Mac Mini

(Ian Gillis) #1

My Apple love affair started in the early eighties with the Apple Lisa - the first desktop computer with a WIMP GUI and in my view the first computer that was actually useful. I kept faithful to the brand through the Macintosh XL, the Mac II, the LC series and the Power Macs. Then I was seduced by a Win 95 PC and a friend with access to unlimited pirate software.

I’ve endured the Win 95 and then Win XP, always with the sneaking conviction that they are colossal bodges designed to convert that little green, winking C:\ into something approaching the delight of the Xerox/Macintosh GUI.

Now my XP machine badly needs serious work; a new hard drive and a rebuild when the only original OS I have access to is a partition on the hard drive which is pre-SP1 and SP2. It’s prone to sulk, rattling its hard drive like crazy doing something or other that doesn’t show on Task Manager or the network interface but which stops it servicing the mouse input.

I’ve flirted with Linux - I even have an eeePC which uses it - but I’m not convinced.

I want to go back to Apple, to those lovely beautifully-designed, solid chassis and glossy surfaces and the reliability and the usability. Above all I want to use the damn thing, not spend my life becoming an expert on how to mend it.

So my current idea is to buy a Mac Mini with the following spec:
# Intel Core 2 Duo cadencé à 2,53 GHz
# 4 Go de mémoire SDRAM DDR3 1 066 MHz - 2x2 Go
# Serial ATA de 500 Go
# SuperDrive 8x (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
# Souris Apple
# Clavier Apple avec pavé numérique - Français
# Guide de l’utilisateur (Anglais)
# Adaptateur Mini DisplayPort vers DVI

All this comes to €966.

My recalcitrant PC can go back into a corner with its 15" LCD, and I shall pinch back the lovely 22" Samsung for my Mac Mini. I’ll need to add Open Office, Firefox, Filemaker etc.

Yes, I know it’s expensive, but I think it’s worth it.

What do you experts think? - I can buy it all on line in three days!


(Nick Aurelius-Haddock) #2

Funny, I have been looking for a Solid State drive for my laptop, which means I will need an enclosure for the SATA disk that comes out, and freecom seem to always seem to be on the list when I do a search. eSata is definitely the way to go, as it’s way faster than anything else on the market at the moment.

That looks really good, and it is funny how the disk looks bigger than the mini , but that just shows how they squeeze things in.

There always seems to be one more piece of technology that I need :wink:


(Ian Gillis) #3

I needed an external hard drive for my Mac Mini as a back-up and
supplementary store and have been evaluating the possibilities.
It took me a long time - there are lots of drive makers out there - so I thought I’d pass on my conclusions in case anyone wants to do the same.

My Mac Mini has a 500GB hard disk, so I needed at least twice that,
or 1TB. However I also needed the disk as a temporary store for unedited
video, so I decided to go for 2TB.

The Mac Mini has USB2 or Firewire 800 interfaces available - USB2 has
a transfer rate of up to 480 Mb/s, Firewire 800 is more or less
constant at 800 Mb/s so I wanted to use the latter, but it would be
nice to future-proof the connectivity with an eSATA interface at a potential 3 Gb/s.

The disk should be Mac-compatible, Snow Leopard 10.6 compatible and
Time Machine compatible - formatted in or formattable in HFS+.

I searched the net for reports of difficulties and unreliability with
each drive.

And I compared the prices on the net - looking principally at, and, with some input from Kelkoo.

Finally the case should be minimalistic and go reasonably well with
the Mac Mini and be stackable or look reasonable side by side.

I came down to a short list of five:

LaCie d2 Quadra
Western Digital My Book Studio
Freecom Quattro
Iomega MiniMax

And the winner is…

The Freecom Quattro - not because it reminds me of my Audi but because
I liked the minimalist design, it’s a solid well-engineered product
from a German manufacturer with a wide range of drives, it has USB2,
Firewire 800 and eSATA interfaces and although it wasn’t the cheapest,
there was a good price in Pixmania. It was also the only drive for
which I couldn’t find any adverse criticism.

I’ve just installed it, which was a doddle; the Mac took all the
technical things on its shoulders and reformatted and did the first
back-up unbidden. Now I’ve only got 1.96 TB of storage left!
Picture attached - strange to see the hard drive bigger than the computer!

(Nick Aurelius-Haddock) #4

Sounds like you have good set up now. I have to say those little units are great for next-2-the-tv machines.

I may have to invest.


