Weblogs: Gadgets and Stuff

Jumping on the Mac Mini bandwagon

Saturday, January 29, 2005

On Monday 11th January 2005, Steve Jobs' keynote during the MacWorld 2005 exhibition announced a raft of new products, from the iPod Shuffle through to software upgrades. One of the announcements was the Mac Mini - a keyboardless, displayless, mouseless Mac. The smallest and cheapest Mac.

On Tuesday 12th January 2005 I preordered my own Mac Mini from the Apple UK online store. Why the delay? Well the Slashdot load on apple.com took the UK online store offline when I visited that Monday evening. The expected shipping date was Friday 28th January 2005 - one week after the official launch. I was billed £389 (£50 extra for the memory upgrade), shipping was free.

On Thursday 27th January, Apple sent me an email confirming that my purchase had been shipped.

On Friday 28th January at 16:30 my doorbell rang, and a courier delivered a smallish unbranded carton. My Mac had arrived.

Why the Mac mini is a good fit for me

My main requirement for a Mac for browser testing, particularly Safari. Maybe a little editing, web page design and web development.

I played around with Eclipse and Java development on the iBook, but ran into a few cross-platform development problems - importing an existing project created under Windows into a new workspace. Also Eclipse really works well under 1280x1024. Working only in 1024x768 is really painfully limiting. So I don't expect to be doing any heavy development on a Mac.

I decided to go for the bottom of the range Mac Mini - G4 1.25Ghz processor with 40Gb drive. But upgraded the memory to 512Mb.

I have an older G3 iBook that I bought off ebay early last year for £400 - a G3 400Mhz that I then upgraded from 128Mb to 512Mb Ram and OS9 upgrade to the then rather new MacOSX Jaguar. That gave me a testbed for Safari 1.1. The battery life is good, but not enough horsepower for a long editing session using Frontier's outliner in 16px mode. Or for that matter, being able to upgrade to MacOSX Tiger when it becomes available later this year.

First impressions

The first thing people exclaim when they see the Mac mini is over how small it is. Even with that in mind I was still shocked by how small it was. In a Windows based office, this thing will be mistaken for an external DVD Drive.

Its quite light. I've read many people mentioning they were surprised by how heavy the machine is - its about as weighty as a sub-notebook.

Its quiet - the only hardware sound is the typical 2.5 inch laptop harddrive clicking as it spins up. The internal speakers are activated, but I doubt anyone would want to listen to their mp3 collection using just that.

I plugged in my 17 inch Samsung flatscreen (there is a DVI to VGA dongle included with the Mac mini), used a PS2 to USB converter cable to attach my keyboard and mouse, switched on. Went through a couple of screens of configuration, setting up the network was a breeze. A System Preferences dialogue came up advising updated packages and security fixes that can be downloaded. After a reboot I'm browsing the web, and editing this blog entry in Safari.

Russell Beattie mentioned a toolkit for remapping Windows keyboards into sensible Mac keys using a package called DoubleCommand. I've installed that and checked the options for "Command key acts as ctrl key" and "Ctrl key acts as Command key". Now Ctrl-C does a copy instead of the Windows-C combination.

The default screen resolution is 1024x768, and the System Preferences does allow scaling up to 1280x1024 which is the natural resolution of my 17" monitor. But I'm loathe to switch resolutions at the moment, since I'm enjoying the smooth font rendering of the MacOSX. Its fantastic. I suppose I'll hike the resolution up briefly just to see the difference.

Wow. the Mac at 1280 x 1024 still looks amazing. Only the textareas in HTML forms look a little small, but there's a Safari configuration I can use to set a minimum font size on that.

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