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 little more than a necessary evil (filled with ritual pain), but others use computers to create and accomplish spectacular things with relative ease.
What makes the difference?







Where ARE we going?
Standby while we try to guess where the MacOS is headed and suggest a few changes we'd like to see along the way. First thing to do is map out some landmarks from the past...

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 has improved steadily thru many major revisions, maturing with the release of Mavericks (MacOS 10.9.5). Then things changed.

It started with the App Store, iTunes and iPhoto changes, Notifications, Launchpad and
Dashboard, leaning towers of download files and other wacky interface elements, along with an incessant need to enter passwords. Apple sterilized the MacOS by stripping it of most visual cues and controls, hiding scrollbars and such by default - even hiding hide/show-buttons f'Heaven's sake. Have interface guidelines been abandoned? Add iCloud and FileVault encryption to the mix, and we're seeing confused and frustrated clients expressing a desire to return to simpler times.

To be fair, it's not just the Mac. We get a steady stream of angry, fed-up Windows users, too. No shortage of grumbling around the coffee machine these days.

The iGizmo invasion
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 stock market reports and media focus on iPhone sales, the Mac has quietly gone mainstream and overwhelmed the Windows world. With the exception of gov't (to no one's surprise), Macs are running the show in most arenas these days. And iGizmos are merely the gateway drug to a Mac.

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, and we've seen enough of Tim Cook to miss it. Now it seems like flashy trumps functional and they can't leave anything alone. Technology, ports and capabilities change constantly, interface elements disappear or change, nagifications are relentless, and every app is phoning home.

Confusion over versions, upgrades, system requirements, CPU specs, gizmo interface ops and a growing list of technobabble awaits computer users who can't answer simple questions. (Which OS version are you running? Common answer: OSX.) Add to that a basic human tendancy to resist change, and you have chaos.

An open letter to Apple's board
Simplify. Streamline. If it works, don't fix it. Keep it intuitive. If I were to write a letter to Apple's board as a shareholder, I might have a few suggestions, starting with a paid vacation. You've earned it.
  • Take a year or two off and let us get accustomed to all that we have to work with. Who decided a new OS every six months was a good idea?
  • 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 should a simple connection to the App Store or iTunes pass thru 24 servers?
  • iCloud should be OFF by default and strictly voluntary. Most people neither need it nor understand it (and are often better off without).
  • More prominent assistance with computer ops like this and this would help people learn the fundamentals. Printed manuals are nice, too.
  • Loosen your death-grip on certified Apple techs and dealers. The advent of Apple Stores drove private shops out of business; I should think you could stand a bit o'friendly competition by now.
  • What's with the MacPro? Seriously, how is the new MacPro useful to video editors or recording studios or server farms? Or anybody? Slick design, wicked-fast - totally impractical. Bring back the MacPro tower.
Finally, this: Seems that smartphone and tablet sales may have reached a saturation point and focus has shifted to services instead of sales - as it should. Gone are those hated 2-year contracts and excessive charges, and iGizmo markets are well-established. Get back to advertising, promoting and bragging on the Macintosh.







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.

Ransomware
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 Adobe.com, 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


System upgrades are coming fast and furious these days, and many new Operating System (OS) versions will require driver and app updates as well. 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.

Apple provides limited upgrade options - only certain OS versions are available - so it's important to know your machine specs and which OS will run best on your Mac. Machine specs (CPU, current OS, RAM) are found under the Apple menu in "About This Mac" window and should be compared against OS requirements (in Step #2, below).

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 Apple continues to support many older OS versions with updates.

Snow Leopard (10.6.8):
The first MacOS native to Intel CPUs, 10.6 had the longest useful life of any recent OS since the demise of PowerPC Macs. 10.6 Snow Leopard was the last OS to ship on a DVD, still available for $20 here: OSX Snow Leopard 10.6.3.

Mountain Lion (10.8.5):
Available for $20 here, downloading 10.8 Mountain Lion is quite an adventure. Needless to say, Apple would clearly prefer that you download and install a newer OS.

Lion (10.7), Mavericks (10.9), Yosemite (10.10):
These OS versions are no longer available from Apple, but may still be supported with updates thru the AppStore if you are currently running 10.9 or 10.10 (Lion 10.7 has gone extinct).

ElCapitan (10.11) may be available under certain circumstances:
Older machines running 10.6 and those that cannot run the newest OS (10.12 Sierra) can be upgraded to 10.11 - maybe - here: ElCapitan 10.11

Step #1 before upgrading: Make a full backup
"Full backup" is more than just copying pictures and documents to CDs or thumb drives; 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, a way to go back in case something goes wrong. You should maintain a full, current and complete backup to an external hard drive in any case, but _always_ backup all your 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, go get yourself one. They're cheap and readily available.

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 before upgrading: 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.
  • Requirements to run Mountain Lion 10.8 may be found here
  • Requirements for Mavericks 10.9 are (still) here, (I think)
  • Requirements for Yosemite 10.10 redirects to 10.11
  • Requirements for El Capitan 10.11 are here
  • Requirement and info for Sierra 10.12 from EveryMac
  • Requirements for High Sierra 10.13 are the same as 10.12
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 except at time of purchase). Other hardware requirements may involve graphic cards and specs that cannot be changed, so upgrading the OS on very old machines may not be possible. If this is the case, your only upgrade option is moving to a new computer.

Steps #3 and #4: Download and install
Having made a full backup of your upgrade-ready Mac, it's time to download the latest-greatest OS; this is accomplished by using the AppStore in your Apple menu.

Be advised: If your broadband connection is less than stellar, expect download time to take up to 6 hours. After downloading (machine should restart), installation typically takes up to 45 minutes with the later Systems. And after _that_ there will likely be some additional updates to download/install and more than a few other adjustments to make.

Keep your OS updated
Major changes took place after 10.7 Lion, and again after 10.9 Mavericks, leaving older applications behind in both cases. 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. Install updates to your current OS as they become available, and make sure you have a full and complete backup prior to upgrades and major software installations; if you don't like the results, you'll be able to restore things as they were.







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 (Nextag is one), 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. And, it's fun! 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.