(Ian Gillis) #5


Well, I bought the new “mid-2010” Mac Mini with 2,4 Ghz Core Duo, 4GB RAM, 500GB HD.
There’s a good “in depth” review where the thing is dismantled - see here.
I’m chuffed to bits with the tiny size, elegant design, lightning speed and usability. I’ve been busy adding essentials such as Firefox (and Add-Ons), Google Earth, Open Office etc. My missus came into The Porcherie to see the new toy and said “where is it?”!
My iP5000 Canon printer had a driver for MacOS 10,6 Snow Leopard downloadable from Apple, but the only snag I’ve encountered is that my 6-year old Canoscan 3200F flat-bed scanner doesn’t have a driver available - but it was playing up and I needed an excuse to buy a new one, so I’ve ordered a new Canon LiDE 700F.
The Creative webcam isn’t working yet, but there’s a driver downloadable from Maccam.
The sound in/out arrangements are complex; two apparently ordinary 3,5mm jacks provide line in and sound out, but they’re combination sockets that can accept digital audio and digital optical audio too, and the sound out socket can accept microphone input from an iPhone headset.
I’m still in the honeymoon period, but the old PC still gets woken up now and then for its password manager and the like - but my new love gets most of my attention!

(Ian Gillis) #6

Thanks, Phil. Just shows the benefit of dithering and sucking one’s teeth - vaux mieux tard que jamais!
It’s also appeared on Apple France here. At first sight it seems to have souped-up graphics and a new case but is a bit more expensive - you get charged if you want 2 x 2GB of RAM.

(Phil Benn) #7


Just as an addition to this thread, the new Mac Mini has just been released:

(Ian Gillis) #8

Thanks, Steve. I had a look at Dropbox; it certainly looks like an answer to file synchronisation - provided there’s adequate storage in each client device. Maybe it could complement the use of network-attached storage.

(Ian Gillis) #9

Steve, thank you for your interesting contribution - you appear to have gone down more-or-less the same path as I intend to follow.
May I ask, have you transferred data from the old Windows machine, did you use network or flash drive/DVD/CD and did you have any compatibility problems? My last experience of Macs was from a long time ago when black magic and weird incantations were needed for a PC to open a Mac file.

(Phil Benn) #10


If you’re just working with video from your camcorder it should be fine - I use my Macbook Pro (2.8GHZ Core2Duo) for basic editing and authoring in iMovie and it works well.

If you’re converting a 1 hour HD movie for standard definition DVD then you do have to leave it for an hour or so to perform all the processing.

Generally I find the new Core2Duo systems are quick enough - I also have the fairly new iMac 3.0GHZ with the Intel Extreme in it, but I don’t find much difference in day to day use.

(Greg Harvey) #11

That’s a shame - battery is supposed to be a strength of the EeePC. My 901 is now 2 years old and the battery life is still great (I deliberately got one with a SSD - solid state drive - slow as hell, but extends the battery life hugely). I get about 4 hours out of it. I was getting 7 hours when it was brand new. I guess they never last forever. My Dell battery was totally dead - so dead the OS didn’t even recognise a battery was there any more - after 3 years!

(Ian Gillis) #12

It’s nice to hear from a convert!
I manage to do video editing with my current 2.08 Ghz Presario, but it’s from a hard drive camcorder so the load will be in the rendering rather than the capture aspects. I’ve got a Maxtor external hard drive with a Firewire port that I hope to free from back-up duty on the old computer.
And as I said in another post - I like iTunes; it’s user-friendly and IMHO beats Windows Media Player into a cocked hat (but I keep VLC Media Player as a reserve player!)

(Ian Gillis) #13

Thank you for those useful links.
I’m afraid I have to admit to using the eeePC with its original OS - I only use the Firefox application to look at Gmail, but if I need anything else its bookmarks are synced by Xmarks to the desktop. Its main use is to display lap timing data from the F1 site while I’m watching the Grand Prix, but I have used it on a cruise to Rio to sniff out unprotected wifi routers within range of the ship in port!
The only serious whinge I’ve got is that the battery doesn’t hold up any more, but I presume that I could get another if I tried.

(Ian Gillis) #14

Nick, thanks for your reply and thank you for this “petit coin des ordinateurs” and the time you spend on it.

I suppose a thread that contrasts Windows, Linux and Macintosh is guaranteed to be controversial. Maybe a coalition between Steve Jobs and Linus Torvalds would relegate Gordon Brown Gates to further Good Works?

When I bought my current PC (Win XP on Compaq Presario 2.08 GHz 512 MB 160 GB) I fully intended to junk the French language OS and the French keyboard and load it with Ubuntu. I even downloaded Ubuntu 6.10 and booted it from a CD. Then I found that the French language Windows Familiale was easily comprehensible and I rather liked the French keyboard as I write quite a lot of French - and I never got A Round Tuit!
The old Panrix computer was moved aside and I transferred vital stuff - then I copied the whole “my documents” folder at just over a GB into a corner of the new PC - then it went into the unwanted computers area of the barn (what does one do with superseded PCs?).
Now I have the same situation again - the Compaq now has 5 years of my life on its hard disk and on the back-up 300GB Maxtor external drive. I can"t clear it all out and reload it with Ubuntu and I don’t want to mess with dual-booting.
So I will probably do what I did before - move it aside and transfer what data I can from PC to Mac (via the wifi network if possible) and keep the old beast running until I can do without it. Maybe then I can load Ubuntu?

