Friday May 09, 2008

Missing Apple Mac hardware

My current home machine is a first generation (ordered the day after the announcement) PPC Mac Mini. I initially ordered it with 512Mb RAM and no WiFi or Bluetooth. It has since been upgraded to 1G (the max this machine can take) and had the WiFi/Bluetooth added (and it now lives in the UK rather than California where it was bought). When I first bought it it was as a secondary machine to learn where MacOS was, I hadn't used MacOS since System 7 at that time. It soon became my our primary home desktop and got given gifts of a (wired) Mac keyboard and 20" Cinema screen in addition to its upgraded memory and wireless capabilities.

It has been serving us well but I feel like a new machine. While I love OpenSolaris and spend a huge number of hours developing for it and using it MacOS is what I want to continue using for my personal stuff for now (I like iTunes, iPhoto, Safari and more importantly so does my wife). So if the current PPC Mac Mini is to be repurposed it needs to be Apple hardware.

I titled this "Missing Apple Mac hardware", why ? I can't find a non laptop Mac that actually fits what I want in terms of computing resources and cost. Disk space isn't an issue I'd buy the machine in the lowest possible disk configuration because all my data is stored on a ZFS on a separate system running OpenSolaris and mounted on the Mac using NFS.

The best CPU/RAM combination I get buy on a current Intel Mac Mini is 2GHz and 2G RAM for £558. The next option is a Mac Pro and that starts at a wallet breaking £1,749, it is a nice workstation but out of budget for my desktop machine. There is Mac hardware in between that price range but with, for me, a fundamental problem because it has an integrated LCD and comes with a keyboard. Now integrated systems are great I remember fondly using the Sun ELC workstations at University and my current Sun machine at home (and the office) is a Sun Ray 270 (ultra thin client with integrated LCD). However I like my 20" Apple Cinema display and I want to keep using and it doesn't need to be replaced, same for the keyboard/mouse.

The Apple Mac I want to buy would have a CPU around 2.4 to 3GHz and 4G RAM, a single disk and a reasonable graphics card - this isn't a games machine (I use consoles or my phone for games these days) - for helping with photo processing. Of course it should be "green" in that it should allow me to reuse my existing LCD monitor and keyboard (both Apple products!). Pretty much something like a Sun Ultra 20M2but capable of legally running MacOS X 10.5 and for about that price

So Apple where is my missing Mac ?

Update: I know I can do dual monitor on with an iMac (first saw that on a mono SE30 with an external colour display and putting windows "across" the boundary it was done perfectly!) but I already have two monitors on the desk (the Sun Ray 270 mentioned above) and I don't really have space for another one. The big issue with the top end Mac Mini is the memory only goes to 2G according to Apple and some of that will be taken away by the Intel GMA graphics. One of the reasons I need at least 4G RAM is that there is always two users logged in (with fast user switching) to this machine. A bit of space to upgrade beyond 4G of RAM would be nice.

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DarrenMoffat

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