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Old 06-22-2012, 08:52 AM   #91
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It is not possible for a file to wreak havoc on its own in iOS, since all apps have to be signed from Apple, massively lowering the chances of something going wrong.
I wouldn't go as far as not possible, it's unlikely, but still possible. For example the iOS PDF exploit where just viewing a PDF on the web could root your device and take full control. Patched, but for a while was a threat.

What you usually won't find, is popping any old executable on the device and running it to "infect" it. Since everything has to be signed (the one app that allowed running of unsigned code and was pulled not withstanding).

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There are absolutely no virus' available for OSX, and as long as you use sensible approaches to downloading things from the shady sides of the internet, ie. not installing trojans (And to that extent - Any app that requires your admin password for installation, which doesn't belong to a trusted source, is a no no), there is absolutely no way your machine will get harmed.
If by virus you stick rigidly to the original definition of the word, then it's likely true. But if you expand that to include malware such as trojans or worms, then it's not. There's less of it, certainly, but that is likely just down to user base.

The malware that targets the Mac tends to be trojans or worms (which is where windows malware is moving to as well). There's an argument for installing virus software if the virus firms are updating their definitions quick enough when new trojans are found. However, on any OS, trojans are a bit of a losing battle as you can only be protected against the old/known ones.

You're reasonably secure as long as you stick to "safe" sites. However, not absolutely secure. See the flashback issue that used a java exploit to nestle malware into the user account and in some cases also gained root access. With XSS, even "safe" sites can be used to hit your machine.

Had users been running scanners, then once the "exploit" was known about, those scanners may have been updated in time to prevent additional users getting infected. Whilst Apple issued a patch quickly when it became public knowledge that the exploit was been used by criminals, they had dragged their feet for a few months not pushing a java security fix Sun had issued.

I don't think Mac users have all that much to worry about when it comes to Virus', however, Virus' are no longer the norm for targetting machines, it's worms and trojans. Both of which can impact the mac just as readily as they can windows, as in both cases they focus on either user flaws or OS/app exploits. Which both platforms have in ready supply.

Gatekeeper should help to an extent. Although windows has had something similar for a while and devs/users have been slow to adopt it. Maybe Apple will be able to push adoption of it better than MS managed.

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Old 06-22-2012, 09:05 PM   #92
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...The malware that targets the Mac tends to be trojans or worms (which is where windows malware is moving to as well). There's an argument for installing virus software if the virus firms are updating their definitions quick enough when new trojans are found….

Had users been running scanners, then once the "exploit" was known about, those scanners may have been updated in time to prevent additional users getting infected. Whilst Apple issued a patch quickly when it became public knowledge that the exploit was been used by criminals, they had dragged their feet for a few months....

I don't think Mac users have all that much to worry about when it comes to Virus', however, Virus' are no longer the norm for targetting machines, it's worms and trojans. Both of which can impact the mac just as readily as they can windows, as in both cases they focus on either user flaws or OS/app exploits. Which both platforms have in ready supply.

Gatekeeper should help to an extent. Although windows has had something similar for a while and devs/users have been slow to adopt it. Maybe Apple will be able to push adoption of it better than MS managed.
I learned more about malware threats and protection for OS X and iOS the last couple of days, by googling (for example) "malware threats Mac", "malware threats iOS", "security software comparison", "Mac antivirus software comparison". Security isn't as simple as it used to be, what with mobile devices, computer, and various servers sharing/syncing files and information back and forth. I expect malware threats to OS X and iOS will increase rather than decrease, despite Gatekeeper and sandboxing.

I'm thinking about switching when my time-period with ESET expires, from ESET Cybersecurity for Mac to Intego VirusBarrier X6 ($49.99, Mac), which seems to be rated higher and have more features. Also Intego VirusBarrier iOS ($2.99, iPhone/iPad) addresses the vulnerability of passing malware back to computer from iOS devices.
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Old 06-23-2012, 04:01 AM   #93
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I wouldn't go as far as not possible, it's unlikely, but still possible. For example the iOS PDF exploit where just viewing a PDF on the web could root your device and take full control. Patched, but for a while was a threat.
Maybe I should have been more descriptive; Files can't execute malicious commands on their own, they require applications with flaws in order to do it, as is the case of the PDF exploit you mention. It takes advantage of a loop hole in the PDF viewer built into the system.

