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Given my situation, is the Mac Mini right for me?

 
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melonpool
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 07, 2005 12:59 pm    Post subject: Given my situation, is the Mac Mini right for me? Reply with quote

Hey guys. Sit back and I'll tell you a tale -- a tale of a Unix/Windows user who, despite previously scoffing them to his Mac-using girlfriend, is planning on making the switch.

I really don't plan to switch to Mac exclusively, but who knows? Apple's products have previously been unattainable for many students, but not anymore. Fed up with the security (or lack of) in Windows and the not-quite-so-pretty GUIs available in *NIX, I am thinking about giving Apple's stuff a shot.

I was a computer science student at the local community college and had an internship with a local software company. For a short while there, I did development in Visual Studio .NET but soon expressed distaste for the work and was moved to Sysadmin duties, which I enjoyed a bit.

At the time of applying to actual universities, I also made the decision to switch my major. Computer science wasn't making me happy. Anything practical I might learn in class could easily be learned for free through a Wiki somewhere on the internet. I switched to my other interest -- communications (with focus on television and broadcasting).

I have two computers, both gifts from my parents at various points in my life: an aging Dell Dimension and a new Inspiron laptop with Centrino technology. Believe me, if I had a choice in the matter, I wouldn't have gotten two Dell machines...but they were free so I can't complain.

The Dimension always had some form of *NIX on it ever since its age started to become an issue. In the past, I've mostly run Debian GNU, but that's not on there anymore. When I switched majors, I think I also lost the typical Computer Science attitude of "I'm the greatest, I know it all, and I need to have my hands dirty in every aspect of my computer." Now, fed up with all of that -- I want something that just works. So, I put Ubuntu Linux on the desktop instead, a variant of Debian which happens to "just work."

I'm going away to school in September and I don't really want to bring my Desktop. I'm going to leave it behind for my younger brothers to play with. I don't really want to bring my laptop either. I've heard that many universities have problems with laptops being stolen. I've become remarkably fed up with Windows and only keep 2000 on my laptop for compatability sake (also Counter-Strike!). I don't want to put Ubuntu or something on it because these things often have random issues with laptops.

So, I consider these things. I like *NIX's terminal but not its GUI. I despise Windows and simply accept it as an inevidibility in most cases. I don't want to bring my laptop or my desktop, so this would suggest purchasing a new computer would be needed. I've always been fascinated with Apple...

My girlfriend is a graphic design major and has an iBook that she bought like 3 years ago. It's sort of slow and old, but she doesn't mind. It works, mostly (probably could use some sort of reformat, I think...3 years of internet use...). We used to go back and forth with points about how whatever platform each of us was using was better than the other. Looking back, nearly all of my criticisms about Macs back then are actually some of their best qualities (after research).

I mean, here's a machine that is made by the same guys who made the operating system. There's no suprises! There isn't any bloated interface drivers because the guys who made the operating system didn't have to cater to every possible combination of hardware. My previous arguement of "You can't control what hardware you've got...." is actually a good thing, now that I think about it.

Oh, but they're simply too expensive. Oh no, says Steve Jobs. I've got something up my sleeve.

The Mac Mini. Here it is. Is it the answer to my problems? I'm sure it will be -- I'm just concerned if the low specs of the hardware will hinder me. Let's see -- what will I use this machine for...

Surfing the net, e-mail, IM, word processing, music, pictures, maybe torrenting, maybe watching movies.

I've heard wonderful things about Safari, so surfing the net shouldn't be a problem. I've mostly used Firefox, but simply as a last effort. I think Firefox has a long way to go before perfection so I don't mind dropping it in favor of Safari (I know Firefox has a Mac version, but I also heard it wasn't so wonderful)

E-Mail ... I'm sure that I won't worry about this.

IM .. I know there are lots of wonderful multi-protocol clients out there for the Mac. The name of one escapes me right now, but I know it exists. I'm not worried.

Word processing ... I don't want to buy any software, really, so I think OpenOffice is the way to go. I heard that X11 support for OS X is sort of buggy...but there exists an OpenOffice MacOS port somewhere. Anyone have experience with that? (the non X11 version of OpenOffice)

Music...Pictures... iLife

Torrenting .... I may find some snags with this one. I heard that BitTorrent support isn't so wonderful for Apple products. Anyone confirm/deny?

Watching movies .... I know this won't be a problem. My girlfriend's old iBook can handle DVD's so I'm sure the Mac Mini can do it.


