First of all, the best family computer is still a Mac. ChromeBooks will be a good option when prices fall below $180 for reasonable build quality, but they’re not there yet.
So which Mac?
Until today I’d have said a Mac Mini or a 13” MacBook Air. The combination of bundled display, internal hard drive, and difficult repair rules out the iMac, and most of the MacBook Pro lineup is too expensive for a family machine.
Today though timely app.net advice  persuaded me that the education market legacy non-retina 13” MD101LL MacBook Pro is the right choice. It’s inexpensive by Mac standards ($1,185 and no tax via Amazon), it’s the only Mac notebook with a DVD player, and it comes with plenty of storage (500GB hard drive). Best of all, but the pathetic standards of the modern Mac, it’s relatively serviceable.
Which is why geek parents like this 2012 era MacBook. Buy it cheap and when the warranty expires a year later, put in 4GB RAM and a 500GB/1TB SSD. Now you’ve got a performance machine with a seven year lifespan. 
Yeah, the non-Retina MB Pro is, you know, non-Retina. But that makes it faster and the battery lasts longer. Sure it’s heavier than the new generation, but it’s a family device. You’re not globetrotting with it. And a DVD is still a handy thing to have. Best of all it’s an old design — all of the manufacturing glitches have been fixed by now.
It’s the best family computer. Too bad it’s going to disappear soon …
- fn -
 Advice sought because of a humiliating blunder that I just figured out as I was writing this post. Excuse me while I bang my head against the table.
It began when our family computer, a 2006 Core 2 Duo MacBook, stopped charging. At first the power adapter glowed green and powered the computer, but a day or so later the adapter light went out entirely. An SMC reset didn’t help. Since the power adapter was a shiny 8 month old modern L-connector Apple Store replacement I was sure the old logic board had died. Hence my app.net inquiry.
I ran to the U of MN Apple store to get a new machine, but, of course, I brought my adapter along to check it worked. And there they told me that it was a 45W adapter! Wow, amazing it worked at all! How could that Apple Genius have given me the wrong adapter! What an idiot! (wait for it)
So I gave ‘em my 45W adapter to throw out and went home. Later, when writing this blog, I confirmed the MacBook needs a 60W adapter, whereas my MacBook Air uses a 45W adapter (wait for it) which … come to think of it … looks a lot … like the one … I just bought …
Yeah. Somehow we’d switched adapters. The 60W is fine for the Air (though unnecessarily bulky)
Although you should always use the proper wattage adapter for your Apple notebook, you can use an adapter of a higher wattage without issue.
But the 45W failed the MacBook. I’m surprised it worked at all. The whole mess was a series an Einstellung effect cognitive blunders. I assumed I had the right adapter, I assumed it had to be the logic board …
Sigh. Now I have to take my new 60W adapter back to the Apple Store and exchange it for a new 45W adapter …
- fn -
 Scotch tape over chipping top case plastic, congenitally crummy hinges but with one huge, killer feature — it’s serviceable. Anyone can easily upgrade RAM or replace the hard drive. And so it delivered great value. Apple has forgotten what made it loved…
 Extra credit feature: The University of Minnesota Apple Store will add memory at time of purchase (non-soldered!). They’ll even do the SSD update. Now that our beloved First Tech is gone, I’ll be relying on them more …
- iPhoto bug: black or all white photos when editing on MacBook Duo 2012. Weird bug with old integrated Intel CPU
- My MagSafe adapter light goes out periodically 2011.
- MacBook: won’t startup unless plugged in 2007 (a year after I bought MacBook battery died prematurely)
- A dead MacBook Air power adapter is magically restored. SMC problem? 2011. But then it died again. It was replaced under warranty.