Coffee with the Mac Man ...
What do you do when your trusted Mac breaks down? The answer is to call a Mac technician. We speak to Stuart Snow, director of Mac Manager a company which offers fast, quality solutions for Mac owners in Sydney ...
What inspired you to move into this field?
After working for years at various Sydney Apple centres and dealers, I decided that I could provide a better quality service if I opened my own business, so I did. I didn't want to be just another Mac shop, where customers would have to lug their computers in to some distant location, then wait for it to be assessed by some mysterious person behind the curtain they've never seen or met, and then have the remainder of their experience with a technician relaying everything over the phone - I always felt this was impersonal. So I started Mac Manager, a purely on-site service, where virtually everything would be done in your home or office. I would always come to you, whether it be to set up your new Mac, repair your existing Mac, or provide you with tuition and training.
Macs for Pros and Consumers
How would you rate the latest Macs compared to the latest PCs?
Macs have traditionally been a cut above the rest, and the latest Macs are no exception. Most people aren't interested in customising every little thing in their computers, they just want a good one that does everything they want, without having to buy this and that over the coming months to build it up to what it should've been in the first place. But this is what Windows PCs offer - a low up-front cost, with a bunch of hidden costs in the long term. In fact it's been shown that a Windows PC costs considerably more over the life of the machine, compared with a Mac. It's just the higher up-front cost that scares most people off.
What are Macs' greatest weaknesses, apart from being unabl
e to play "You Don't Know Jack"? And what about CD-Roms?
Hahaha do they still make those?! Although Macs can do everything a Windows PC can do, thanks to the ability to run any version of the Windows operating system via software such as Boot Camp and Parallels, there are a few areas Apple could improve upon in in my opinion: 1) Adding a blu-ray option - of course you can buy an external reader / burner, but who wants another device sitting on their desk? 2) More games developed for the Mac OS. 3) A tower computer that costs under $2000, for those that want the capability to add multiple internal hard drives, sound cards for music editing, and additional burners including blu-ray.
What's the single most common Mac problem that you get called out for?
A few people have asked me that recently, and there there isn't really one regular problem I'm called out to fix. Some of the more common issues are where their Mac is running slowly, which is usually due to a lack of memory or hard drive space after being filled up, or that it just needs a service. Another would be to have this or that done on their Mac, but they don't feel confident enough to do it themselves, or that they don't know where to start. And probably another one, for businesses only, would be that they want to add a secure managed server.
Is there an increasing trend in the call-outs you're getting for people looking for tuition rather than having seemingly unfixable problems?
Not really. Most people are pretty cluey with computers these days, so tuition is becoming a less asked-for service. But there are still those that feel they have been left behind with the technology rush, and feel quite daunted with what they've seen their friends / family / colleagues do on their computers, and would like to do themselves. Usually within an hour or two tuition with me, I'm able to restore their confidence so they can get stuck into a few cool things they've been wanting to do.
When a novice encounters basic terms like "Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard" can you briefly describe what this means? Eg what is Leopard?
Essentially it consists of three parts; "Mac OS X" which indicates the brand of operating system; "10.5" is the version number, with each subsequent decimal point increase being a paid upgrade; and "Leopard" is code-name for the product, kind of like a more interesting name for it than simply "10.5". Each version of Mac OS X (10.0, 10.1, 10.2......) has been accompanied by a code-name from the cat family. It started with 10.0 which was called Cheetah, followed by 10.1 Puma, then Jaguar, Panther, Tiger, Leopard, and finally 10.6 Snow Leopard.
As a Mac consumer yourself, what do you think are the most exciting developments of the last 2-3 years?
The iLife and iWork software would have to top my list..... the improvements they have made over the past few years are simply incredible. Such as facial recognition in iPhoto, stabilising shaky video footage in iMovie, sharing home movies and photos with family & friends on your own web site created in minutes, learning to play the guitar / piano by famous musicians in GarageBand, and creating the most gorgeous presentations I have ever seen in Keynote - something that's sure to keep your audience from going to sleep.
Another would be multi-core processors. A few years ago, the pace of ever-increasing processor speeds halted, and they were unable to produce processors faster than about 3.0GHz. So instead what they did was create dual, quad and 8-core processors, which has resulted in vast improvements in computer power. Apple has specifically redesigned virtually all their software to take advantage of multi-core processors, so that way you can get the best possibly performance from your Mac.
And larger screens - if you look at only a few years ago, the largest iMac money could buy was a 20-inch, now the largest is 27-inch! This totally changes the whole computer experience, and also allows people to use their Macs for more purposes, such as a TV and DVD player.
And also looking into the future, what's the prospects for Apple Mac in the next few years, and also the next 5-10 years?
I think we're going to see more and more people switching to Macs because they're fed up with the frustrations associated with Windows. This will mean there will be more software titles to choose from, more outlets to buy from, and more options of Macs to choose from. I also believe we're going to see a lot more touch-based input devices, possibly starting with an Apple tablet-device. We already have multi-touch trackpads, mice, iPods and iPhones, it's only a matter of time before we see a touch-based keyboard and display.
Do you travel as far as Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Newcastle to see clients? Where are most of your clients based?
We have clients all over Sydney. Because Macs consist of a smaller market-share, and as they're less prone to break down and require service, there are less Apple service companies around, especially in the outer areas, so I'm happy to travel long distances to support them. For example, we have customers in Mittagong, Katoomba, Lithgow, Wollongong, Woy Woy, etc. The only difference for people in these further areas is that we have a minimum number of hours required for a visit. While our minimum call-out service for those in Sydney metro areas (from the Eastern Suburbs to the Lower Blue Mountains) is one hour, call-outs to Katoomba, for example, are 2 hours minimum. I believe this is fair - the rates are still the same, it's just that it has to be for a certain minimum amount of time to make the journey worthwhile for us.
You've also moved into selling Mac products - what can people now purchase from Mac Manager?
Apple branded computers & software, memory & hard drive upgrades, software titles such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suites, Quark, Parallels, MYOB, FileMaker, printers, scanners, displays, UPS, and more. Pretty much anything Mac-related.
Where Do You Get This Help?
You can find Mac Manager via their website www.macmanager.com.au or call 1300 650 126 or 0407 026 037.