So in order to hit wide with a trojan, you must target applications that all have, ie. Apples own apps that come with the system, and in those cases when discovered, they will be fixed.

Files that target random applications greatly decrease their success rate, and is thus not worth targeting in most cases, and a waste of time to construct.

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If by virus you stick rigidly to the original definition of the word, then it's likely true.
I do.
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But if you expand that to include malware such as trojans or worms, then it's not. There's less of it, certainly, but that is likely just down to user base.
That's also what I wrote.

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There's an argument for installing virus software if the virus firms are updating their definitions quick enough when new trojans are found.
Until we actually see a proof of concept virus for OSX, its a pointless argument. Then you might as well protect it against rampant unicorns..

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You're reasonably secure as long as you stick to "safe" sites. However, not absolutely secure. See the flashback issue that used a java exploit to nestle malware into the user account and in some cases also gained root access. With XSS, even "safe" sites can be used to hit your machine.
Definitely. But I see it as pointless to waste time to spend resources to protect myself in the extremely unlikely case that I actually get hit by an exploit. And even if I do get hit, then the few things that I have on my machine that are sensitive, are already encrypted, and thus I don't really care.

But then again, I know what to be aware of when surfing the net, so that might account a lot for my attitude towards the problem. For Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, it would be best to advice them not to go for the shady sites.

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Gatekeeper should help to an extent. Although windows has had something similar for a while and devs/users have been slow to adopt it. Maybe Apple will be able to push adoption of it better than MS managed.
I think Apple will push for it quite aggressively, since it works so well with iOS. Heck, it is absolutely required for apps to be signed, if they are to be sold through the Mac App store, so if you get all your software there, then you don't have much to care about.
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Old 06-23-2012, 10:17 AM   #94
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Maybe I should have been more descriptive; Files can't execute malicious commands on their own, they require applications with flaws in order to do it, as is the case of the PDF exploit you mention. It takes advantage of a loop hole in the PDF viewer built into the system.
I agree, on iOS it's either signed or not running. On ML that will also soon be the case too if you want it.

There's still the risk of drive-by downloads though, such as the flash back/pdf and other exploits. There was a case a while back where the Spotify client displayed a malicious advert that caused computers to be infected. Now chances are AV wouldn't help any of those initially infected, however once new definitions rolled out, if Spotify had still not pulled the ad, or if a similar exploit was repeated using other sites, people would be protected.

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So in order to hit wide with a trojan, you must target applications that all have, ie. Apples own apps that come with the system, and in those cases when discovered, they will be fixed.
I agree, as long as Apple fix the problems promptly. The java exploit was known about and left un-patched for months, despite Sun having issued a security update. Also users can be partly to blame, those who were running old out of date versions of MS office on the Mac were recently hit.

Of course AV would only help protect against anything found using that exploit if it's already known. If the malware makers were sloppy and reused known malware but just updated the way it infects the PC then that might be the case.

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I think Apple will push for it quite aggressively, since it works so well with iOS. Heck, it is absolutely required for apps to be signed, if they are to be sold through the Mac App store, so if you get all your software there, then you don't have much to care about.
I hope they do. Whilst I don't want it to reach the point where I can't install unsigned (or at least self-signed) apps on my Mac, it'll be a lot better when the majority of apps people download are signed. I had a quick google and it sounds like Gatekeeper will by default only allow installation of Apps from the App Store, with options to make it allow dev ID signed apps or unsigned apps for users that need it.

At least it'll cut out the major vector for malware, users downloading trojans. Probably still be cases of it, but Apple should then pull the developers certs. As for malware/worms that get in via exploits. I see AV as offering some protection against that, but at the same time IF app/OS developers react quickly to all security reports, the usefulness of AV would diminish.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying every Mac user needs additional AV. I just think you can argue for or against just as easily at the moment. So those who don't run it are no more in the wrong than those who do.

Also for what it's worth, Mac users do run a limited AV scanner by default as Apple have one built into the OS that they update definitions for now and then.

Edit: Could be wrong on the default for GateKeeper, it may be defaulted to the middle option, any signed. Conflicting reports in the sites that are talking about it.

