The human factor.
You can't discuss computers without taking the human factor into account, and that's mostly what this page is about. All sorts of people use computers for all kinds of reasons; some consider it a necessary evil (filled with ritual pain), while others use the Mac to create and accomplish spectacular things. Some love these machines, others hate 'em.
What makes the difference?

Dear Board of Directors,
It has come to our attention that things have been changing rapidly, and not always for the better. While you neither approve nor support independent service shops, we thought we'd pass along some of the comments and observations we hear from clients - your customers - anyway. A few things we've encountered of late include:

Apple denying service to machines over 5-years-old.

Limited application support. A top-notch developer, forced to abandon his popular hardware monitoring software, writes: "Apple has made it very clear that they don't like to tolerate software products such as [ours] on the long run. They continue to establish technological barriers, both in hardware and in the operating system, to make sensor monitoring in third-party applications as difficult as possible."

End of data recovery? A Mac user was informed by Apple staff that her data could not be recovered following a drive failure. She was surprised to learn we had a solution for her - in this case - and was grateful to get her data back. But, data recovery is no longer an option for "onboard" storage found in newer machines.

Service and upgrade options are disappearing, port types eliminated, hardware designed to require wholesale replacement, over-the-top security "features," iCloud forced on users.

Then there's Apple software, unavailable except for the very latest version which requires the very latest OS. Why not continue to provide older versions and updates to (paid-for) programs?

We deal with a wide variety of clients, but it's fair to say none of them would consider tossing a $2K+ Mac because of a malfunction or upgrade requirement. You have every right to limit service to machines that are still under warranty, but why make it so difficult to service and maintain machines after warranty?

Bullet points posted in our previous letter to Apple still stand from years ago, the lone exception being a new Mac Pro (last on list below):
  • Who decided a new OS every six months was a good idea? OS versions should be supported much longer than they currently are.
  • Make legacy software available to those who have reason to need such things. This includes OS versions as well as legacy apps and updates.
  • Focus on compatibility rather than control. It's good to have choices. No one likes to be force-fed changes when things are working well as they are.
  • Security should include privacy, as both apply to YOU. Why do (online) Macs connect to seven web servers before reaching login screen?
  • iCloud should be OFF by default and strictly voluntary. Most people neither need it nor understand it (and are often better off without).
  • RAM and solid-state drives (SSDs) that are soldered to logic boards should be clearly explained prior to purchase, along with ramifications.
  • Loosen the death-grip on certified Apple techs and dealers. I should think you could stand a bit of friendly competition by now.
  • What's with the MacPro? Bring back the Mac tower configuration. Good to finally see a real tower replacing that little ashtray-looking thing. The MacPro starts at $6,000; maxed-out with options, they cost - ready? $53,000.00 (add $400 if you want it on wheels). Yikes!
Finally, this: Seems like iPhone, and iPad markets have reached saturation. Get back to advertising, promoting and bragging on the Macintosh, and make it better than it's ever been - including longevity and serviceability.

If it works, don't fix it
When the new MacOS X was first unveiled in San Francisco at MacWorld Expo, circa Y2K, you could sense Apple's pride during its presentation. It was slick, fast and full of special effects, gleefully demonstrated by Apple staffers on the tradeshow floor. A worthy successor to the tried, true and famously easy Macintosh interface, OSX adhered to Apple's established Human Interface Guidelines, and did so with pizazz. It improved steadily over the years, maturing with release of Mavericks, 10.9.5.
Then things changed.

iPhoto and Aperture were dropped in favor of the, constant changes to iTunes, the ever-annoying Notifications, Launchpad,
Dashboard, leaning towers of download files, wacky interface elements and incessant password entry. All very PC. Then Apple set out to sterilized Mac's interface by stripping it of visual cues and hiding scrollbars, controls and content by default. Have interface guidelines been abandoned? Throw iCloud and encryption into the mix, and we're seeing confused and frustrated clients expressing a sincere desire to return to simpler times.

It gets tiresome trying to explain these things, the hows and whys (it's not a bug, it's a feature), but we do the best we can as time permits. We also tend to "unhide" things on machines we service; (in View Menu) show status bar, path bar and tool bars, side bar in - show all those things that are hidden by default and useful (if not downright necessary). It's enough to make the average client's head spin, but they're usually grateful and leave here better informed than when they arrived.

