Best places to buy Mac stuff online (IMHO)

I am always being asked where to find good deals on Macintosh stuff. There are many places I look and shop. Often times the reasons are not just in the prices but also in the company. Some of these sites I visit on a daily basis whether I am looking to by stuff or not; figuring that if I do see a really good deal I may be able to match it up with a friend’s need. So, with that in mind, here are some places I go to find good deals on Macintosh stuff on the internet.

Apple Store “Special Deals” Section – This is where Apple sells their refurbished products often times for hundreds of dollar less than brand new. Why buy refurbished instead of new? Well, Apple does very rigorous testing on the refurbished models to make sure that they don’t come back again. Furthermore, all Apple refurbs carry the same warranty that a brand new Apple product does. Therefore, if you do have a problem, it is covered.

Small Dog Electronics – I really like these guys and have bought two Macs from them. They are a small, family run business located in the heart of small town Vermont. They are big on charitable and social causes and, as the name might suggest, are HUGE dog lovers! They are also one of the oldest online Macintosh retailers around. Their front page features daily deals and ongoing specials.

DealMac – DealMac does the work of searching Mac deals for you. Every day they scour the web for deals and specials on Macs and Mac accessories. This is one of those sites I visit a couple of times a day. Why twice? Well, some deals are so good that if you do not catch them early in the morning (when the first deals start being posted) they will be sold out by afternoon. They also have a sister site called DealRAM which helps you find the best prices on RAM

PowerMax – PowerMax is a great place to look for refurbished and used Macs. If the Apple Store does not have the Mac you are looking for in their refurbished offerings, this is a good second place to check. They also buy used Macs as well and accept certain trade ins for credit towards new equipment.

More Moleskine

Yesterday, I waxed all poetic on the desire to dump my PDA for a number of tasks and “upgrade” to the Moleskine Pocket Journal I recently purchased while in San Francisco for Macworld. I have now become obsessed with that idea and just may try it for the whole of next week. I have already dug my Moleskine out of a paper bag it had gotten dumped into in one of the mad cleaning frenzies that

I frequently perform around the house (or, as I like to think of them, a redistribution of clutter).

I also have been doing some googling (yes, Annie, it is a verb) on the “Cult of Moleskine”. I found a great blog called 43 Folders with a number of posts of ways to use it:

More Moleskine Hacks
H2G2 on the Moleskine
Jeremy Wagstaff’s Moleskine Remainders

And for the whole shebang of thier articles that talk about the Moleskine (yes, they are a little obsessed):
43 Folders: Moleskine Notebooks

No PDA for the PDA

Apartment Therapy has a article on replacing your PDA with a paper planner… Now here is a novel idea. One that I have considered for a long time but have been to scared to do. Actually replace my buggy, digitizer orientation challenged Palm Tungsten T2 and go back to using a nice, portable paper planner. When I think about the things that I honestly use my Palm for, many of them would be just as easy on a piece of paper in a well bound and pocket sized journal. To Do’s and other list type items for instance, which I more often write in the “note pad” of the Palm just like a paper entry anyway.

I am especially fond of the Moleskine Ruled Pocket Journal which I recently purchased. Problem is, I still have not really used it because I have not “made” a use for it. Perhaps, if I were to rid myself of the broken crutch that is my Palm I would.

Monday Mac Tweak #4

Post Subtitle: “The Moral of The Story or Back That Thang Up”

One thing was made abundantly clear to me after the hard drive adventure I experienced this weekend. There is absolutely NO EXCUSE for someone like me, who uses and supports technology for a living, to not have a recent backup. Especially since there are so many cheap and/or free backup utilities. Here are the ones I like (none of them begin with “R” or end with “etrospect”)

RsyncX– rsync is actually a synchronization utility that already exists, for free, and is built into the Unix underpinnings of Mac OS X. The problem is that it is a Unix utility and does not play well with Mac resource forks.

That being said, there is a way to use this tool.RsyncX, developed by Kevin Boyd, is a free version of this utility for Mac OS X that does play nice with the Mac. It also provides a graphical front end to the utility for those who are “Terminally Impaired”. Matthew Phillips has written and excellent resource called “Backup Your Mac With rsync” that is worth checking out if you wish to do this.

The Caveat: You can’t use this utility to back up to CD-R or DVD-R media. It works great with external drives including Firewire, USB

Deja Vu – For making scheduled backups to all manner of media, including CD-R and DVD, you can’t go wrong with Deja Vu. It is not only effective but, at $24.95, it is not that expensive either. Deja Vu lives as a preference pane in your System Preferences so it unobtrusive. It can be set to do manual backups as well.

Backup – If you have a .Mac account then you already have a “free” backup program available to you called, curiously enough, Backup. Backup allows you to back up to external hard drives, CD-R, DVD or even your .Mac iDisk. It is actually a very well designed piece of software. It allows for scheduled backups or manual ones, has a Quick Picks feature that will automatically back up things like “All Microsoft Word files in my home folder”, and much, much more.

Hard Drive Blues

Sorry for the delay in this week’s Mac Tweak. After 3 years of faithful service, the hard drive of my Powerbook G4 12 inch (867) decided to take a “hard dive”. Bethany and I came home from a wonderful breakfast at the Neighborhood Café to find my beloved laptop making a noise similar to a blender. Needless to say, I was in a panic. First off, I couldn’t afford to buy a Mac mini let alone a Powerbook. To make matters worse, The last backup I had was 2 months old. Two months! That is a century in the life of someone like me who uses his computer all day, everyday, for almost everything. It was a disaster.

