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My Dad, the Switcher: Day 139

Last October, Robert's dad -- a hard-core Windows developer -- bought himself a Mac mini to see what the fuss was all about. The first two installments of the series are available here. Now, we find out what's happened since.

Mom sent me an email about two weeks ago now, irritated. She said that Dad's old PC was making loud, awful noises, and it probably needed to be replaced. She said that he had been looking at new Macs all morning, after they talked about it over breakfast. She had given him the blessing of the purse-strings -- always a scary thing to give Dad -- and I gave him a call to see what he had in mind.

The fan, apparently, in Dad's old PC power supply was wearing out, and the bearings were squealing. I had an old Power Mac G4 at work that had this happen, and replacing the power supply was something I could do. I offered to do that, but Dad was already miles ahead of me, looking at the newly-released Mac Pros.

"Isn't that a little, uh, more than you need?" I asked, tentatively.

"It's not a question of need," he said jokingly, noting that his financial ship had come in with the payment of a long-overdue check from a completed project.

Dad was most interested in combining his Mac and his PC. Ever since he and I started working on the same project (which has expanded to projects, plural) he's finding that he uses the Mac more than the PC. The PC, he says, became just for email and Microsoft Office. Then, the perennial switcher question: "Do they make Office for Mac?" Yes, I said with a smile.

We discussed how we would set this up. He wanted plenty of storage, and the Mac Pro's four hard drive bays would come in handy. On the Apple Store website, he configured a computer with three 750GB hard disks: One for Mac OS X, one for Time Machine, and one for Windows. We also added Parallels to allow him to run both Windows and Mac apps at the same time.

I mentioned that there would be a performance loss if he chose to do that (versus, say, booting the computer into Windows with Boot Camp). However, we both realized that since the Mac Pro was about two years newer than his old dual-core PC, the raw horsepower afforded by the new hardware might overcome the loss associated with operating system virtualization.

He was sold. Having both in one place would solve a lot of problems for him -- mostly related to obviating the need for a KVM switch between his Mac and PC. Now, with Parallels, he could have the one thing he desperately wanted: a shared clipboard.

As you might expect, Dad was a little concerned about the price. The extra disks, memory, software, and processor options he chose pushed the grand total above $6,500. He wanted to find a way to come in under $5,000. He found a refurbished 8-core 3.2GHz model for just over $4,000, which solved a lot of that trouble. Being the owner of two refurb Macs myself, I suggested AppleCare for reasons I wrote about late last year.

A few clicks of the mouse, and the computer would be here Tuesday.

I suggested he buy the memory and two extra hard disks from a local component retailer. They were just down the street, so no shipping charges, either. And, most certainly, they were much less expensive than buying the same components from Apple. He picked up those parts on Monday, and was ready to go.

Yesterday, I went over to help him set the beast up. I migrated his files from the old Mac mini (which will become my new media center! Hooray!) and installed the software he bought along with the computer: Final Cut Express, Microsoft Office, and the new version of iLife (which was dropped in the box). Everything moved as smooth as silk.

We got to the point where we were ready to install Windows -- and that's where we ran into trouble.

Tomorrow: The thrilling conclusion.



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Switchers Features

Last October, Robert's dad -- a hard-core Windows developer -- bought himself a Mac mini to see what the fuss was all about. The first two...