Busman's Holiday
Just Another Mac Mini Column
by Steve Wood
November 14, 2005





MyMiniLike lemmings flocking to the sea, the Mac faithful swarmed to the online Apple Store last January to order their Mac Minis and iPod Shuffles. Steve Jobs had just announced the new models during his Macworld Expo keynote speech. So many attempted to log on and order that the volume shut down the Apple Store for a short while. I was right there in the flock of lemmings, straining to be among the early purchasers of the new Macintosh. I ordered a 1.42 GHz Mac Mini the day after they were announced.

shared spaceMy Mini was to replace my Blue & White Mac at work that I used mainly for graphics jobs. For a time, I kept the B&W at work, due to its spacious dual hard drives. Eventually, the Blue & White went home for use as a file server and backup machine.

The Mini was an ideal choice for my job site. It's compact size fit in well on my limited desk space that it shared with a Dell 20" flat panel and my work-supplied Compaq laptop. The machines shared the same monitor, keyboard, and mouse via a Dr. Bott MoniSwitch DVI KVM box.

mini w/ ministackI used the Mini as a second machine for a time, but by summer, it had become my primary computer at work. The addition of a 320 GB NewerTech miniStack USB/FireWire drive gave me the storage I needed. I eventually cloned the Mini's hard drive to the miniStack and began booting from it, as it features a 7200 RPM drive. That also allowed me to bring my work home with me. The miniStack traveled quite snugly in my laptop case.

From my experience, I found my Mini to be just fast enough that I wasn't constantly annoyed, despite the fact that I work on a twin 1.8 GHz G5 at home and have a 1.6 GHz Compaq laptop at work. While I occasionally became impatient with it, I was constantly running multiple, high demand applications on it. Often, it was necessary to run Word, Excel, Photoshop, Mail, and a web browser at the same time. The one thing I never could add to the full software mix was Macromedia's Dreamweaver MX 2004. Launching Dreamweaver with my usual array of other applications running would bring the Mini to a near standstill, possibly more a function of running out of RAM and dropping into virtual memory.

How good an experience was running the Mini for Me?

At first, I used the Mini mostly for graphics applications, just as I had my venerable Blue & White before it. But over the ten months I used the Mini, it eventually took over almost all of my daily computer chores, including email (other than bulk mailings), web browsing, web design, large spreadsheet work, letters and documents, PDF creation and assembly of connected PDF documents.

posterAs I wound down its use, I was finishing a 27x36 poster for work that I'd decided to do in actual size. The Mini handled the monstrous document with aplomb. The poster along with the table runner below were eventually great hits with the boss and proved quite helpful when I worked conventions.

RunnerNow, after ten months of steadily increasing use, my Mini is posted for sale on eBay, and I'm a bit sad about it. It's been replaced, by necessity, by a new PowerBook. The Mini never was a home computer for me. I purchased it to use at my job, where ostensibly, only PCs are sanctioned. I simply work better on a Mac.

The Mini has served me well. Apple's first truly low-cost entry into the consumer computer market is already a commercial success. With the jump to faster Intel chips not too far away, I can see a rosy future for the Mini line.

When the new Minis appear, I hope Apple will find a way to increase the maximum RAM on them. Already, second generation Minis with 64 MB of video memory are becoming available. Beyond that, there's not much I'd change about the Mini. They're that good.

Resources on the Mini:

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links updated 5/1/2009
©2005 Steven L. Wood