To make a long story short, thanks to the beauty and generosity of Bethany I now have a new Powerbook G4 12 inch. A machine that will once again serve me for years to come.

Good Apple Related Repair Links

Apple’s Customer Installable Parts:
For the latest software versions:
Networking 101 and access to Unix help:
For direct returns of Apple iPods, iSights and exchanges:
Directions for repairing Apple Base Stations:
For base stations that are well out of warranty:
Apple Software Updates, Manuals & More:
Guess what this site does?:
Step by step iMac Upgrade/Repair instructions:
Links to everything Mac:
History and details of all the Macs since Apple I & Lisa:
Complete list of error codes and troubleshooting:

Monday Mac Tweek #3

It is Valentines Day today. Have you done your shopping for your loved one yet? I have a great girlfriend and I have gotten most of what I wanted to get her for our first Valentines Day together. I still have some shopping to do, but I am at work right now so I can’t. I can’t celebrate this glorious day by spending all day in bed with my sweetie showering her with gifts. Therefore, it is time to give Safari a little love instead.

We will start this off by downloading AcidSearch. AcidSearch, by Pozytron Software, is a free enhancement to the built in Google search field in your Safari toolbar. Install it and you can search a wide iety of sites, including Amazon, eBay, Versiontracker, Dictionary.com and more, right from your Safari toolbar search field. You can even customize it and add your own.

Next, let’s download and run Safari Debugger. This little utility reveals a hidden “Debug” menu in Safari that gives you a host of useful new options. For instance, have you ever been to a site that claims that “Your Browser is not supported”? This happens especially with Bank websites who’s web monkeys think they are smarter than you. With the debug menu you can now change the “User Agent” and make that site think you are on a Windows box using IE. Another cool feature is the ability to export your bookmarks. Therefore, if you ever want to switch to another browser you can take your bookmarks with you.

What was that? You are a Firefox user? Don’t worry, I have love for you too. Here is a way to give you a little more speed. And here is Sage, a fantastic RSS Sidebar Plugin

Monday Mac Tweak #2

Without certain applications and utilities, life on my Mac would not be the same. Here are a few of my favorites:

Konfabulator is a little hard to describe. It bills itself as “anything you want it to be” and that description is not far from the truth. Konfabulator itself is simply a “shell” program into which you can download and install what are called widgets. There are hundreds to choose from. The widgets display on your desktop and each offers a different degree of functionality.

For instance, you can download a widget that gives you the weather. Another can search Google, Amazon or even eBay right from your desktop. Another still will give you a live update of your available system memory. There are clocks, picture frames, RSS news readers and much much more. Because these are developed by a large and active community of independent developers, the possibilities of what these widgets can do seem endless.

LaunchBar by Objective Development is, in my opinion, the fastest way to launch items on your Mac. The way it does this is amazingly simple. LaunchBar runs as an application is triggered by typing Command-Space.You simply type the name or abbreviation (MSW for Microsoft Word for example) for the application, document, file or website you want and, once found in LaunchBar’s super fast list, hit Return to open that item. What’s more is that LaunchBar learns from you so the item that matches what you typed always comes up first.
WindowShade X gives you back a long missed feature of the Classic Mac OS – The ability to reduce any window to just its title bar. The Windowshade feature is handy if you want to get a quick look at something underneath a window without having to move or resize it.

Windowshade X does even more than it’s predecessor though. It also offers a nifty “Minnimize-in-Place”; feature that shrinks windows down to icon size. It’s your choice. Windowshade, Minimize in place or both at the same time.

Steveism: The Missing Manual

OK, so you go out and buy yourself a new, refurbished or used Macintosh Computer. You get your shiny new toy all packed up neatly in that beautifully, well thought out packaging that Apple is so famous for.

As a matter of fact, the way a product is packaged is as important to Apple as the product itself. Steve Jobs has always believed that the Macintosh computer experience should be an elegant, smart and beautiful one. That even extends to the box it comes in. I like to call this a “Steveism”;. It is one of those things that is so much a part of Steve’;s (and thus Apple’s) core philosophy that it speaks on many other levels of life beyond computers. It is one of those things that separates Apple from everyone else.

Another “Steveism”; is one I do not necessarily agree with. You see, Steve Jobs believes that Macs are so simple, they do not need a manual. A general user should just be able to plug it in and use it. As a matter of fact, it is said that he believes that if you included a manual with the product it would scare the “average”; user into thinking that the Mac was too technical. This is the reason that when you open that shinny new toy you will find, at most, a few disks, warranty sheet and a quick set up guide which basically only tells you how to plug the Mac in.

So, where can you get a manual for your shinny new toy? Well from Apple of course! Apple does write manuals for their products. They just don’t include them in the box. You can find manuals for any of Apple’s products here. You can download them in PDF format.

Of course, once you get the manual the next thing you should do is read it or, at the very least, browse thorough it. I am as guilty as anyone for not reading the manual but I find that when I do, it often answers questions or gives fixes to problems that come up. That in turn, will save you time and money in the long run.