Saturday, March 28, 2009

Why Not?

Apple came out with an upgrade to the Mac Mini recently. Of particular interest to me was the vastly improved video card, which in my mind was the weakest link in the one I had. It would have been nice to have more than 2GB of RAM, but that video card was a dog.

Well, I had a brilliant idea.

My daughter has a hand-me-down eMac, the last one they made with a CRT. It's noisy, it uses a lot of power, and it takes up half her small desk. To do homework it has to be shoved around to make room. I thought, "Hey, I'll get me a new Mini, and she can have mine, along with an LCD screen, and it'll be quiet, efficient, and take up a lot less room."

As those of you who know me personally are aware, thought and deed are one with me, so I did some pretty elaborate shenanigans to get the maximum Frequent Flyer miles possible and the thing arrived yesterday.

Both "base" models have the same processor, but the more expensive one has more RAM, and Apple advertises it as having more Video RAM, too. However, the way it actually works is that if the machine has more RAM, it allocates more of it to the video card. A little deceptive, you ask me. I bought the absolute cheapest one: the hard drives were the same speed, the other one was just bigger, and I don't care about that. I have 2.5TB of storage in my office. I didn't get RAM from Apple, either, their prices are rapacious. I installed it myself, which is no errand for the inexperienced. If you want to see how it works, look here:

Amusingly, that site is run by a co-location company (they maintain computer equipment for people that can assist or replace their on-site equipment in case of demand or disaster) which specializes in co-locating Mac Minis. Look at the picture at the bottom, which is of literally DOZENS of Mac Minis on a big server rack. :)

Hooking the antenna back up was a bit dicey, but otherwise, no sweat. I did the Migration Assistant thing that Macs come with: it had to crank all night, but this morning I was ready to rock. Only two glitches, but both of them required some geek-fu: one of them required the use of "sudo." If you don't know what sudo is and you have this glitch, basically your Mac is going to be set to London time forever. :)

It works great: the video card rocks. Between the new video card and the 4GB of RAM (my old one was maxed out at 2GB) I can comfortably multi-task, Lightroom is much more responsive, and the water in World of Warcraft is SPARKLY.

Tonight I backed up my daughter's computer and set up her new one, which seems to be working although I have to make sure her bookmarks are moved and the Parental Controls are working. Since it's in the living room, I got a nice big monitor and we can watch Internet movies and stuff on it, too.

I'll take the old comp to work, safe-erase it, and donate it to anybody who wants it. Or maybe I'll see if my daughter's school wants it.

As always, I was Amused and a little disturbed by all the open WiFi networks I could see when I set up the computer in the living room. (We didn't want to run a cable so her computer had a WiFi card installed: the Mini has one built-in.) I could see three networks, including one which was still at factory defaults (which means I OWN your network if I want to) and one named "Aretha," which was fun. I didn't link into any of them: our network is SSID-silent and requires a 128-bit encryption key. The FBI could break it in short order but wardrivers won't even see it, especially since this is a target-rich environment for them anyway.


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