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Old 06-23-2012, 07:54 PM   #95
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But then again, I know what to be aware of when surfing the net, so that might account a lot for my attitude towards the problem. For Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, it would be best to advice them not to go for the shady sites.
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Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying every Mac user needs additional AV. I just think you can argue for or against just as easily at the moment. So those who don't run it are no more in the wrong than those who do.
ESET Cybersecurity identified 30 malware incidents on my Mac while scanning downloads during the past 2 years. Admittedly some of my downloading was on the shady side. I suspect most or all of those malware items were targeted specifically at Windows systems, so probably wouldn't have harmed me and my "Mac life" directly. But eventually those Windows-specific threats may have caused harm on Windows PCs of family or friends that my Mac occasionally interacts with. Or eventually, if I put Windows back on my Mac, they could have caused problems there.

Since I'm neither a saint nor particularly tech-savvy in the computer security arena, to me operating without a good malware scanner would be similar to skydiving without a reserve parachute, picking a fight in a Harley biker bar because I'm an obnoxious Ducati rider, or not bothering to innoculate myself if I were a doctor or nurse working an infectious ward in the hospital. Just because there are currently few threats targeted at OS X doesn't mean there won't be more in future. I also don't want to aid and abet hackers targeting PCs, through my own security-related ignorance or Mac-oriented arrogance.

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Old 06-24-2012, 04:23 PM   #96
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Norton for Mac caught a couple of threats on my iMac. One in a folder maintained by my son, and later one in a folder maintained by my grandson. It was unable to clean either file, however, so I deleted them manually as soon as scans revealed their presence.
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Old 06-25-2012, 10:32 PM   #97
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My niece thanks you all for your information, recommendations, opinions, and discussion of issues regarding what technology would be useful for her to take to college. Your posts helped her be more informed in making her own decisions about what to buy and how much to spend.

A few days ago she bought a 15 inch MacBook Pro (base model: 2.3GHz, 4MB SDRAM, 500GB 5400 rpm serial ATA hard drive), Epson WorkForce 545 all-in-one printer, Seagate USB3 500GB external drive, iPad (32GB Wifi+Cellular), various accessories, and protection plans. She already owned an iPhone. Some of the items were on sale, some had education discounts. Overall she went slightly over budget but had enough savings to cover the difference. She had well-thought-out reasons for all of these decisions. She bought the hardware at Best Buy mainly because she wanted their Protection Plan's more extensive coverage than Apple's. She mentioned the local Best Buy's people were friendlier and more helpful than the local Apple Store's people, but there was also a friendly and helpful Apple rep working with customers for Apple products in the Best Buy store.

She was tired of dealing with PC/Windows problems at home and in high school, on many different PCs. She said her friends who had Macs at home were more positive about Macs, than her friends who had Windows PCs at home were positive about Windows PCs. She liked how Apple did things, based on her own experience with her iPhone and iPod Touch. She wanted her computer, mobile devices, and software all as compatible as possible, with minimal muss and fuss. The college said Mac OS X can run the applications she needs for school. But if she finds it necessary to run any particular Windows applications in future, she'll install Windows emulation or partition on the Mac at that time. Thus the decisions for Mac vs PC, and OS X vs Windows.

She plans to use this Mac for at least 8 years, college plus grad school. So she wanted the Mac model to be as capable and upgradable as possible within her budget. She chose notebook vs desktop for general portablity. She decided performance, upgradability, and display size were more important than weight and display resolution, because she can use iPad rather than Mac when quick and light mobility or Retina display is important. She liked the idea of a built-in optical drive on the Mac because she has a DVD movie collection. So she chose the base model 15 inch MacBook Pro.

She decided on the 32GB WiFi+Cellular iPad model because she expects to use it for 8+ years, won't have to pay for monthly cellular service until she needs it, and won't have to hassle with alternative cellular solutions for iPad when she does need the cellular capability.

During the past few days she set up accounts, transferred her files from the old family PC to the new Mac, installed many applications mentioned in this thread, and set up preferences in OS X, iOS, and applications. She set up security including malware scanner on Mac. She set up cloud storage/syncing across Mac, iPad, and iPhone for contacts, email, music, notes, etc. She set up the wireless printer and automatic backups to external hard drive. She did all of that without asking for technical help from family, friends, or venders.

