A Review - Terry White Mac OS X Training DVD

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Review - Mac OS X Training for Windows Users DVD

Reviewed by: Phil Shapiro

Available from Amazon.com/

$34.95 (U.S.)
$49.95 (Canada)
UK 29.95


Apple’s dirty little secret is that they provide virtually no bundled training materials helping new Mac owners learn to use the computer they just bought for a couple thousand dollars. So new Mac owners are faced with the predicament of either: Spending time and money on books and training materials; relying on the generosity of Mac-using friends and relatives to continually bail them out; or hiring a consultant for a couple hundred dollars to explain how to use the features of a computer they just spent a couple thousand dollars on. None of these options are particularly appealing. A new option is available today that costs all of $35.

This Mac training DVD by Terry White, president of the MacGroup Detroit user group, is worth far more than $35. The only way to characterize this DVD is to say that it is exceedingly well done. Terry White gives a tour of Mac OS 10.4 Tiger that is clear, concise and comprehensive. He chooses his words very carefully to convey meaning. His intonations and voice are melodious to the ear. He speaks with confidence, knowledge and empathy.

While watching this DVD, every minute of the experience had me thinking to myself: "This is it. This is what Apple needs to bundle with every new Mac they sell."

The Appropriate Person to be Making this DVD?

To be sure, while this DVD is billed as being Mac OS Training for Windows Users, the DVD would benefit anyone who needs general training on how to use a modern Mac. I have to say that I found the comparisons to Windows features light. While Terry White is an incomparably excellent explainer, he ought to have used more Windows-friendly terminology in the DVD. When he explains that people should press the Return key, he might not realize that Windows users have never heard of a Return key. He ought to have said: Press the Return key, which Windows users know as the Enter key.

The appropriate person to be creating a training DVD of this kind is a Windows expert who recently made the transition to being a Mac user. Only they can truly convey – through first-hand experience -- the myriad of little tips and tricks that others need to know. I would love to see Terry White create a second volume DVD in this series, in conjunction with a team of Windows experts who have made the transition to the Mac. Who should fund the development of that DVD? Apple should.

Getting back to the review, this DVD is strong throughout all 2 hours 15 minutes of its presentation. What makes it particularly effective is that the DVD presents the most useful and important information first. In the first section of this DVD Terry White covers the top 10 things you need to know about your Mac. True to word, he beautifully covers the top 10 things people new to the Mac need to know about how to launch applications, quit applications, configure the Dock, etc.

All 31 chapters of this DVD cover material that Mac users need to know. What sticks in my mind is the wonderful tour of Safari and Mac OS Mail. I ended up learning about features of Mac OS 10.4 (Tiger) that make it far more compelling for me to upgrade from Panther.

Omitted Material

I wish this DVD would have given a tad more coverage of Firefox, though. Firefox has been downloaded more than 100 million times. I like Safari, but Firefox is the browser that lets me get more work done in a day. Since more minds around the world are working on improving Firefox than on improving Safari, to my mind Firefox is the browser offering the most value. A brief nod in the direction of Eudora email client might have also been appropriate. It's been my experience that the smartest people on the planet tend to prefer Eudora over Mac OS Mail. I wouldn't group myself in with that bunch, but I do have an everlasting fondness for Eudora.

In that respect, this DVD is a touch too Apple-centric for this reviewer's tastes. Yes, the mothership produces some very fine software. They're not the only game in town, though.

How this DVD Was Made


My curiosity got the best of me while writing this review, so I asked Terry White if he used Snapz Pro software as the main tool to create this DVD. He promptly replied that he did. I imagine the other main software he used was DVD Studio Pro.

This brings me to the point about this DVD's menu navigation. Through no fault of Terry White, this DVD is unnecessarily difficult to navigate. The chapters of this DVD are nicely arranged 6 to a screen. That's fine. But the next and back buttons on the navigation screen are entirely inert to mouse clicks. The hotspot on these buttons is a square about 25 pixels to the left of these words. The square is invisible until you hover your mouse over it. Navigational hotspots need to extend to cover the next and back text items themselves.

This flaw in the navigation design might not be as apparent to people who are viewing this DVD in a consumer DVD player. I was viewing this DVD on my iBook laptop and was stymied for about 15 minutes when I first started viewing this DVD.

I hereby sentence the DVD Studio Pro design team to 10 lashes from usability expert Jakob Nielsen. (http://useit.com) It's fine for these lashes to be delivered virtually rather than physically.

Conclusion

If Apple Computer has any smarts at all, they would bundle three free copies of this training DVD with every new Mac they sell. The purchaser of the Mac would be able to pass along the two extra copies of the DVD to friends and colleagues. This concept is called expanding mindshare. I sometimes wonder whether Cupertino has ever heard of the concept.

In this information age, knowledge of how to use a computer is one of the most valuable skills people can have. As we move forward into the future, we can have a society where some people purchase that knowledge, and others are left clueless. Or we can have a society where everyone has access to the basic knowledge they need to know. Which society would you prefer? We are now given that choice.


Phil Shapiro

The reviewer, former president of the Virginia Macintosh Users Group, is an educator and technology access activist in the Washington DC-area. He can be reached at
http://www.digitaldivide.net/profile/pshapiro


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