So, will the Mac Mini serve me well? I was planning on this:

1.25 GHz (will I notice a difference with the 1.42 Ghz ???)
512 MB RAM (I've heard this is nearly a requirement)
40 gig HD (I will use an external Firewire drive. 4200 rpm is not fast enough!)
Combo Drive (I don't burn DVD's much.)
Bluetooth module (no wifi)

I was planning on buying a cheap 15-17" flatscreen monitor online, as well as the Bluetooth Apple keyboard. Is there a nice Bluetooth mouse that has multiple buttons and can interface with the Mini's internal Bluetooth? I don't want to use up a USB port for the dongle.

I don't see the need for Wifi or the Superdrive. I do wonder....can a Mac play ball with a legacy Firefire DVD-ROM should I change my mind?



I'm sure I've got many more questions, which I'll post as I think of them. Thanks for reading guys!
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idave
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 07, 2005 1:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow...I feel like a just read a book! Laughing

"Surfing the net, e-mail, IM, word processing, music, pictures, maybe torrenting, maybe watching movies." The Mini would be perfect.

"IM .. I know there are lots of wonderful multi-protocol clients out there for the Mac. The name of one escapes me right now, but I know it exists. I'm not worried. " http://fire.sourceforge.net/ , http://adium.sourceforge.net/ are two good ones.

"I've heard wonderful things about Safari, so surfing the net shouldn't be a problem. I've mostly used Firefox, but simply as a last effort. I think Firefox has a long way to go before perfection so I don't mind dropping it in favor of Safari (I know Firefox has a Mac version, but I also heard it wasn't so wonderful) " Firefox is faster than Safari. Safari has a lot of cool features like RSS and better bookmarking/history, but I still like Firefox better.

"Torrenting .... I may find some snags with this one. I heard that BitTorrent support isn't so wonderful for Apple products. Anyone confirm/deny? " I think the BitTorrent client for OS X works pretty good.

"1.25 GHz (will I notice a difference with the 1.42 Ghz ???) Not really, memory is more important.

"512 MB RAM (I've heard this is nearly a requirement)" You are correct sir! With the price of memory right now you can pick up a 1GB stick from Newegg for around $89. Don't buy your memory from Apple....cha ching!

"40 gig HD (I will use an external Firewire drive. 4200 rpm is not fast enough!)" It's not fast enough for me. You'll be able to boot from the FireWire drive and get a nice gain. Use Carbon Copy to copy your drive. http://www.bombich.com/software/ccc.html

"Combo Drive (I don't burn DVD's much.)" I'd rather have a faster external dual-layer drive.


Good luck!
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Last edited by idave on Tue Jun 07, 2005 2:03 pm; edited 1 time in total
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jase
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 07, 2005 1:54 pm    Post subject: Re: Given my situation, is the Mac Mini right for me? Reply with quote

melonpool wrote:


I've heard wonderful things about Safari, so surfing the net shouldn't be a problem. I've mostly used Firefox, but simply as a last effort. I think Firefox has a long way to go before perfection so I don't mind dropping it in favor of Safari (I know Firefox has a Mac version, but I also heard it wasn't so wonderful)


You might also give Camino a try. It's based on Firefox, but seems to have a little more effort put into making look and feel like an OS X app. It lacks support for Firefox plugins like adblock, however.

I still end up using Firefox. It has lots of great extensions that Camino lacks, and much better cookie management than Safari. All three are very good browsers, though. Pick the one you like the best.


Quote:

Word processing ... I don't want to buy any software, really, so I think OpenOffice is the way to go. I heard that X11 support for OS X is sort of buggy...but there exists an OpenOffice MacOS port somewhere. Anyone have experience with that? (the non X11 version of OpenOffice)


NeoOffice is the Mac version of OpenOffice. It's serviceable. It's free. And it might be exactly what you need.

Also take a look at Abiword. It's also free, and a very good word processor. It's JUST a word processor, unlike OpenOffice. Open Office is an entire suite. Abiword seems to be a little lighter weight, but also works well.

Sounds like a Mini will work very well for what your intended use. I wouldn't worry about the 1.25 versus 1.42. I would recommend bumping to 1gig of memory if you can. It doesn't cost much extra, and it will help if you start running a lot of apps and loading up on Dashboard widgets. 512 will still make the Mini a nice system. 1gig will be even better. Since there's only one memory slot it's more expensive to upgrade later, since you have to pull the old chip to add the new one.
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DoFa
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 07, 2005 4:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Also... the 1.25Ghz mini usually has a 5400rpm drive and the 1.42 has a 4200rpm one. Go figure? For day to day stuff, I doubt you will notice much difference between the 5400rpm internal and a FW.
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melonpool
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 12:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

DoFa wrote:
Also... the 1.25Ghz mini usually has a 5400rpm drive and the 1.42 has a 4200rpm one. Go figure? For day to day stuff, I doubt you will notice much difference between the 5400rpm internal and a FW.


