Apple recently announced a quad processor G5 computer (at 2.5GHz per processor) with graphics cards that will simultaneously drive up to eight of its spectacular Cinema displays. This new machine brings with it a load of new technologies and standards. Every year Macs get faster, more powerful and user-friendly, and are able to perform wondrous new feats compared with their predecessors. Traditionally, I advocate getting just the amount of computer you need and keeping it for five to 10 years to get your money's worth. Macs are usually durable enough, and I have a few friends still using older Macs that should actually be in a museum. I have recently changed my recommendation after a letter from a reader illustrated all the reasons why that was false economy. He said: 'I'm one of those guys who hates to throw out a perfectly good Apple computer and peripherals just to buy the latest and fastest, so I am still working on my upgraded G3 PowerMac 9600 with OS system 8.6. I recently bought a G4 hardware upgrade card and intend to upgrade my OS as well.' He said that he wanted to upgrade his Mac without spending too much money. It turns out that the most advanced OS his machine will accommodate is 9.1 (which is no longer easily available) and all of his new peripherals (printer and scanner) need OS 9.2. In the process of upgrading, he also discovered that his new upgrade card would not recognise any of his new Ram. When all of his upgrading is complete, he will have a Mac that will not run the latest software or hardware and will take an insufferably long time to do any work. Because it does not run the latest applications other people may have trouble opening his attachments. It will take him twice as long to perform everyday tasks using his slow, older computer than it would take him on a new computer. If he wants to do something exotic such as edit a video or even a photo, it will take him much longer still. A Mac Mini only costs US$499 (complete with the latest OS), will accommodate his new printer and scanner, and will zip through his daily workload. Did I mention that US$499 is less than I would charge for six hours of troubleshooting and repair? And that is probably how long it would take to deal with any of his future problems. I used to manage 20 Macs for a publishing company that stayed with older Macs and older operating systems far too long. I would go in at night to do backup and basic maintenance. It would take me six or seven hours to back up the old machines, whereas with a new machine it would have only taken minutes. When I had to troubleshoot these relics, I would spend half the night waiting for them to reboot simply because of the old technology. With the newer technology I would not have had to reboot at all. Because I charged by the hour for troubleshooting and repair I was aware that the slow machines were costing their owner a lot more than the cost of a new machine. In that publishing company's case, it did not want to spend money on 10 updated copies of Quark and Photoshop for OSX, but because the firm's old software and hardware had long since been paid off (as a lease) and the production people were wasting half their day waiting for their Macs to render a few images, the company could have effectively produced another magazine for what going slow had cost it. Now, I think it is cool to have a working PowerBook 100 (1991-1992) that you can do e-mail with, but not as an everyday working computer. Mac empowerment 14 years ago is not the same as Mac empowerment today. And if we demand faster, better and more powerful Macs, we will reap the reward of having the future evolve and manifest right in front of our eyes. Apple introduces new applications every few months and invariably these new applications will not run on last year's Macs. But if you play with these new applications you will want these new applications. Because I am in the unusual situation of using both the oldest and newest technology, I am increasingly aware that the gap between them is wider every year. So, my recommendation to those who want to save money on their Macs has changed. Now, I just say 'quad processor, multi-gigahertz with a terabyte of storage and multiple Cinema displays'. E-mail Dave Horrigan at email@example.com with your Mac queries.