Me Too - An open letter

At the risk of making an entire blog post essentially say "Me Too", I'm going to copy Gary's open letter to his family and friends, and address this to all of my family and friends, as I agree 100%. If you wish to remain on the gravy train of free tech support from me, then it's about time you start taking my advice at the time of purchase as well. I get really pissed at friends and relatives who ask me what they should buy, then ignore my advice in favor of a cheap box they found at Best Buy, but then they call me when it breaks.

This is an open letter to all the friends and family that back me into corners at family gatherings, or try to call me late in the evening seeking help with a computer problem. Do us both a big favor and go buy a Mac.

When a member of ‘the family’ knows something about a technical subject the rest of the family turns to that person for advice. I can accept that. I have no problem offering advice. I have watched my father diplomatically give advice on automobiles (he is a mechanic) for more than thirty years now. Yes, sometimes you can get some free service; it all depends on the schmoozing. The best line I ever learned from my father is: “Sounds like it really needs some work, bring it by the shop tomorrow and I’ll be happy to look at it.” The connotation here being that he’ll work on it at work. That usually throws the cheapskates off.

I don’t fix personal computers for a living or I’d use the same line. I’m a System Administrator, and while servicing desktop windows machines is part of my job on occasion, for the most part I deal with large servers and institutional workstations, i.e. not something that has the latest version of ‘Deer Hunter’ on it. Even so, yes I CAN work on PC’s. However, I work on computers all day long and really would prefer to NOT do that all night as well. Well, okay, so I’d prefer to work on my OWN computer at night.

Make both of our lives easier, as well as help me deal with those embarrassing pauses in conversation at family functions and buy yourself a Mac rather than a PC. I guarantee you’ll be happier and if you have problems I’ll be more willing to help you.

You see, what the sales person at Dell, or Best Buy, or CompUSA isn’t telling you is what you get with that wonderfully less expensive PC. They don’t tell you about the mountains of marginally compatible or functioning software. They don’t tell you about the flood of Internet spyware programs that are out there that will make your PC unstable. They don’t tell you about the legion of virus writers out there, right now, that want to turn your nice, inexpensive PC into a gateway for unsolicited e-mail. They don’t tell you about the bouncing around you’ll get from the manufacturer about support.

Yes, it is true that Macs cost more than the el-cheapo special at Best Buy. It’s also true that in three years you can sell your Mac for a reasonable sum on EBay, while you won’t be able to donate the PC to your schools because it’s so out of date. Yes, it’s true that there’s less of a selection of software for Macs, but how many $10 software titles that aren’t worth the CD’s they’re printed on do you need? Yes, Macs don’t have the breadth of games available, but if you’re buying a computer based solely on the availability of games wouldn’t you be better off buying an XBox? Yes, maybe even Macs are a bit slower, but you don’t buy a Corvette and drive at 120 miles per hour do you? What do you need with that speed? As long as it keeps up with you what’s the issue?

Here’s the thing, I know it’s been said before, but it can’t be stressed enough, Macs just work. Do you have any idea the hoops you have to jump through to get a slightly out of date, or a slightly ahead of it’s time piece of equipment working with Windows? It can be a nightmare. With a Mac, as long as you’ve bought something that says it will work with a Mac, you just plug it in and go. Unless your children are going to be Computer Scientists there’s no real reason that they HAVE to HAVE a PC at home. ‘Because that’s what the schools use,’ is not a good excuse. Do you know WHY the schools use PC’s? Because Dell gives them a BIG discount and schmooze the school administrators.

So if after all of this you still feel like you need to buy that Best Buy el-cheapo job I’ll give you this last bit of advice: Add in the cost of a Linksys firewall, the latest Norton Anti-Virus (remember that that anti-virus cost is a YEARLY fee), the hours of frustration you’re going to have trying to install that ‘Bob the Builder’ software you picked up for $5 at WalMart, and the look in your children’s eyes when you tell them “Sorry but the latest ‘bad windows virus’ ate their homework". Is it really more expensive than that Mac that more than likely will NEVER have those problems?

I'll still support Dell boxes though, they ship REAL Windows discs, keep their drivers available on their web site, and in past jobs I supported so many that it doesn't even require significant brain resources to fix one anymore. I also helped pick out several of the Dell machines my friends and family own. But if you buy anything resembling an HP Pavilion or an eMachine, you're on your own. I ain't fixin' it. If it came from Best Buy or Wal-Mart, it's crap.

I am no longer really suggesting that people get PCs though, the current SpyWare problems have really rendered the PC platform unsuitable for most home users. Sure, using Firefox and not installing crappy software will alleviate most of those problems, but most home users simply won't follow that advice.

So, to all my PC using friends and family, when it comes time to replace your current machine, my advice is this:

Go get yourself a nice new Mac Mini or an iBook. You'll have the same computer as me (I ordered a Mini yesterday, and I use a PowerBook for work), and I'll have no excuse to not help you in the unlikely event you actually need help. Don't spend your time (or mine) fixing your computer when you could be using it instead. You'll find that you can do everything you want to do, and you'll enjoy doing it more, and I'll be glad to answer your questions because they'll be rare and simple.