Posted by Neil Crosby on April 12, 2006 09:15 PM
After my post about buying a Mac Mini on sunday I decided to run out to Apple’s Rgent Street store just before they closed at 6pm and buy one. What I got in the end was a 1.66GHz Intel Core Duo Mac Mini with 1Gb of RAM and a 100Gb hard drive, for £699.
What amazed me at the till was the size of the box the Mini came in. Quite frankly, it was tiny - barely any bigger than the Mini it contained. It was still well padded however, with a centimetre thick surrounding of polystyrene to hold it in place. Slightly worryingly though the bottom of the box was bulging downwards, as though the Mini was going to drop out at any moment. Thankfully, the box held out.
Setting up the Mini was nice and easy, although I did have a couple of annoyances. Firstly, since I’m having to use an analogue cable for my monitor I had to use the supplied DVI to Analogue converter to attach it to the Mini. This in itself isn’t a problem, although it did mean that the Mini ended up having to sit several inches away from the wall which kind of detracts from the smallness of the Mac Mini itself.
My other annoyance came with Mac OSX’s treatment of my keyboard. I would summise that people who are switching to the Mac Mini and are bringing their British keyboards with them that they’ve been quite happily using with Windows are not exactly going to be a negligable proportion of Apple’s new customers. So why won’t my new Mac Mini work correctly with my keyboard? Specifically, the @ and ” keys are swapped as I try to type. Now, I have no problem with learning a different keyboard layout. I use that layout on my iBook. What I do not like is seeing one character on a key on my keyboard and having a different one appear on screen when I press it. In the end I managed to find a webpage which showed me how to add a new keyboard layout to my Mac which reflected the actual layout of my keyboard. This is not the kind of initial experience a new user wants. If I wasn’t someone who was fairly confident with what they were doing I’d have either made do with having the wrong characters appearing on screen (which would have been exceedingly annoying) or I’d have shelled out for a Mac keyboard. Not good.
But enough of the annoyances. What immediately jumped out at me as being great about the system? Well, for a start, it’s incredibly quiet. I currently have my Mini sitting on my desk in front of me and I can barely hear a slight hum coming from it. When disk intensive activities are going on it becomes slightly more audible, but really not by much. Certainly not when compared to my old machine, which sounded like a jet engine even though it was sitting about four feet away from me.
The next great thing about the Mac Mini is that it goes into hibernation and reanimates itself incredibly quickly. Instead of having to wait about 30 seconds to hibernate and three times that amount to reanimate the process is instantaneous. This is what I’ve come to expect from my iBook, and it’s fantastic to have this sort of functionality on my desktop machine.
As for software installation, there’s not that much to say - everything was very easy. In fact, there’s only one application that’s caused me any troubles at all, and that’s Apple’s own iTunes. Frankly though, the issue isn’t with iTunes itself. You see, I don’t store my music on my main desktop machine - it’s happily stored on another box on the network that shares the directory structure containing the music via SMB. The share can be accessed by one of two username/password combinations - one can just read the music, the other has full read/write access. If you don’t have access to either username, you don’t have access to the music. So far, so simple. The problem is that when the Mini gets reactivated it seems to try to reconnect to the shared directory with my Mac username and no password. This leaves iTunes not being able to access the music, causing it to reset the directory it looks in for the music to its default! What is a boy to do? It would seem like the crux of the problem is getting the network drive to reconnect automatically on startup/reanimation automatically (a task that Windows had no problem with at all).
What else have I come across in my three days of Mac Mini ownership? Well, I discovered that once I’d installed Firefox, Adium, Open Office and VLC that I’d managed to use up 18% of my 100Gb hard drive already, which was a bit of a shocker. I’ve not done it yet, but I will be installing Boot Camp so that I can dual boot with XP and test my websites in IE. At some point I might even shell out and buy VirtualPC so that I can run XP in a window inside OSX instead, which would be a whole lot nicer. In the mean time, however, dual booting will have to do. Being able to do that was one of the major reasons I decided to buy a Mac in the first place rather than putting together a cheaper Windows based PC. Plus, since the Mac Mini is smaller and quieter than my old PC it must also use less power, right? Right!?
There’s just one more thing to mention - the Mini’s name. Continuing with the Spaced theme that surrounds the naming of all my electronics was difficult, but I think I’ve managed to come up with a name that fits the character of the Mini. Named after Bill Bailey’s character, my new Mac Mini will be called Bilbo!
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