Macintosh goes mainstream
Maybe it's a coincidence, but seems like the more focus put on iPhones and iPads and iStuff, the less attention is paid to Apple's Main Event: The Mac. While market reports and media focus on iPhone sales, the Mac has quietly gone mainstream and overwhelmed much of the Windows world. Why? Because it is a superior platform. With the exception of gov't (to no one's surprise), Macs are running the show in most arenas these days, from science to design, writing and reporting to music, video and art. iPhones have served as gateway to the Mac, but now it's time to pay more attention to the machine that started it all.

Then there's the what-have-you-done-for-us-lately mentality that expects Apple to pull off some new mind-boggling technology every quarter. Steve Jobs and his "one more thing" announcements that enthralled the tech world are gone now, sadly. Instead, we're left with port type and technical changes, relentless software,
hardware and OS upgrades, and a host of other technicalities that most users tend to dread. The days of treating the Mac as some sort of simple household appliance are over. We highly recommend learning the ins and outs of its OS interface and controls, learning a bit about the functions of memory, drive storage, file formats, backup and software options (among other things). Know what you're dealing with and don't be mystified by computer functions. It may be getting more complicated, but it's only a machine.

You cannot be serious about security and run Windows.
If you look at maintenance time spent in the ongoing fight against malware, data theft, network threats and so-called "hackers" - virus scans, updates, quarantine and removal of countless Windows viruses on the loose - well, what if none o'that was necessary? What if all you need is common sense? On the Mac, common sense should be enough to stop you from downloading and installing junk from the internet - if you're paying attention. Nothing gets installed without your participation (password), nothing happens without your knowledge. Fact is, most Mac users today have never encountered a real virus.

Security on the Macintosh Platform
That's not to say Mac users are immune to security issues. Threats include fake Adobe Flash updates, fake Safari updates, fake virus warnings, phony viewers, nasty lil' browser extensions that infest your web browser with popups, fake cloud backup, and bogus utility apps that pretend to speedup, fixup or tuneup your Mac. Some of these scams are after credit card and bank accounts, others take you to a phony site hoping you'll enter your login for the real site, and some will appear to lock up your web browser with an "emergency" message and phone number to call for "help."

One of many phony virus warnings floating around the internet.
This one managed to launch FaceTime and activate camera.

The one thing all these scams have in common is the same thing that makes them harmless to alert Mac users: They cannot get aboard without your participation. To that end, they try their very best to look convincing or pretend to be something they're not. Don't call that number. Don't click that button. Don't download that crap. Here's a hint: If you avoid torrent sites, porn sites and shady web sites you'll avoid many such things.

Malware, viruses, yada, yada...
We've heard all about it, they make the news from time to time. Worms that destroy data, spyware, ransomware, adware, pop-ups and trojans, they infest the internet hoping to trick you into bringing them aboard. Once installed, they can redirect your browser, steal your info, record your keystrokes, spam all your friends, read your mail, turn your computer into a bot - or - just screw things up and call it a day.

If you simply IGNORE the junk that comes your way uninvited, you'll be fine. That said, there's nothing to prevent you from downloading and installing some sort of internet trash, but you'll have to enter your admin password to do it. Just don't go there. Don't download. Don't install. Don't enter your password. Stay focused and ignore all the flak that passes by online. If you need something, go to the legitimate source and get it. If it comes looking for you, you don't want it. Pay attention!

Bogus online tech support
Another annoying scam - courtesy of Google - is phony customer support. Search Google for "[company name] customer support" and you'll find yourself looking at a very convincing toll-free phone number. If you're foolish enough to call that number, you'll find a "technician" on the other end who is happy to help you, just as soon as you download a remote access app (GoToMeeting, LogMein, Teamviewer, GoToMyPC, among others). No matter which one is used, installing it gives the thieves full access to all data on your machine. By installing that remote access app you're giving it all away - so DON'T DO IT.

Remote access programs serve a legitimate purpose when they're in the right hands, so it's all about knowing - and trusting - the people you are dealing with. If you called a real phone number for Apple or Canon or HP or some other legitimate company - a number provided by the actual company - you have little to worry about. But, if the number you called came from a Google search or a pop-up solicitation, you're doomed. If you gave remote access to a scammer, your next move should be to cancel your credit card, call your bank, and change ALL of your passwords ASAP. Hopefully you can do all that before you become another victim.

Which brings us to a relatively new phenomenon known as ransomware. In the Mac world, this includes a handful of utility apps which may actually serve a purpose with a well-designed interface, but the _real_ purpose is to wring money out of you. They may be free downloads or might be purchased. They can arrive in unscrupulous ways from unscrupulous sources, do their thing from a free demo or come piggybacked on a torrent download. Once installed they can be difficult to remove; even those with "uninstallers" (which don't) and even after deleting the app, ransomware will leave files behind designed to cause trouble.

