Pros & cons of buying my daughter an iBook

My daughter will be going to college in a couple of months and we are in the market for a laptop for her. She has decided that she would like a Mac. I have never owned one of those – our computers have always been plain old PCs with Windows.

I can’t imagine why she is so fixated on this – to me it just seems easier to just buy a damned Dell like the ones we’ve always owned, but she is stubborn as hell and has pretty much made up her mind this is what she wants.

So help me out here – what are the pros and cons to her having a different computer than ours at home? It won’t matter at her school – the computer shop there supports Macs. But at home? Will she be able to send me Word files in emails, like she likes to do (for me to proofread for her)? Will it be extra complicated for me to put a Mac on our wireless network at home? I’m buying her computer through her school and spending a good deal of money on it in hopes that it will last the whole 4 years – I want to be sure that we aren’t making a foolish purchase on a whim.

I’m no expert, but just bought a Mac for my college bound kid.
As I understand it, she wanted it because certain software she’d be using worked best on it (she’s studying music ed.)
I don’t think there should be any compatibility issues with your PCs.
If you have an Apple store near you, they will give you the same student discount as the school. In fact, ours tossed in an extra freebie or two, and you don’t have to wait for it to be mailed.

Assuming you’re running a newer version of MS Office and she’s running a newer version of MS Office (I think the last Mac version was 2004) you should have no compatibility problems there. A Mac should be easy enough to network as long as your networking hardware itself will support Macs, which you’d think would be a no-brainer (though perhaps you should stay away from linksys.)

If you’re really worried, and you’re buying a new MacBook using Intel hardware, just dual-boot it. Spend $100 on an upgrade to XP Pro (if you have a previous WinOS) or $200 on a new version, and get it running. Besides, if you’re buying a laptop, these days I’d go with the Mac over anything made by Dell, especially if you’re going to try to make one computer that can’t be upgraded last four years. I almost did it with a Dell 8100 desktop when I was in college but I still added a hard drive, new optical drives, upgraded to WinXP, and did several other things over those four years until I homebrewed my current system. The support will be better with Apple, plus a comparable MacBook vs. Dell XPS system has the MacBook cheaper.

Disclaimer: I’ve never liked laptops, can barely work on laptops, but am thinking about finally getting one. If I do, it’ll probably be a MacBook Pro and I’ll dual-boot it.

Being a proud iBook owner for almost a year now I might be a little biased but I would say that they are great laptops for a good price. You should have no trouble at all with compatability issues, Macs can run either Office for Mac or even Neo Office/J both of which use the same file formats as your PC. I have used my Mac with both my own home wireless network (all PCs besides the iBook) as well as with the network at my university with absolutely no trouble.

The only real issue that I have run into using a Mac is that I occationaly come across programs that I have to use that are only availble for Windows, but depending on what degree she is getting (even as a CS major this only came up a handful of times in four years) it may not be an issue. Even if she does run into this she can always get VirtualPC.

Full Disclosure notice: I am a Mac user. But I seriously try to be as balanced as possible, because you’re going to have to plunk down some money either way you go…

Yes. My office is a dual Mac/Windows environment and we rely on this type of interoperability.

I doubt it. Mac people connect to wireless networks at the airport and coffeeshops just like Windows users. I’ve never had a problem with this.


  • The majority of things people use their computers for (e-mail, web, Word, iTunes, Quicken) can be done on both systems.

  • It’s true that Macs are nowhere near as susceptible to viruses and spyware and malware. This is party due to the fact that such a small market share isn’t going to be targeted as much as the majority.

  • iPhoto and iWeb are really awesome — and super easy — ways to manage digital photos and make attractive quickie web sites.

  • They’re quite stable. It’s not like they never crash, but they’ are among the most solid computers out there.

  • They’re pretty cool. Not a big selling point, but this is probably the thing that is attracting your daughter. Some people buy a car for style, other people just buy one to get from Point A to Point B.


  • Things are done differently. For some people born and bred on PC’s, “differently” equals “harder” or “stupid.” If not having a Start menu in the lower left of the screen is going to perpetually perturb you, you’re going to be in for trouble. If the claims from a Mac-using stranger on a message board are worth anything, I can say that my girlfriend — a non-techie user born and bred on Windows — just switched to an iBook and is loving it enormously. But there was a small adjustment period involved.

