Mac User Groups: The Forgotten Resource

Whether you're new to the Mac platform or just looking for people in your area who know a lot about the Mac, a great place to start is your local Macintosh User Group (MUG). Most have regular meetings and events where you can mingle with your fellow Mac users, and many also offer classes on how to use your Mac--a great place to start if you're just starting out.

MUGs, which have been around since the Mac's early days, generally have members who are longtime Mac users. This fact comes in very handy when you have hardware- or software-related problems to solve, as you can almost always find an expert to help you. A MUG can help you with things like finding a new ISP that supports the Mac, or maybe even point you to some shareware that can fix a problem. To make your search a little easier, I did a little groundwork for you.

Where do I start?

A good starting point in your search for a local MUG is Apple's user group page ( http://www.apple.com/usergroups/ ). There, you can answer a few simple questions and it will find the MUG closest to you. It's usually a great resource, but unfortunately, my search didn't turn up anything. Another good search resource for MUGs is About.com ( http://machardware.about.com/compute/machardware/msubmugs.htm ). It has a list of MUGs throughout the world sorted by continent and region. I found a few useful sites in the UK, as well as dozens of MUG sites in the United States (and my local MUG, BMUG--the Berkeley Mac User Group).

What if there's no MUG near me?

The beauty of the Web is, of course, that you can be two blocks or two states away from whatever you need. So when it comes to MUGs, you won't have any problems getting information.

Because MUGs are run by local users, MUG Web sites and the type of information on the sites vary widely. The New York Mac User Group's (NYMUG) ( http://www.nymug.org ) site is the nicest looking of the MUG sites I came across, but unless you live in the New York metropolitan area, it's relatively useless. Although they offer classes on everything from AppleScript to HyperCard, and information on when and where the classes are held, they don't offer any online-only information, unless you access the bulletin board system. You can do that by downloading the software the NYMUG provides on its Web site, but you must be a member to access the information.

From the NYMUG site, you can get information about classes, as well as download the software needed to access NYMUG's bulletin board system.

One of the most informative MUG sites I've found is the Lake County, California, Mac User Group page ( http://www.lcmug.com ). The site has a lot of information that is perfect for new users, and a message board where you can post questions to which you still can't find answers. Also, the LCMUG has a list of links to other Apple resources, and meeting times for their group, in case you're in the area.

BMUG--the Berkeley Mac User Group ( http://www.bmug.org ) has a great BBS-based system. It currently offers free access to the BMUG BBS, but requires that you download their version of the software (Which is for the best, because it comes pre-configured to use their service, even with your active Internet connection). From there you can find a small handful of software, which is mostly freeware or shareware, as well as a few utilities to help connect you to the Internet, message boards where you can post your questions and concerns, as well as simple messaging services to communicate with the other users (similar to primitive e-mail). There is even a page about QuickTime with plenty of links and resources.

BMUG currently offers free access to its BBS. You can download the software, get information, and find out how to join.

But I need contact!

If a MUG in your area is what you really want, and you can't find one, go back to the Apple site and find out how you can start your very own Mac user group ( http://www.apple.com/usergroups/contact.html#startgroup ). Although there is a plethora of Mac information available on the Internet, having a few friendly faces around every once in a while is often the best (and most pleasant) way to solve problems and learn what else your little Mac can do.

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