Cost isn’t important to me if it buys quality hardware and I do like the “it just works” aspect of Apple stuff - I managed to corrupt my iPod by plugging it into the eeePC - but iTunes didn’t say “Windows has detected an address violation 12F00C123” - it said “Don’t worry, we’ll replace your iPod software”. BTW I like iTunes!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m very fond of open software, which is why I use Firefox and Thunderbird, and I’m not inexperienced in Unix having used Sun workstations at work (rm -rf whoops!).
They say people who buy cars do research to justify the decision they’ve made anyway…

(Phil Benn) #15

The Mac Minis are great little pieces of kit, and you can of course use your own keyboard and monitor from the old PC if you want to. The specifications are pretty good for a small form factor system, and you should be fine with the 2.5GHz core2duo unless you’re doing anything really demanding like extensive video editing or big photoshop image work. If you run out of hard disk space Lacie (and other vendors) specialise in disk drives which stack under the mac mini and maintain the same case style, connecting via USB or Firewire.

The operating system (currently Snow Leopard) is of course very good, but will take a little adjustment to get used to it. I’ve used a number of different Macs since I first converted in 2003 - PowerMac G4, PowerMac G5, iMac, MacBook Pro, and they’ve all been great. A friend of mine runs a Mac Mini in his living room for a home entertainment system and swears by it.

However the others do make a good point about the premium you pay for the hardware, and the lock-in of iTunes, but to me its worth the trade-off; I just get on and use it.

(Greg Harvey) #16

Excellent advice, IMHO… obviously. :wink:

Two additional notes - first, this makes it dead easy to try Linux from a USB memory stick:

Second, the EeePC Linux is Xandros. I don’t want to presume you’re still using it as it came, but if you are, it’s horrible. The support is non-existent, updates very infrequent, additional software virtually unavailable (unless you want to compile it yourself) and a community consisting almost entirely of a bunch of frustrated EeePC users who don’t quite know what to do about it and wish they got the damned thing with Windows XP. Real shame the Asus gang made that choice.

If you still have the netbook, I recommend this:

My sister is using it on her netbook and never looked back. She lives in Africa so I posted her a “live” USB to try it out, she toyed with it for a few months then installed it. She loves it! It’s not “classic” Ubuntu, in so far as it’s designed to hide some of the back end and make a pretty UI that pulls out the features people expect from a netbook. But it’s leaner and faster than standard Ubuntu and still has all the same software available in the repository, so no restrictions if you want to install some additional bits, unlike Xandros. And you’ll get all the features of Xandros, plus some, plus much more support, plus a much prettier UI. =)

(Nick Aurelius-Haddock) #17

Ian, I have to say I’m with Greg on this one. A lot of my friends use Mac’s and really love them, but there are a couple of points that always worry me with Mac’s. The first is cost, you really do pay a premium for the hardware, the second is the complete control things like iTunes want to exert over you. I’m not a rabid anti-mac person, I use what works and I own an iPod and have just bought an iPad, but the proprietary nature of iTunes really annoys me. These devices are single use , so it’s not a problem, but I want complete freedom on my laptop to get real work done.

I would recommend downloading and trying Ubuntu Linux on your windows box for a while to see if it fits your bill first, and put the €900 euro to other use. It already comes with Firefox and Open Office ready to run out of the box. The version of Linux that was installed on the eeePC was probably one of the worst ever, and really didn’t give you a good idea of how great it can be. I bought one and immediately put Ubuntu onto it.

You can try out Linux without installing anything - just run it from the CD, just to get a look, and the latest version looks very Mac like and I think you may be pleasantly surprised. If you like it, then you can buy a much cheaper new box to run it on or just stay with what you have and save the difference.

Hope that helps the decision.

(Greg Harvey) #18

LOL, fair enough! Anything to get you off Windoze is a good thing. =)

(Ian Gillis) #19

Hi Greg,
Luckily my Finance Controller is small and sweet and she says I deserve one, particularly if it will stop me swearing at the Windoze machine!

(Greg Harvey) #20

Don’t ask me! I repeatedly toy with the idea of buying Macbook Pros for the business, then I look at the price tag and back out again. I still don’t really see the value. They’re very pretty, but that’s not really top of my list of priorities. :wink:

That said, I hear they’re robust machines and many other “pros” in my industry sector swear by Macs, so what do I know? I just can’t help but put my grumpy Finance Controller hat on when I’m buying hardware.

Ps - I hope they get it right this time. The Cube was their first attempt, but it was a total flop. It got too hot and you were disappointed to discover it came with a power supply as big as it was but twice as ugly!