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By the way, it's worth checking a school's website before making hardware or software purchases for a student. While academic hardware discounts aren't as large as they used to be, they still can save a reasonable amount of money, especially for higher-end systems.
I would go so far as to say you need to speak personally with the specific department of the school (university or college) being considered for the latest information. This information can sometimes be hidden, obscure, not available, or, in some cases, out of date online due to the rapid pace of obsolescence. This information is best collected on school visits during the decision process. Even the model of calculator required can vary widely from discipline to discipline.

Engineering students can have a much different set of hardware and software needs even when compared to similar disciplines within the department, depending on the school. At Penn State, for example, the College of Engineering has the following guidelines. Note how the Architectural and Biomedical Engineering departments have slightly different requirements, and that none of them mention Linux at all.

At Carnegie Mellon, they take a slightly different approach, and include Linux support in a similar department.

Most all institutions of higher education still maintain large computer labs scattered around campus for student use containing all the software a student may need outside of the basics. It should be of importance for the student to familiarize themselves with these in case of problems with their personally owned hardware.

Which brings me to my final recommendation. Where will the student get technical support or repairs when away from home? If bringing Apple hardware, is there an Apple Store local to the school? How does the student get there if needed? Does the school itself provide onsite warranty service? Regardless, it is best to purchase an AppleCare plan for such needs. In the case of Penn State, there is no Apple Store within hours of the campus. Choosing a Windows laptop from Dell or Lenovo may get you onsite warranty repairs depending on the policy selected at the time of purchase.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch


Thanks, Ric and James, for your input. I have definitely been thinking along the lines of a Mac Mini. The other thing is, for MainStage work, the Mini actually would be portable, with a smaller display. I always have to plug in my laptop anyway when using MainStage, since a 4-hour gig, with 4 MIDI devices and untold audio processing, would leave laptop's battery in the dust before the end of the second set, if it lasted that long. I already have a 2015 MacBook Air 11" as a spare, and may eventually upgrade that to a new 13" MacBook Air.
Please consider a small UPS for field work with a Mini. Riding through power glitches is the main advantage of the laptop battery. You won't have that with the Mini. And you don't want to tell anyone that you lost their performance because the power flickered.
 


I think that goes without saying, and my understanding is that Microsoft has advanced security software built into Windows 10, as well as auto-updates (which, of course, have had issues of their own). What additional Windows anti-virus software do you recommend?
I would highly recommend Malwarebytes.
 


Please consider a small UPS for field work with a Mini.
Or a big one, if you have the money.

My home server is a Mac Mini. I have it attached to an APC SmartUPS 1500 (SMT1500). Including a few external hard drives, an LCD monitor and some network gear (cable modem and router), I have over 90 minutes of run-time.

This is enough to ride out most power outages, and for the longer ones, I have plenty of time to finish my work and shut down. And Apple's Energy Saver control panel recognizes it when the USB cable is attached, so it will auto-shutdown when the battery runs below 10%.
 



One other tip for college purchases: if you buy through the campus stores (which usually have decent deals), you may not have to pay sales tax. Worth checking out!
 



If I were to use that UPS for a gig using the Mac Mini and MainStage, it would weigh more than the rest of my performance rig combined!
I wouldn't consider trying to carry it - it weighs far too much to be portable.

For such a situation, the best (but sadly, far from inexpensive) solution would be to get a rack-mountable UPS and bolt it onto the bottom space of a road-case A/V rack (along with other gear, like your amplifier and mixer). As long as the rack is on wheels (so you or your roadie don't get a hernia), it could be good solution.
 


Apple’s prices are outpacing not only inflation but also other gadget makers. Yet would switching be worth the cost?
Washington Post said:
Your Apple products are getting more expensive. Here’s how they get away with it.
Apple has never made cheap stuff. But this fall many of its prices increased 20 percent or more. The MacBook Air went from $1,000 to $1,200. A Mac Mini leaped from $500 to $800. It felt as though the value proposition that has made Apple products no-brainers might unravel.

For some perspective, we charted out the past few years of prices on a few iconic Apple products. Then we compared them with other brands and some proprietary data about Americans’ phone purchase habits from mobile analytics firm BayStreet Research .

What we learned: Being loyal to Apple is getting expensive. Many Apple product prices are rising faster than inflation — faster, even, than the price of prescription drugs or going to college. Yet when Apple offers cheaper options for its most important product, the iPhone, Americans tend to take the more expensive choice. So while Apple isn’t charging all customers more, it’s definitely extracting more money from frequent upgraders.
 


Apple’s prices are outpacing not only inflation but also other gadget makers. Yet would switching be worth the cost?
It's Apple's version of the subscription plan. Get people invested in the system - iTunes, iCloud, App Store etc - and once they're hooked, jack the prices up.

It's trivial for Apple to 'force' people to upgrade by bombarding them with system updates that either deprecate their existing hardware or exclude them from security or new features.
New phone? You need the new iTunes and a new machine to run it on.