MacKeeper is a prime example. Promising to speed up your Mac, it has a nice interface with a lot of unnecessary and redundant functions. But, if you delete MacKeeper, it leaves hidden files behind that will slow your Mac to a crawl and leave you staring at countless beachballs - the very problem it pretends to solve - in the hopes you'll buy it. And if you do, you don't dare delete it or stop buying "updates." You're hostage to it.

For the record, the more serious forms of ransomware are designed to lock up servers and prevent access to a company's own database until a ransom is paid, typically in bitcoin. To date, the Apple platform has suffered exactly one of these, related to an app for downloading from torrent sites. We've been warning about torrent sites for years and have little sympathy for those who steal software, music or movies. Apple neutralized the problem as soon as it appeared, but ransomware as it is known on the Windows platform continues and involves a type of extortion that is well beyond the scope of this discussion. Suffice it to say, system administrators have their hands full these days.

Clean out the cruft and investigate add-ons
Most browsers have privacy and/or security controls in the browser's preferences where you can view and delete cookies. Watch for "evercookies" from web activity (these are cookies that return moments after being deleted), reset your browser regularly, avoid browser extensions, and keep an eye out for unusual activity or pop-up windows. It's also a good idea to clear-out Adobe's databases which are tracking you from Adobe's Flash Player (see next section).

Google any programs, apps or utilities you may be interested in before you download/install such things; see how many people are trying to get rid of it. Avoid torrent and "sharing" sites like the plague. Stay away from suspect sites, porn sites and such, delete suspicious emails immediately and don't click on phishing links they may contain, no matter how convincing it might look. Don't let others mess with your machine; if you share a computer with others, you should each have your own login accounts and passwords. Anyone borrowing your Mac temporarily should use the Guest account.

Rest assured that Apple makes its Operating System as fast and trouble-free as possible. There are no third-party apps that can improve operation or speed. Running Apple's Disk Utility First Aid periodically to verify/repair your drive is the only routine maintenance needed. With a little common sense you can easily avoid a good deal of trouble and grief. Also see nCity's "Security and Protection" page (left sidebar) if you're interested.

Blocked plug-in error, Flash Player out of date? Adobe Flash has become a real nuisance, and updates are coming monthly now. To make matters worse, Flash might be the most frequently faked download on the internet, used to trick you into downloading adware, malware and other junk. Truth is, you may not need Flash Player. That's right: Streaming video works just fine on advanced sites like YouTube and others that use HTML5 to do the job. So the question is, do you really need Flash Player?

Answer depends on where you go on the 'net and what you do. Some sites still have Flash content and haven't transitioned to modern times yet. It's a mixed bag to be sure, but sites that have abandoned Flash content function faster and better than those that still use it. Even Adobe considers Flash to be a fossil: Instructions for removing it may be found
here. Remove it and experiment with sites and games you frequently use; if you find you can't live without Flash, you can always go back to Adobe and download the new version of Flash Player. Tip: A quick way to see if your browser is HTML5 equipped is to scroll up this page a bit to the picture of Foghorn Leghorn (the rooster). If you have an HTML5 browser you'll be able to play a sound just below Foghorn; if not, it will say so there.

To update Flash Player (if you insist on burdening yourself with Adobe products), read on for a few things you should know.

Adobe Flash Player
Adobe has leveraged Flash Player to collect data on you.
Open System Preferences (under the Apple Menu) and click the Flash Player icon (shown at left). Really old versions have four tabs as shown here:

Newer versions have five tabs:

You'll see two databases, one under the Storage tab and another under the Advanced tab (each end of tab bars shown above). Don't hesitate to click the "Delete All..." button found under each of these tabs. You might want to shut-off other functions while you're at it, like the creepy camera and microphone settings, site storage and "peer-assisted networking." Delete stored data from Flash Player whenever you delete cookies from your browser, and do both regularly.

If you need to update Flash Player, you'll find a "Check Now" button for updates under the Advanced tab on old versions (circled above), or under Updates tab on newer versions. Click the "Check Now" button and follow instructions to download Flash Player directly from Adobe.

Once downloaded, open the Flash Player Install icon found in Safari's download window or within your downloads folder. Launch the install app, enter your password and install the new Flash Player. Remember all this because you'll have to do it again soon. To make it easier (ignoring the fact that it isn't necessary), Adobe has set updating Flash Player to automatic by default so it will install updates as they become available.

