But I recommend that you save them the $$$ and get them a pre-installed Linux system. Tracking their distro version wouldn't be that difficult, IMO.

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Response to cprise (Reply #6)

Response to cprise (Reply #6)

Mon Sep 17, 2012, 06:03 AM

8. In that case it looks like GeekSquad again...

... they do offer in home support.

And the fellows they sent to do their iPad and wireless network setup were really spot on.
After I gave them a long-in for my parents Linux box, they configured printer's network settings correctly and everything.

So, it looks like I will be using them again.

I can't go with a distro.

I need something that others can support.
Something that others can help with.

Not just me.
Not just GeekSquad.

If I get her a Mac, one of my sisters who lives a couple of states away could still help her out because she uses Macs at work... she's used it them.

And anybody else that uses Mac could answer her questions.

And if something gets dicey, I can call GeekSquad and know that everything will be under a single service contract.

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Response to 6502 (Original post)

Sun Sep 16, 2012, 09:37 PM

5. Macs are intuitive and easy to use, in my experience.

Switching is not difficult and support is available.

If my 82 year old father and step-mother can do it, anyone can.

Your plan sounds good, but I'm not even sure you need to do as much as you are thinking you would need to.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #5)

Mon Sep 17, 2012, 06:11 AM

9. But I really worry....

... about how to deal with things like "where is the..."?

Screen sharing is important for that.

Even that they used GNOME, I still have to help them with the use of the taskbar.
They are comfortable with a pull-down menu for launching applications... but have never gotten used to the list of running application pull down list.

And because I am not a Mac user, unless I have at least a running edition in a virtual machine, I won't know that clicking a certain thing will do a certain thing. Or even that it is there much of the time.

If I cannot get a legal copy of Mac OS X, then I might have to just bite the bullet to purchase a Mac Mini and set it up here.

I have to make it so that it is easy for them.

$50 for an OS DVD and running it a VM would have been perfect for that.

Maybe an older version of Mac OS X on DVD would suffice... I'm not sure.

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Response to 6502 (Original post)

Mon Sep 17, 2012, 10:09 AM

10. You can neither buy nor virtualize OS X.

OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard was the last version available on full installation media - 10.7 Lion and 10.8 Mountain Lion can both be installed "clean" (i.e. on an empty hard drive as the first and only instance of an OS, not as an upgrade to an older version), but as of right now you need an existing 10.6+ installation as the Mac App Store is the only way to legally purchase Mountain Lion. Lion was available on a USB key, but Apple no longer offers that option for Mountain Lion.

It's a moot point anyway; virtualization is only licensed using VMWare on OS X 10.7 Lion or 10.8 Mountain Lion as a host and 10.5 Leopard Server or 10.6 Snow Leopard Server as a guest OS. Running OS X in any form, virtualized or not, on anything other than Apple hardware is strictly forbidden by Apple. Of course, if you were inclined to disregard SLA/EULAs, there's no technical problems with virtualizing 10.8. You can very easily find VMWare disk images with Mountain Lion already installed, all you have to do is plug and chug.

That being said, I would just have your parents buy a box and install a basic distro, then talk them through getting VNC up and running and go from there. It's what I've done with my dad and it worked flawlessly. Ideally, have the box shipped to you, get it completely set up, and then ship it back home, but that might be a little impractical.

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Response to sir pball (Reply #10)

Tue Sep 18, 2012, 03:39 AM

13. lic: I see... shipping: very impractical

My plan was to go the legal route, so it looks like I wont be going virtual machine route.

Shipping: expensive from here. I would need all of the hardware shipped to me here in Japan:

* computer
* monitor
* all-in-one laser printer
* webcam so they can skype (pray that it works with Linux)
* wireless keyboard
* wireless mouse

Do full integration and testing.
Disassemble everything and pack for delivery.
Pay to ship the whole thing (hundreds of $$$).
Pay appropriate customs fees and taxes.

And finally when it all arrives in the US, my almost 80 year old parents get to try to reassemble the whole thing.

That wont work.

I really need to make it really clear to people that we do not want neither Windows or Linux.

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Response to 6502 (Original post)

Mon Sep 17, 2012, 11:03 AM

11. Buy them a subscription to Apple Care when you buy the new Mac.

There are two issues - hardware and software. Most Mac problems arise from people not understanding the software. Apple Care will support anything made by Apple. And Apple Care subscription will cover 99% of any issues that arise.

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Response to Stinky The Clown (Reply #11)

Tue Sep 18, 2012, 04:06 AM

14. Ooo... this is good...

I definitely need a solution like this.

My parents could call them for software help (where are my bookmarks, can't find the photo from my garden, etc).

And my parents need answers on US-time --- not Japan-time.

This eliminates my original virtual machine requirement and satisfies the software leg of the support problem.


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Response to Stinky The Clown (Reply #11)

Tue Sep 18, 2012, 08:38 AM

16. Better yet, get them One-to-One

One to One will help you do more than you ever thought possible with your new Mac. First, we’ll set up your email, transfer your photos, music, and other files, and show you how to keep everything in sync with iCloud. Then, we’ll work with you to create a curriculum tailored to your goals, learning style, and experience level.


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Response to 6502 (Original post)

Mon Sep 17, 2012, 09:42 PM

12. Anti-virus?

I've been using Macs since 1988 without any antivirus software and have never had a problem. I know there have been some malware that has worked against Macs in a lab environment, but in the real world, I don't think you have to worry about it.

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Response to Poiuyt (Reply #12)

Tue Sep 18, 2012, 04:17 AM

15. I appreciate your good fortune, but...

... while malware reports are not as numerous as Microsoft, Mac is the #2 most popular target.

The cost associated with a loss due to malware is high for me. I would be forced to pay technicians to show up at their home to recover and clean everything. Too expensive.

That, said, I understand that you do not use anti-virus, but what anti-virus is popular amongst the people who do choose to use it in your circles?

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Response to Poiuyt (Reply #12)

Tue Sep 18, 2012, 08:39 AM

17. Meh

Sophos and ClamXAV are free and lightweight, I run them as a sort of Pascal's Wager.

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