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Old 06-26-2012, 12:13 AM   #98
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Norton for Mac caught a couple of threats on my iMac. One in a folder maintained by my son, and later one in a folder maintained by my grandson. It was unable to clean either file, however, so I deleted them manually as soon as scans revealed their presence.
I set ESET to automatically clean the infected archive or file where possible. When ESET can't safely clean it, I'm given the option to quarantine it or to safely delete it. I choose to delete because I don't like the idea of infected files sitting around in a quarantine directory.

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Old 06-26-2012, 11:48 AM   #99
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unboggling, looks like i'm a bit late to comment (i just joined yesterday), but a couple of points that might still be useful:

1. I can guarantee you she will not be using this computer eight years from now! The technology will advance so much in that time, that she will certainly replace it before then. And that's a good idea. This is counter-intuitive to most people, but by regularly upgrading your computer, you'll save money in the long run. By selling your computer when it's only a couple of years old, you'll get a much better price for it, and only pay a small difference for a newer model. For example if you pay $300 every two years to upgrade, after eight years you'll have paid $1200 for the latest model, rather than paying full price (i.e. $2000) for the latest model because your eight-year-old computer is worthless. This is true especially if you buy second-hand almost-new models. If you think about it, by upgrading your computer every few months, buying low and selling high, you could actually earn money at it...

2. I have a 15-inch MacBook Pro (I need it for the high-performance 3D graphics chip). And I can tell you it's really just too heavy to carry around in a bag all day long, especially if you have books, clothes, (and an iPad!) you need to carry along too. I think she will find this out very soon. But I think with her plan to keep it for eight years, she'll be too attached to it to think about changing it when she realizes the decision that "performance, upgradability, and display size were more important than weight" was probably not the best. It seems like a reasonable decision, but it's not based on experience, which she is about to get... The performance of a MacBook Air is certainly more than adequate for anything other than intensive 3D graphics. There is very little "upgradable" about the MacBook line in general, and you're better off just trading it in if you need something better. The 15" screen seems very nice, but after a month or so of shoulder pain from lugging it around, the 13" (or better, 11") screen suddenly seems very attractive. And adding an external 1080p monitor and wireless keyboard at home is much better (and better for your body) than hunching over the laptop screen. And finally, she won't need the DVD drive at school, and you can get an external desktop USB DVD player very cheap.

3. the iPad - not seeing the point of that. With the wireless keyboard, it weighs just as much as an 11" MacBook Air, but has nowhere near the capabilities. Of course, what's not to like about an iPad? But for a student on a budget, it doesn't seem really necessary. On the other hand, I would really consider a Kindle or similar e-reader for reading textbooks on the bus or in the park...

Of course I could be wrong and she'll be thrilled with everything she bought. But just tell her some random guy on the internet said not to get overly attached to it, and not to be afraid to sell it and get something else anytime she wants, and even then, sell it and go back to what she had if that doesn't work out. Just don't let yourself get locked into a particular setup just because you paid a lot for it and you'd feel bad that you spent so much on the wrong thing. It's just a tool, you're not married to it!

Hope this helps!

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Old 06-26-2012, 08:53 PM   #100
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Of course I could be wrong and she'll be thrilled with everything she bought. But just tell her some random guy on the internet said not to get overly attached to it, and not to be afraid to sell it and get something else anytime she wants, and even then, sell it and go back to what she had if that doesn't work out. Just don't let yourself get locked into a particular setup just because you paid a lot for it and you'd feel bad that you spent so much on the wrong thing. It's just a tool, you're not married to it! ...
Welcome to MobileRead, sumguy. Thanks for your input. She's aware her computer and tablet purchases will be slow in a couple years compared to the new crop of tech available then, and get slower in comparison over time. Thanks for the point about selling hardware periodically to trade up capability as necessary -- that may be something she decides to do in future.