It's no different to banks and insurance companies. They figure they can put the prices up as much as they want, because people think it's too much trouble to 'switch.'
 


It's Apple's version of the subscription plan.
I've been running an architectural company for more than 30 years. I've purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gear from Apple. The following comments are based on that experience and are my very abbreviated thoughts on buying Apple products:

Rule #1: Never ever buy the latest and greatest. Incremental improvements are most often very minor, after all. The performance delta is barely noticed, except by the heaviest users. Other office users are usually provided hand-me-downs from workstations; nowadays any Mac will wallop any spreadsheet or word processing document. (Apple's lionization of a dark background exemplifies just how difficult it is to obtain real performance gains.)

Rule #2: Upgrading is more often driven by compatibility, either hardware or software. A five-year-old Mac is stunningly capable, unless (giving two examples out of many) you need Thunderbolt 3, or unless iWeb just will not run.

Rule #3: This is the Big Magilla - buy refurbs, and always buy the Apple Protection Plan. Refurbs, walking hand in hand with Rule #1, take the edge off the price delta that accompanies Macs.
 


A testament to Apple longevity: my 2006 white MacBook still runs perfectly, though it's on its third fan and second battery, owing to heavy use. With a modified ISO from Matt Gadient, I converted it to a MintBook, now running the latest 64-bit Linux Mint Cinnamon. No speed demon, but it would be a fine backup machine for email and web browsing if my Mac Mini goes down....
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
  1. As a quintessential example of abusive behavior, you can't say "no." Apple won't let you stop its very forceful demands for confusing and problematic "upgrades", Apple ID, iCloud, and 2FA (with its Apple device dependencies), its invisible A.I. "photo analysis" daemon, various forms of advertising, and you can't even remove unwanted Apple apps.
  2. Apple's pricing for memory and storage upgrades is abusive.
  3. Apple's confusing hide-and-seek user interfaces are abusive.
  4. Apple lies to customers in Apple Stores are blatently abusive.
  5. Apple "stonewalling" on product defects is extremely abusive.
  6. (Apple's treatment of developers and partners also offers examples of various abuses.)
7. Apple forcing unwanted content onto customers' devices without asking permission: quintessential abusive behavior.
8. Apple's treatment of independent resellers and repair shops, forcing most of them out of business.
10. Sherlocking Apple developers.​
#abuse #appleabuse
 



I've been running an architectural company for more than 30 years. I've purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gear from Apple.
....
Rule #3: This is the Big Magilla - buy refurbs, and always buy the Apple Protection Plan. Refurbs, walking hand in hand with Rule #1, take the edge off the price delta that accompanies Macs.
I would echo similar feelings about system purchases for medium-sized businesses, except for the last item. Refurbs are super, but if you are buying multiple multiples of Apple hardware, then the statistics strongly favour not paying for AppleCare. On average you will not pay more for repairs than you pay in AppleCare premiums, and people who buy a lot of Apple hardware have enough "on average" purchases to ensure that they will come out ahead. "Self insurance" is really the way to go. I generally recommend that if you are going to purchase five or more systems from Apple over the long haul (and most families hit this mark fairly easily, businesses even more so), you are better off forgoing the AppleCare.

Of course, it doesn't feel like a smart decision when you are stuck with a multi-hundred-dollar repair bill. You have to keep reminding yourself that you would have been worse off paying for many multiple-hundred dollar AppleCare purchases over the years.

If a system craps out in the first year and gets repaired under the "standard" coverage, I tell people that in that situation it might be ok to buy the extended coverage, but even then, I suspect that the numbers still come out in Apple's favour for most businesses.
 


I would echo similar feelings about system purchases for medium-sized businesses, except for the last item. Refurbs are super, but if you are buying multiple multiples of Apple hardware, then the statistics strongly favour not paying for AppleCare. On average you will not pay more for repairs than you pay in AppleCare premiums, and people who buy a lot of Apple hardware have enough "on average" purchases to ensure that they will come out ahead. "Self insurance" is really the way to go. I generally recommend that if you are going to purchase five or more systems from Apple over the long haul (and most families hit this mark fairly easily, businesses even more so), you are better off forgoing the AppleCare.

Of course, it doesn't feel like a smart decision when you are stuck with a multi-hundred-dollar repair bill. You have to keep reminding yourself that you would have been worse off paying for many multiple-hundred dollar AppleCare purchases over the years.

If a system craps out in the first year and gets repaired under the "standard" coverage, I tell people that in that situation it might be ok to buy the extended coverage, but even then, I suspect that the numbers still come out in Apple's favour for most businesses.
...unless you buy any MacBook/Pro with a butterfly keyboard; then you have a $700 repair bill in your future. Bank on it.
 


...unless you buy any MacBook/Pro with a butterfly keyboard; then you have a $700 repair bill in your future. Bank on it.
Not quite true though. Apple will cover your butterfly keyboard repairs costs for 4 years from purchase (and that's longer than AppleCare would cover you). Accordingly, you should make sure to sell on and upgrade any eligible MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro model within that 4 year period. Given Apple's current pushy nature for software/OS/security updates and forced obsolescence practices, that's probably not that difficult to plan for.
 


