Macs are much more popular among college students than among older Americans.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


MacBook laptop makes a great dorm mate

Aug. 1, 2010

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2010, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2010, The Post-Standard

   Shopping for a laptop computer for a college student? My recommendation is Apple's MacBook.
   The MacBook has a huge advantage over any Windows laptop: It's immune to the more than 1 million viruses and uncountable spyware infections that plague Windows PCs. And the MacBook, like all Macs, comes with the kind of multimedia software that warms a student's heart -- iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie and iDVD.
   Macs are much more popular among college students than among older Americans, possibly because Macs have "caught the wave" of Apple's trendy devices popular among younger buyers -- the iPod, the iPhone and the new iPad -- and because all Macs have built-in wireless file sharing for music and photos.
   The technical specs of the MacBook are typical of a modern laptop -- 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor chip, 2 GB of memory, a 250 GB hard drive, an 8X DVD/CD burner, a webcam and microphone, Bluetooth short-distance wireless connectivity and built-in high-speed 802.11n wireless.
   But the MacBook stands out with 10-hour battery life and a multi-feature trackpad that offers inertial scrolling, pinch, rotate, swipe, tap, double-tap and drag capabilities.
   The MacBook lists for $999.00 for the public but is sold with a 10 percent discount to students, teachers, school employees and parents of students. This is at least twice the cost of a Windows laptop, but the overall cost probably evens out because Macs historically last longer, cost less to run and have a higher resale value than Windows PCs.
   Macs can be purchased online and at Apple-owned stores around the country. In Syracuse, the Apple store is located on the upper level of shops at Carousel Mall. Online, the Apple store address is http://store.apple.com/us.
   A traditional argument against Macs for college students -- that students sometimes need to run Windows programs and therefore should own Windows PCs -- became a non-issue a few years ago when Apple changed the design of Macs so they could run Windows.
   This can be done in two ways, either by installing Windows as an alternative bootup to the Mac's own software -- an Apple program supplied with Macs does this for you, as long as you supply a copy of Windows, allowing you to turn your Mac into a Windows PC at any bootup -- or by installing an $80 program that lets you run Windows at the same time your Mac is running its own programs. (Two programs do this, Parallels and VMware Fusion.)
   I recommend holding off on extra software, such as an office suite, so that the student can learn what software is actually needed. Macs include a spelling checker, a dictionary and a thesaurus that work all the time in every program, eliminating the need for a pricey word processor with those features. Apple's Text Edit, which comes with Macs, is a Microsoft-Word compatible program that probably can handle all word-processing functions a college student needs. If an office suite is needed, you don't need to pay a cent. The splendid OpenOffice suite -- it's so good I use it myself, as do many others who write about computers -- is a good way to get most of the capabilities of Microsoft Office without the bugs, failed upgrades and porky load times of Microsoft's version. For more on OpenOffice for the Mac, go to www.technofileonline.com/texts/tec090207.html.