Adobe (PDF) Reader
Adobe Reader is also an attack vector for malware. Long-time problem on Windows PCs, it's recently become something of an issue for Macs, too. Its purpose is to open PDF files  (Portable Document Format), a file format created many years ago by Adobe.

Adobe Reader is no longer necessary, replaced by Apple's (faster, better) Preview app, installed with your MacOS. In other words, YOU DO NOT NEED ADOBE READER and you're better off without it. When you remove Adobe Reader, Apple's Preview app will assume the job of dealing with PDFs.

Watch out when you use Google, too.
Pay close attention to search results when looking for assistance or software. We're getting clients who have gone looking for online help with printers, apps or other things, only to be fooled into installing a remote access program allowing scammers to copy whatever they want.

Above are the top-two search results for "Adobe Flash Player." If you look closely, you'll see the top hit is a paid "ad" for a web site that has nothing to do with Adobe. The only reason this site is #1 is because they paid Google to be here, and shame on Google for profiting from such traps. The 2nd hit is to, the legitimate source for Adobe software. Same applies to support sites as it does to software: The top search result is not necessarily the best - or even real.

Examine actual site addresses, ignore pop-ups, don't download strange things, don't give out info, and avoid scam sites that want to draw you in. Do a little research before you download anything (especially freebies).

Why it may be best to stay a version - or two - behind

An example of what happens when upgrades are rushed to release

It's important to understand the difference between updates and upgrades: An update is an improvement to your existing OS - a bug fix, security addition, new feature or enhancement - but an upgrade means replacing the entire OS with a newer one. Updates are almost always desirable. Upgrades, on the other hand, may cause a fair amount of disruption, especially if you are jumping over multiple OS versions.

In the case of Catalina 10.15, some major changes took place that are certain to cause headaches among the more budget-conscious Mac fans. First among these is discontinued support for 32-bit apps. Next, solid-state (SSD) drives only. And, security features requiring locked partition, tracking/monitoring apps and features that cannot be removed, compatibility issues, the list goes on.

While Apple touts improved compatibility with other platforms, enhanced security features and a host of other benefits - and Apple can't be expected to support old apps and machines forever - most people would prefer to keep using their existing Macs rather than drop Big Bucks on a new one with its attendant need to upgrade/replace working software.

It's worth noting that if a newer OS will not run on your older machine, you will be prevented from downloading or installing it. It's also important to note that updates for a few older OS versions may still be available (if not easy to find or download).

In the case of OS 11 Big Sur, Monterey and later, these Systems are designed for Apple's new M1 family of processors. This affects everything downstream - hardware and software. OS 11.x requires emulation to run on older Intel CPUs, and upgrading apps as native versions become available.

Step 1 - Before updates, upgrades or installs: Make a full backup
"Full backup" is more than just copying pictures and documents; it means making a full and complete copy of your entire drive to a secondary backup drive - OS, apps, settings and all. This is the only way to leave yourself an "undo" option if anything goes wrong. You should maintain a full, current and complete backup to an external hard drive in any case, but _always_ backup all data prior to making any major change; without proper backup, you'll have no choice but to live with the results. If you don't have a backup hard drive, get one!

Cloud backup doesn't cut it. You _must_ have a full and complete backup on hand - with OS, apps and everything else present - in order to put things back the way they were. Cloud backup does not include your OS or applications, only unique files. A full, proper backup can only be accomplished using TimeMachine or a clone app to copy _everything_ to an external hard drive. Details about making a proper backup volume may be found on the Backup Schemes page (in sidebar, left).

Step 2 - Do your homework: Check system requirements
Each Operating System has specific processor, machine and memory requirements that will prevent installation if your Mac isn't up to snuff.

Some requirements are easily met - memory for example. 10.8 thru 10.10 require a minimum of 2GB RAM but 4GB is better and you can never have too much. Adding RAM is a quick and easy upgrade in most cases (tho some later models cannot be upgraded after purchase). Other hardware requirements may involve graphic cards and specs that can only be changed in MacPro towers - iMacs and notebook specs will dictate maximum OS. If your machine can no longer run a supported OS, your only upgrade option is moving to a new computer.

Steps 3 and 4 - Download and install
Having made a full backup of your update/upgrade-ready Mac, it's time to download updates for your current System, or upgrade to the new MacOS; this is accomplished by using the AppStore in your Apple menu or from System Preferences.