Regarding upgradability on Mac models. Processor is not upgradable on any Mac Models without hardware hacking. On the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro Retina, user has to choose any RAM and Flash Drive upgrades up front at purchase since they are soldered on and not upgradable later. On non-Retina MacBook Pro the items that are upgradable later are RAM and internal storage, the hard drive or Solid State Drive. (SSD is essentially a Flash Drive in an enclosure). On all MacBook models the battery is upgradable later if a better one becomes available for that model.

The MacBook Air option was recommended earlier in this thread by other folks. I believe e-ink readers were also mentioned in email if not here, though I think tablets are probably better for textbook reading. Personally in college I probably would have preferred carting around a small computer like MacBook Air rather than a tablet like iPad, for everything except possibly reading textbooks, and that point was made earlier too.

She may find that the iPad itself is fine for mobility purposes, and leave the heavier MacBook Pro behind in her dorm room rather than carting it around. I believe that was her thinking. Or in hindsight she may decide she wants an 11 inch MacBook Air to cart around instead of iPad, supplemented by external large display and external keyboard to leave behind in dorm room instead of 15 inch MacBook Pro. Or some other configuration. These usage and configuration decisions are pretty much based on requirements and personal preference within any particular environment and budget.

She read this thread. She made all of these decisions herself. She'll live with the decisions she made, or change them later.

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Old 06-27-2012, 10:08 AM   #101
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unboggling, with regards to upgrades, one is usually better off to buy them upfront than wait until later, otherwise you're paying for a hard drive or RAM that you'll need to remove and dispose of. In my experience "upgradability" isn't very high on the list of requirements for a laptop; I'd rather just exchange it for a newer model.

I guess my main point though, is more psychological than technological. I've worked as a Mac tech for more than 20 years, and have observed a lot of intersting (and sometimes bizarre) behavior in customers, friends, and relatives. From the tech-head who's obsessed with having the latest and greatest gear even though he (and it's usually a guy) has no actual need for it, to the person who's still running six-year-old versions of their software even though it's horribly broken and there are free updates available, to the one who never buys a computer because there's always something new and better coming up in a few months from now, and they want to wait... there's a very interesting field called "behavioral economics" that studies all the irrational yet predictable tendencies that humans have with regards to ideas of money, value, and purchases. The book "The Paradox of Choice" by Barry Schwartz is a great introduction to it.

It seems to be human nature that people develop a personal relationship with their computer. And one of the most common things I've observed is people hanging on to a computer for too long, even when it doesn't meet their needs, and they'd be better off with something else. You don't dump a boyfriend/girlfriend or a pet, just on a whim - you've made some kind of committment to a relationship with them. Sometimes I think people extend that kind of feeling to their computers. I've had to learn not to do that myself...

Anyway, none of this is directly to do with your niece, just some general observations about the "which computer to buy?" question. Good luck to her with her studies, I'm sure she'll enjoy her Mac!
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Old 06-28-2012, 01:05 AM   #102
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unboggling, with regards to upgrades, one is usually better off to buy them upfront than wait until later, otherwise you're paying for a hard drive or RAM that you'll need to remove and dispose of. In my experience "upgradability" isn't very high on the list of requirements for a laptop; I'd rather just exchange it for a newer model.
Good point, regarding the cost-benefit of upgrading up front at purchase. I hadn't considered that.

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I guess my main point though, is more psychological than technological. I've worked as a Mac tech for more than 20 years, and have observed a lot of intersting (and sometimes bizarre) behavior in customers, friends, and relatives.…
Ah, a Mac tech.

Your posts got me wondering, regarding trading up computing capability by selling older Mac and buying a different new or used Mac, what is the best and quickest way for a non-techie user to clean the old Mac of all account information and stray bytes on internal storage, while still leaving the OS and basic Apple-included apps for the potential buyers to try out and use?

And also, similarly, what is the best and quickest way to clean an iPad for resale?

Last edited by unboggling; 06-28-2012 at 01:22 AM.
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Old 06-28-2012, 01:53 AM   #103
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I have used my Macbook (remember the retired white one?) for about 5 years. It has not given me as much grief as my PCs in the past, and even with its scars and spills and gross level, I can't bear to replace it until it actually dies forever. It is not as fast as it was, obviously, but it is still working and that's more than I can say about my previous PCs after 3 years (especially HP which lags like nobody's business; my previous company had a contract with HP and all our laptops were replaced and ugh, hated it).