Not quite true though. Apple will cover your butterfly keyboard repairs costs for 4 years from purchase (and that's longer than AppleCare would cover you). Accordingly, you should make sure to sell on and upgrade any eligible MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro model within that 4 year period. Given Apple's current pushy nature for software/OS/security updates and forced obsolescence practices, that's probably not that difficult to plan for.
Graham, you've actually made my point: A Mac with the butterfly keyboard is essentially worthless at the four year mark unless you can find a sucker to take it off your hands for something($) before the keyboard fails yet again. In the case of a low-end 15" MacBook Pro selling today for $2400, that means you are essentially renting it for $600 per year but hoping you can recover some of that expense if another poor soul is willing to accept an inevitable $700 repair on a machine that's past the four-year-old mark; although I suppose you might simply discount the value of the machine by that $700 when you sell it. The invisible hand will probably do this for you.
 



A testament to Apple longevity: my 2006 white MacBook still runs perfectly, though it's on its third fan and second battery, owing to heavy use. With a modified ISO from Matt Gadient, I converted it to a MintBook, now running the latest 64-bit Linux Mint Cinnamon. No speed demon, but it would be a fine backup machine for email and web browsing if my Mac Mini goes down....
I would be interested in that modified ISO from Matt Gadient if you could point me in the general direction! Thanks.
 




I've heard good things about Apple refurbs, but then I saw this video and cringed at how well Apple "refurbished" it.
Apple uses water damaged boards in Apple refurbished devices
The majority of Apple products I've bought since around 1995 have been Apple-direct refurbs. I don't doubt that it's possible Apple and (especially) third-party refurbishers cut corners, but I haven't had any problems at all with:
beige G3 tower​
iPod Touch, 3rd or 4th generation​
iPad Mini​
iPad Mini 2​
iPad Mini 4​
2017 iMac​

And don't forget Apple not only provides its standard 1 year warranty on refurbs but also sells AppleCare for them. So, I think it would be pretty self defeating for Apple to sell shecky refurbs.
 


7. Apple forcing unwanted content onto customers' devices without asking permission: quintessential abusive behavior.​
I am rebuilding a Mac Mini Mid-2010 (Mac Mini 4,1), building it from Snow Leopard to High Sierra, one update at a time, just, well, because. I had just installed an SSD, and wanted to play.

I'm not using previous downloads (of which I have saved installers for each major macOS release from 10.3-ish up), but instead installed from the Snow Leopard DVD and downloaded each OS from a new download direct from the Mac App Store. Again, well, just because.

After installing Yosemite (10.10.5) I had the machine auto-check for updates. I saw 4 updates noted under the single Update button, so I clicked the More button to see what each suggested update was listed for a base Yosemite 10.10.5 install: it listed Safari, Remote Desktop client, a Yosemite Security update, and... macOS High Sierra (10.13)!
 


I am rebuilding a Mac Mini Mid-2010 (Mac Mini 4,1), building it from Snow Leopard to High Sierra, one update at a time, just, well, because. I had just installed an SSD, and wanted to play. I'm not using previous downloads (of which I have saved installers for each major macOS release from 10.3-ish up), but instead installed from the Snow Leopard DVD and downloaded each OS from a new download direct from the Mac App Store. Again, well, just because.
After installing Yosemite (10.10.5) I had the machine auto-check for updates. I saw 4 updates noted under the single Update button, so I clicked the More button to see what each suggested update was listed for a base Yosemite 10.10.5 install: it listed Safari, Remote Desktop client, a Yosemite Security update, and... macOS High Sierra (10.13)!
Other than to play and see what is installed — and this is fine for learning — if your intention was to get to a specific OSX version, then the recommended procedure is to install that version only. Otherwise, you end up with extra system files from previous versions that don't get cleaned up.

Also keep in mind that starting with macOS 10.13 or higher, the file system changed from Mac OS Extended (HFS+) to APFS, which can affect whether older apps work or not. Plus, make sure that you have some kind of backup, whether Time Machine or clone, because currently there are no tools to repair APFS volumes if directories get corrupted.

Again, Apple's not giving the developers the necessary technical documentation for APFS, etc.
 



While I do have tremendous respect for the Linux aficionados, the lack of certain specific categories of professional-level software available only from commercial, for-profit developers makes Linux a nice stop-gap OS between unsupported in macOS and the recycling center - nice for a hand-me-down machine with few requirements other than Web, email, and LibreOffice. (I've opined on this elsewhere on MacInTouch and won't repeat the specifics here.)

What I've done for otherwise-decent Macs for which Mojave is not an option is install Windows 10, so they remain updated security-wise from an OS vendor (which Linux can do but macOS can't) and can take advantage of commercial software whose developers have not seen fit to make available in Linux.
 


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