Be advised: If your broadband connection is less than stellar, expect download time for a new OS upgrade to take 6-8 hours in some cases. (Updates are considerably faster.) After downloading, machine should restart, then the installation process begins which typically takes 20-45 minutes with later OS upgrades. There may also be additional updates to download/install, so always go back to AppStore and check until everything is up-to-date.

Long-term tip:
By skipping every other OS upgrade you may get more life out of your apps and keep disruptions to a minimum, while remaining reasonably current with updates to your current OS as they become available. Having a full and complete backup prior to any/all installations, updates and upgrades will allow you to restore your drive(s) should anything go wrong.

Market reflects lifestyle and philosophy.
"Prosumer" is a targeted subset of professionals in any given market. Whereas the vast majority of consumers are generally focused on price, prosumers tend to aim for technical specifications and professional quality. In the computer world, the difference is often between those who only use computers as an "information appliance" (email, Internet, word processing), and so-called "power users" who design, illustrate, analyze, edit, explore, program and create on computers.

The Prosumer market is a relatively small target, probably less than 10% of computer users as a whole. High-end products that appeal to power users can be as specialized as they are expensive; as technical requirements increase, competition and choices tend to narrow. A decision often hinges on a critical component or a single specification. Prosumers research their options to the nth degree, usually with specs and plans in hand, prepared to examine, discuss and use all relevant technologies. They take pride in being computer-savvy, they use serious tools and get spectacular results. Picky lot they are, too.

Consumers, on the other hand, don't wanna know all the grisly details - they just want it to work. They know there's more to life than technobabble, and they'd like to get on with it. They want the bottom line as quickly as possible..... which is fine, provided they're getting good advice and can afford equipment that works easily with a minimum of trouble. Computer technology doesn't come cheap, especially with a trial-and-error approach, and a seemingly simple decision can lock you into an unpleasant routine for the duration. As they say, "the devil's in the details." You won't get the right answers without knowing what questions to ask.

Even if all you want to do is email and internet, at least take a look around at the different equipment and software others are using (and their degree of success). Ask lots o'questions. Compare ease of use, speed, efficiency, capabilities, quality. Compromise any of these for a low purchase price and you'll be paying for it every time you use your machine. If delving into details is not in the plan, taking a good look around can at least suggest a path to follow.

Altsumers - alternative consumers - deserve special mention here in CA. Altsumers are in a whole different world of their own making. They've found alternatives to just about everything that has ever proven effective, including alternative foods, medicine, energy, lifestyle, you name it. Using complex calculations involving geopolitics and organic chemistry, decisions are made according to what products don't contain, or won't do, or where they haven't been. Superstition, astrology, pseudo-science, witchcraft, global/mystical nonsense - none of these things have any place in a discussion about computer equipment. Only logic applies here.

Might be time to drop a dime.
If this is the Information Age, it's being driven by the Internet and we each need to grab ahold of those handlebars and pay attention. The web can be the ultimate research tool, but like any tool it may be used in a variety of ways, even as a weapon. As you read this, fights are raging over controlling access and content, mostly with taxes and profit in mind. It's a fragile thing to be won or lost, minor changes can have drastic effects. This subject, like most anything else you might be interested in, can (still) be investigated on the Web using Google, Yahoo, and a variety of other search engines. Using information technology has become mandatory, like being able to read and write. We each must develop our skills at dealing with search criteria and technique in order to be proficient. Why? Because it is important to know what - and who - you're dealing with today.

Spying is for no-goodniks?
If you still respect privacy and decency, and you think "spying" is beneath you, please think again. You really do need to take those blinders off in cyberspace if you want a fighting chance, and don't wait until it's too late. Do it immediately, before making any decisions or commitments, before clicking that send button, make investigation a part of your routine. It's not about spying or being rude, it's about staying on top of changing circumstances and making informed decisions.

If you (more correctly) consider online research to be a valuable tool and useful asset, but not necessarily appropriate in social circles - I sympathize, but can no longer agree. Personally, I believe those sentiments belong in the past now, along with so many other matters of civility and common sense these days. In some quarters, it's every man for himself.

So call it spying if you like - or researching or investigating or shopping or sleuthing or advertising or promoting or networking - as these terms all do apply. But also consider it prudent and necessary in the modern world. And while you're at it, you might consider investigating yourself to see what others will find out from researching you.

Why bother...
It's easier than you might think. If you're on Fbook, you've thrown open all the windows and joined the party, so you might as well start there. But, as research tools go, social sites lack validation and we only want facts here. I recommend skipping right past Fbook and others sites of that ilk in favor of drilling much deeper for official records, detailed stats, facts and figures from reliable sources.