I don't like wasting time on disk fragmentation and all that weird stuff that improves the computer's work. I just want it NOW, and the Mac is okay for that. It may only be 13" but I finished my degree on it and did a million things on it that the size no longer mattered. And the screen resolution still looks better than some of the new PCs, or maybe that's me being biased.

That said, the hard disk crashed twice in 2 years (before introduction of Time Machine), so make sure she has an extended warranty and schedules updates with the Time Machine properly! Again, USE TIME MACHINE!

My brother has a new MBP whose solid state hard disk crashed in 5 months, FYI. It was caused by bad memory sticks the reseller upgraded for free at point of sale, and an entire semester of art essays and art work lost because he did not know how to use Time Machine.
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Old 06-28-2012, 03:08 AM   #104
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...and have observed a lot of intersting (and sometimes bizarre) behavior in customers, friends, and relatives….
Yeah, me too.

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Originally Posted by sumguy View Post
It seems to be human nature that people develop a personal relationship with their computer. And one of the most common things I've observed is people hanging on to a computer for too long, even when it doesn't meet their needs, and they'd be better off with something else. You don't dump a boyfriend/girlfriend or a pet, just on a whim - you've made some kind of committment to a relationship with them. Sometimes I think people extend that kind of feeling to their computers. I've had to learn not to do that myself...
I haven't learned not to keep computers or mobile devices too long myself yet. And I'll probably have a bigger problem, since I'm falling in love with Siri so the attachment will be even stronger.

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I have used my Macbook (remember the retired white one?) for about 5 years. It has not given me as much grief as my PCs in the past, and even with its scars and spills and gross level, I can't bear to replace it until it actually dies forever. It is not as fast as it was, obviously, but it is still working and that's more than I can say about my previous PCs after 3 years (especially HP which lags like nobody's business; my previous company had a contract with HP and all our laptops were replaced and ugh, hated it).

It may only be 13" but I finished my degree on it and did a million things on it that the size no longer mattered. And the screen resolution still looks better than some of the new PCs, or maybe that's me being biased.
During the past 5 years, I used a 13" MacBook as my main computer for 3 years, followed by a 17" MacBook Pro. I agree about the screen resolution. About five years ago I got rid of a Power Computing Corporation PPC Mac clone desktop that I used for 7 years alone, then kept using alongside a new HP Pavilion desktop for another 5 years. The HP PC started having problems at about 2 years old. That old Mac clone PPC ran smoothly without problems for 12 years, with 1 upgrade each of a couple of internal hard drives to increase storage capacity supplemented with new external drives for backups.

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That said, the hard disk crashed twice in 2 years (before introduction of Time Machine), so make sure she has an extended warranty and schedules updates with the Time Machine properly! Again, USE TIME MACHINE!

My brother has a new MBP whose solid state hard disk crashed in 5 months, FYI. It was caused by bad memory sticks the reseller upgraded for free at point of sale, and an entire semester of art essays and art work lost because he did not know how to use Time Machine.
I agree, people that don't do automatic backups will regret it. Various backup software saved my butt a bunch of times. I currently use Time Machine to hourly backup internal drive, and SuperDuper to daily backup an external drive as well as occasionally to create an external startup drive.

Yes, she does automatic backups and has a good protection plan.

Last edited by unboggling; 06-28-2012 at 05:04 AM.
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Old 06-28-2012, 10:33 PM   #105
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Your posts got me wondering, regarding trading up computing capability by selling older Mac and buying a different new or used Mac, what is the best and quickest way for a non-techie user to clean the old Mac of all account information and stray bytes on internal storage, while still leaving the OS and basic Apple-included apps for the potential buyers to try out and use?

And also, similarly, what is the best and quickest way to clean an iPad for resale?
After transferring your stuff to your new computer, boot from the Mac OS install disk or USB stick (or recovery partition, but I find having a USB stick more convenient). Run Disk Utility, select the drive, go to the Erase tab, click Security Options, choose "write a single pass of zeros" (multiple passes are pointless). Then click Erase, and wait... Then re-install Mac OS X.

For an iPad, just go to Settings->General->Reset->Erase All Content and Settings.
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