  • You’re going to have to buy Mac versions of the Windows programs instead of installing the same program on a second machine. Granted, this is illegal anyway, but it is done all the time. Maybe this is a con and maybe not.

  • Although there is a solid application for almost all functions out there for Macs, there aren’t as many alternate programs available for the same function. Also, if you’re into some very specialized field, there is the chance specialized software for your field may not have a Mac version. See to see if there are Mac versions for your special needs.

  • But for me, the worst part is that Macs are a minority and are typically treated as such by the Windows majority.


Are you getting her an iBook (no longer available) or a MacBook (the new iBook replacement)? Because if it’s the latter, they have Intel chips and can run Windows just like any Dell can. Seriously.

Here’s the deal. This thread is going to get a bunch of passionate Windows and Mac users each saying how the other system is going to wreck your life. None of them are true. The fact is both systems have been around for over two decades because they both have great things going for them.

As a Mac user, I applaud you for taking the time to ask the questions and get the facts rather than just discount them because they’re not the status quo.

Because I really love my computer.

I have both Mac and PC at home. My desktop is PC, my laptop (which I just bought a few months ago) is a MacBook Pro. While I have had some Mac experience before, I’ve worked mainly on PCs for the past 10 years, and that’s all I’ve ever owned.

I now use my MacBook pretty much whenever possible. It is simply a joy to use. I’ve never had a computer that I’ve enjoyed using as much, so maybe these Mac fanatics are onto something. There was a slight learning curve, as the environment works a little differently, but it’s a very quick learning curve.

There were no issues integrating it with our wireless system at home. It can access the router and shared folders on the networked PCs without a problem. Microsoft Office documents, as mentioned before, are compatible between both systems (and have been for at least 10 years.)

The only cons I’ve had with Apple is they tend to be a bit more expensive than their PC counterparts, they’re not as upgradeable, and there’s a lot less software available for it. (Although all the major software you need generally will have Mac versions, and, besides, if you’re getting the Intel-based MacBook, you’ll be able to install Windows on it and run that software. Personally, I haven’t even bothered with installing Windows on my machine. I don’t need it.)

One thing we stumbled across when getting an Apple laptop for our daughter for college: Apparently the new MacBook doesn’t run Microsoft Powerpoint very well. The Microsoft Office stuff was designed for the old powerPC chips and to run on the new Intel chips it has to work through an emulator called Rosetta. Word and Excel apparently work pretty well, but Powerpoint gets really balky. Nor does Microsoft plan to update the Office suite to correct this. Go to the apple website, find the forums, and search on powerpoint.

That was enough of a deal-breaker that we got her a refurbished iBook instead. She loves it.

I also love the Apple wireless stuff; we got her wirelessly networked to our iMac using an AirPort Extreme in about fifteen minutes.

As Hey you! mentioned, the iBook is already a discontinued product line. If you’re looking for a computer to last the next four years, I would recommend against that particular computer, though the new MacBook might be a good option. An iBook is already going to be a little behind the times, and at this point is not a good investment for long-term use, IMHO.

Just to clarify… Microsoft is not revising the 2004 edition. Instead, they’re incorporating the fix into the new version currently in development.

Regarding this point, it’s worth noting Apple’s own Keynote makes awesome-looking presentations. But although you can import (i think) and export PowerPoint files with the program, I would expect details to be lost in the translation and wouldn’t recommend this for people who need cross-plaform file exchange.

Did anybody else see the Thread title as “Pros & cons of buying my daughter on EBay”?

I gotta get more sleep. :smack:

I think the most important part is that you get a computer that she wants. There are pros and cons to Macs versus Windows boxes, but most of them come down to user preference.

None of the interoperability worries that you mentioned are a big deal. Anymore, it’s only very specialized or niche uses that require one platform over the other. And if you get a Macbook, you can run Windows on it in a pinch.

Hope I don’t come off as too much of a fanboy, but I currently own a G4 desktop, Power Mac G4, and a MacBook Pro. (The iBook I bought in 2001 is screwed up but one of thesee days I’ll get around to fixing it.)

I bought my G4 tower in 1999 and my iBook in 2001. I still use the G4 tower on a semi-daily basis (though the MacBook Pro is quickly making it obsolete). The iBook was good until I destroyed the PMU by accident last year.

Upgrades that you can easily do for your Mac - memory is easy to install, and if it isn’t loaded when you buy it you will likely want more in the future. Most notebooks aren’t much for upgrading, FWIW.