The Internet may be the ultimate "killer app" of the computer world, long as regulation and greed doesn't throttle it back. You should know, and be aware, that many forces are at work trying to control your access and redirect your attention (see Electronic Frontier Foundation for the latest), so you must stay focused and be determined to get at the truth. It helps to be resourceful as well. Your degree of difficulty will vary depending on what type of info you seek and how sensitive that info might be. Here are three broad categories:
  • Shopping: Probably the easiest and most common type of search, whether to find something rare and exotic, or just to get the best price. Plenty of shopping sites out there, specialty vendors and even coupon sites where a little investigation can save lots o'money. eBay might be the best place to start, given its outstanding scope and size. Even if you have no intention of trading on eBay, it can provide valuable part numbers, names and descriptors to help narrow your search on the wider web.
  • Research: Legal matters, jobs, health, history, investments, old friends, urban myths - everything from politics to pizza, it's all out there if you know where to look. Google it for starters and you're sure to find something, then refine your search and keep drilling thru other search engines and discussion groups until you find exactly what you're after.
  • Background checks: Savvy employers (and potential employees) use the net to research job placement; landlords do background checks on potential tenants; singles check out dates; there are countless reasons to investigate someone's background before entering into any sort of partnership with a stranger. Don't be shy. Think of it as self-defense.
Every private eye on the planet keeps a variety of go-to web sites and sources for searching out answers and locating info, and so should you. Create a folder for search sites in the bookmarks menu of your browser (Safari, Firefox, Etc.) and start collecting sites that serve your purposes best. We can help you sort thru countless resources available on the web and suggest a few ways to obtain factual data you may be unaware of, but be advised that some of these services charge fees and you don't always get what you pay for. You should also be prepared for the possibility of bad news or learning _more_ than you might have wanted to know. "Trust but verify," a word of caution here: It's always best to confirm findings with a secondary, independent source before jumping to conclusions.

We've used Macs to remodel houses, design and build furniture and mechanical devices, make motorcycle modifications, create artwork, design databases and produce printed circuits. Edit and store audio/video, photographs and graphics, text and data. Plus, Macs keep the books, manage communications and provide endless material for research purposes and entertainment. I mention this because there are still people out there who wonder what they'd ever do with a computer. Hello?

The first "killer application" was word processing.
The ability to type and edit a document _before_ printing was reason enough to buy a computer, just to replace that old typewriter. Today, most folks recognize internet access as being a whole new window on the world, with email and texting as the new means of communications, all of which are excellent reasons to invest in a computer. (Even if all you use a computer for is email and web, using a Mac provides a big advantage due to security features and ease of use.) But there is so much more you can do, it seems like a waste of power to stop at communications without branching off into other things.

Your Mac comes equipped with software designed to manage a great many basic necessities, beyond communications; photos, text, music, address books, tax prep, all sorts of things. It even comes with a set of developer tools for creating your own programs, and all the basics are covered right out of the box. For specialized applications, you'll find all kinds of additional hardware and software available for most any use these days. Our Link pages contain a wide variety of recommended products and vendors; there's also a link to Apple's index of Mac apps where you'll find thousands of programs designed to do almost anything you can think of.

One odd thing about software:
Good programs always seem deceptively simple, with a tasteful, coherent interface, easy to use and understand - which tends to conceal the program's true power. If you can accomplish a given task with one click, it's because the program's designer has dealt with all the details for you. If you have to wade through an assortment of buttons and dialog boxes to accomplish that same task, then the programmer has decided to let you do all the work - easy for them, not so easy for you. And somehow, bad software seems to leave an impression of "sophistication" due to the complexity of dealing with it.

It pays to shop around and test drive applications before buying. The cumulative effect of using bad software can translate into a considerable waste of time and repetitive effort, which will more than offset any money saved in its purchase price. (Also true of Operating Systems and hardware, by the way.) Having said that, you may find you already have a program capable of assisting with whatever project you have in mind and additional software won't be necessary. I've often used simple graphics apps for remodel projects and precision design work, everything from MacPaint to Photoshop.

Be creative!
Apply the power of your Mac to whatever holds your interest. You might find an app onboard that can handle your project, or you might decide to invest in specialized software to accomplish something amazing. Just, p-p-please don't look at the Mac as an ordinary computer or some sort of appliance. Explore just a few of the things it can do and you'll be amazed.