CS and the City Sean Lynch

Now that you’ve switched… Switch everyone else

Switching is just a matter of willpower and finances (Although the price premium is not as a large as people think). There are all sorts of arguments for and against the switch, all of which have been blogged to death so they won't be covered here. For the sake of this article, I'm going to assume you're come across that fork in the road and chosen the iPath as I did.

Of course, now that you've switched your personal machine, you probably feel motivated to spread the wealth to your friends and family. Alternatively, you're like me and you're sick of having to fix those old PC that belong to your friends and family. Stick with the spread the wealth one, trust me.

Here's how to approach switching all those other computer users in your life. Hell, it might even help make your own hypothetical transition a little more managable.

Step One: Be proactive – Start switching to cross platform applications NOW!
A year ago, I switched my parents from IE and Netscape Communicator to Firefox and Thunderbird for one reason: Sanity. IE virtually guarenteed that my parents computer would be so bogged down with spyware that the only fix was a fresh install of Windows 98. Then I'd have to scramble to find a copy of Netscape 4.75 so that I could get my Dad's main back to how he liked it.Little did I know, I was setting my parents up for an easy transition when it came time to replace the old Dell with a brand new Mac a year later. Their relationship with the computer revolved mostly around email and internet. Thus during the transition from Dell to Mac, the two most used applications on the computer didn't even change. All the bookmarks, addresses and old email transfered across in a matter of minutes. Your milage may vary of course, but the lesson is simple: Take an inventory of the most used applications and try to find cross platform alternatives. Firefox/Thunderbird are no brainers. They're both free and very capable, and Internet and Mail are going to be high up on the list. Word processing is a bit more compliated. Although there is a free, cross platform solution available, it isn't exactly light weight and lacks some of the user friendliness. If you unsuspecting switcher is an Office user, get them to bite the bullet and get a copy of Office for Mac.

Step Two: Buy peripherals with cross platform driver support
This isn't as much of an issue as it used to be and really is just an extension of step one. I've been very impressed with the driver support of my Macs so far. All the printers that I've plugged in have printed without any complaint (or indication for that matter). When I switched my parents, I lucked out. Both their HP printer and Epson scanner worked like a charm. If you have to purchase a peripheral like this before you make the switch, double check that you have the option to hook it up to a Mac.

Step Three: Don't force the issue
My Dad bought my Mom a brand new digital camera for Christmas. When I came home for Christmas he asked me to set it up on their ancient Dell. I know from experience that Windows 98 is not exactly the friendliest experience for the digital photographer. Windows XP would have worked resonably well, but I was very impressed with my experience using iPhoto. I knew my parents would agree.The point is that there's no reason to force a Mac on someone who's not interested or ready to receive it.

Step Four: Buy for fit
Buying a Mac is like buying a suit. Make sure it's a comfortable fit. Don't sacrifice just to save money. If your switchee ends up with a low end Mac and doesn't like the experience because the hardware is limiting, they're going to blame the experience on the Mac rather than their configuration. We took a look at the Macs and decided the while the 17" iMac was more than enough machine, it was also a lot more likely to stand the test of time. The large harddrive, DVD burner and extra RAM meant that it will be capable for a few more years. Your milage may vary.

Step Five: Buy them a book
There are all sorts of books available as an introduction to OSX ranging from extreme beginner to power user. As a "Welcome" gift, buy a book for your switchee. Not only will you help them discover new things about their new Mac, but you'll save yourself some time answering questions and give them a sense of independance.