With Parallels your daughter can run Windows in a window in Mac OS, which is mighty cool. Assuming she’ll be doing the Office stuff, everything can go back and forth between Mac and PC with little problem. (If you are using graphics on a Powerpoint slideshow, you might need to check to see if the images come out right on the PC if you’re working from the Mac side.)

I’ve used Powerpoint on the MacBook Pro and I didn’t notice any slowdown. It is a 2.16 GHz machine with 2 GB memory, so maybe that’s why. As Hey you! notes, I can use Keynote interchangeably with Powerpoint. I think Keynote’s better but I’ve been using Powerpoint for years.

The only thing I’ve ever envied Windows users for over the years - about sixteen since I made the switch from the 286s running Windows 3.1 - is the right click function, but I recently got a Kensington mouse that does the same thing.

One last thing - the MacBook Pro, at least, can run with the lid shut. So if you have a monitor, keyboard, and mouse, you can use it like a desktop. That’s how I use mine - it’s too big to carry around. The smaller MacBooks can probably be toted around easily, like my iBook was. But it’s nice to have a “real” computer set-up in the dorm.

Forgot to add that I’m in grad school - use the Office programs, EndNote, and some quantitative and qualitative research software that is PC only (SAS and AtlasTi). I actually bought a PC for $100 for those two programs, but I probably won’t need it once I install the programs on the MacBook Pro.

You might want to make sure she won’t need a PC for any of her college stuff. Like important classes, accessing the college network, etc. It would suck for her to have to go to the computer lab when she had a perfectly good laptop in her room.

Also if you’re a PC guy and you normally help her with computer problems, tell her you will get her a Mac if that’s what she really wants, but you’re not going to be of any help with a Mac. If you do get her a Mac laptop, the dual-boot option as described earlier would be the best of both worlds, although the whole shebang would be more expensive than a !~$655 Dell laptop.

This is irrelevant, because you can run Windows on Macs now.

<—laughing. Yeah, I did. I thought, gosh even for Straight Dope, that’s kind of out there. Hmmm. :stuck_out_tongue:

I was a dyed in the wool PC person until April 2003 when I bought a Titanium PowerBook G4. The machine has worked perfectly. The housing is a bit tattered, but how many very heavily used and heavily transported laptops can claim that they lasted 3 + years and are doing just fine? I’ve upgraded to 10.3, see no need to jump to Tiger yet with it.

Oh, a comment about getting or sending MS Word for Mac files? When you create a piece of email on a Macintosh using 10.2 or higher ( I think that OS-X 10.0 lacked this…yes? ), you have a small box at the bottom of the Attachments window that opens up so you can choose what to attach. It says, " Send Windows Friendly Attachments".

You show me a PC based piece of software that recognizes the coding needs of Macintosh computers. It ain’t out there. However, the Apple people realized that instead of demanding that only Apple machines can read only Apple software, they are open-minded enough to bring a Windows-friendly attachment option to the table.

I have sent Word, Excel, JPEG, Quicktime, and Final Cut Pro III files by email. the FCP files are read on Macs- everything else can be read with a PC if I so choose.

Cartooniverse, writing on a Macintosh Mini G4.

I give you an an anecdotal Pro: My parents bought me a Dell laptop for college, and it lasted 2 1/2 years, before dying and taking a chunk of my senior thesis with it. The iBook I bought to replace it (in 2001), still works great, and until my job provided me with a faster machine a few months ago, I still used it every single day.

A few notes, though:

What does your daughter want to do? If she’s going into creative work (design/film/architecture/etc), then a Mac usually is the best choice, however, the MacBook may not be. Either get a MacBook Pro or a PowerPC based model. The MacBooks have an integrated graphics processor, and it chokes pretty bad on pro apps, especially anything running in Rosetta. (I speak from personal experience of running Adobe CS2 on an intel Mini, which has the same set up). At the very least, boost the memory, because the graphics will eat a chunk of the system memory.

If you can avoid it, don’t buy anything until mid-August. Apple’s Developers Conference is in early august, so if there’s anything new coming out this summer, they’ll announce it there. Conventional wisdom is not to buy a Mac (or an iPod) right before WWDC or MacWorld, or you may be kicking yourself because you compromised and then they announced something perfect.

Moved to IMHO.

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