I heard that it's blind luck deciding which drive you get?
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leftplay
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 11:58 am    Post subject: Re: Given my situation, is the Mac Mini right for me? Reply with quote

[quote="melonpool"] I was planning on buying a cheap 15-17" flatscreen monitor online, as well as the Bluetooth Apple keyboard. [/quote]

Your Dell laptop will probably work for you just as well as a new Mini, perhaps even better considering that it's portable but if you're set on a Mini, DO NOT use any of Apple's keyboards. I love Apple's design and engineering excect for the design their keyboards and mouse (regardless of wired or bluetooth). Believe me when you transfer to your 4 year college you'll be doing a lot of writing and you'll want a good ergonomic keyboard - one of the few products Microsoft actually makes very well is keyboards, check out their egro product line, especially the split-key design.

A second consideration would be portability. You might spend a good amount of time out of your dorn/apartment and in the library so a laptop might be a wise choice. If you can you might want to wait until Apple comes out with their Intel products. An Intel Pent M iBook should be fantastic (who knows when that will happen) :lol:
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greg
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 12:13 pm    Post subject: Re: Given my situation, is the Mac Mini right for me? Reply with quote

leftplay wrote:
Your Dell laptop will probably work for you just as well as a new Mini, perhaps even better considering that it's portable


This is a good point. I love my Mini but for school I would seriously consider a laptop. I'm currently attending Grad school and I'd say 1 out of every 4 students carries a laptop to class. The campus buildings are setup for wireless which makes access to the campus network very convenient. I personally don't like hauling any device around (including a laptop) although I have brought along my very old yet serviceable laptop on occasion when giving presentations.
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melonpool
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 1:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I really want to keep my laptop far away from my school as possible. My reasons are:

1. Liability -- Laptops get stolen from universities often. My university's residence halls are suite style, so there are three other people who will be able to take my laptop at any moment.

2. Games -- My laptop has an ATI Radeon 9600 with 128 mb of video ram. I own Half-Life 2. I don't want to bring that to school. Smile I have poor time management already.

3. I don't really like my laptop -- It's true. I only really use it for games and downloading torrents, since my external drive is formatted for NTFS and my Linux box can't write to it.


I never used my laptop in any of my classes here so I don't see why I would use it at my new school. I can't take notes on my laptop, even in Microsoft OneNote. There's no substitute for pen and paper.
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leftplay
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 2:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Unfortunately, as for the possibility of theft you'll probably face the same problem with a Mini or any other computer. Residence Halls can vary from year to year with problems like theft - the best course is to have a clear understanding with your suite mates to keep your suite locked when no one is there. That should cut down the risk a bit, at least in theory.

As for using a computer out of your dorm and in the classroom or library you'd be surprised at how different 4 year institutions can be to their 2 year brethren. I don't have any experience with community colleges but I can say that my undergraduate college almost institutes laptops as necessary in some classes, depends on the professor of course. The use of technology throughout campus has changed drastically from my days in college 94-98 to my graduate program in 00-02. Before you decide on a Mini or any other system I would check with your college and ask some of your possible professors. In the end I don't think it's really going to matter what kind of computer you use - you'll be going to parties, cramming for exams and writing papers like crazy. Enjoy.
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ninjamini
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 11:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would think that it would be easy to make a steel bracket in metal shop that would bind the mini to the desk. Make em steel the desk too if they want it that bad.
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melonpool
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 09, 2005 1:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not concerned about the mini being stolen, just a laptop. A lot of people who would steal such a thing would associate the screen not being attached to the computer as a desktop, regardless of its size, and not even bother with it.

I don't think that I'm taking any courses that would require a laptop. I'm not taking any computer courses. Anything that would require a computer is provided (communications department has a Mac lab for Final Cut Pro and Avid Express).

I was thinking about bringing my laptop with me as well, but leaving it packed up in one of my clothing drawers. Just in case the need should arise.
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slickrick
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 09, 2005 1:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A Kensington lock would be more than enough protection.
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iMav
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 09, 2005 7:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Definitely sounds like you have already made up your mind to buy a Mini. GO FOR IT! You'll be pleasantly surprised. Smile
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