The Low End Mac Mailbag

Mac mini Value, Reuse the Best Recycling, and More Unsupported Leopard Reports

Dan Knight - 2007.11.19

Mac mini Value

From a Mac mini fan:

Dan,

4 x Mac mini w/ KVM switch = better computer than Mac Pro. More processors, more power, more bus, more cache, less footprint, less noise, less multitasking, less price. Separate your tasks for more efficiency. 1 mini for downloading, 1 for surfing/productivity/email, 1 for DVD playback/video processing/Photoshop, 1 for music.

Distribute your computing tasks, watch efficiency and speed increase. You should be championing this machine.

Signed,
My 3 minis beat (and cost less than) your iMac.

mini,

I really like the Mac mini, but its limitations bother me. Maybe that's because Apple has nothing between the slotless Mac mini and iMac and it's professional model. No other computer vendor has ignored that market, but Apple isn't any other computer company.

There are pros and cons to your approach. I like having everything that I normally work with on one computer, but I can see the benefit of multiple Macs for someone running a server or doing a lot of video processing - start it and forget it until it's done.

Dan

Crab Apples for Mac mini Evaluation

From Joel Rees:

Dan,

I think the issue is that it appears that you are giving the Road Apple to the design goals of the Mac mini.

When the Mac mini first came out, a coworker was building a small, low power office NAS with the Kurobako. JPY 20,000, and you still had to buy and add a (2.5") hard disk. We talked about the mini at the original price level as a potential alternative to the Kurobako. (Price in Japan turned out to be another JPY 10,000 higher than we calculated.)

I do give a few raspberries to Apple for several decisions they've made since (I assume for marketing). One was the failure to build a dual-core G4 mini. (I'd almost agree with one apple for the Intel Core Solo mini.) Another is pushing the price back up. The current price moves it out of the range of a cheap small-office NAS solution for anyone who knows where to get mini-ATX form factor boxes and how to load Ubuntu or Fedora Core (or CentOS, etc.). Another is how far the mini was behind even the iBook in the model upgrade curve.

I give a few raspberries to Apple for not building the white-box Mac (xMac or whatever). If nothing else, they could set up a subsidiary to focus on the low end of the market. (I also give Apple raspberries for the bipolar switch. Binary behavior wasn't, and still isn't necessary, but that would take a while to explain.)

So, are you giving the Road Apples to the mini or to Apple? If Apple made an xMac (at a price point that would compete with whitebox PCs), would you still give the Road Apples to the mini?

Joel Rees

Joel,

The good news is that we've eliminated the Road Apple label from about 2/3 of the Macs that had received it. We've renamed that section Second Class Macs, and at this point models are further listed as Limited, Compromised, or Road Apples. Only the works Macs - the ones that rate 3 and 4 apples - keep the Road Apple label.

Apple positioned the Mac mini as a consumer Mac, as a low cost, entry level temptation to those buying $400 Windows PCs from Dell, Walmart, and the like. But they designed it as a fashion statement, sacrificing a low price and expandability for a beautiful, quiet, small form factor. It's probably the best computer ever for AV duty, as it's inconspicuous and nearly silent.

I call it a Limited Mac because those notebook hard drives limit how much storage you can put in the mini, because there's only room for a single bank of memory (I find it wasteful to pull 256 or 512 MB of memory), and because it's insides are not easily accessible.

We're all about getting the most life and value out of Macs, so we're biased against limited and hard to do upgrades.

Dan

Error in Mac mini Article

From Eric Halbert:

I have been reading your site for a few months now, ever since I found a 350 MHz G3 iMac for my wife at a yard sale for $10 (she has since upgraded to an eMac 700 MHz G4, found on eBay for a total of $139. I also found a 512 MB PC133 memory stick for $25 at a later yard sale that happened to work in a Mac. But that's another story).

I have since acquired a Mac mini for myself (1.66 Intel Core Duo model, Sept 2006 model). I need to point out a significant error in your Core Duo Road Apple article. This model actually has two banks for memory, not just one. I know because I bought it with 1 GB of RAM, and it came with two 512 MB modules installed (and the System Profiler states that there are two 512 MB modules installed).

I do partially agree on your other points, but I use the Mac mini for music creation (via GarageBand '08 and Finale 2008), and it does a great job for that purpose. I may in the future upgrade to 2 GB of RAM and/or replace the internal hard drive with a 7200 RPM hard drive, but as of right now, I have no complaints with the machine as is.

But I did feel the need to point out to you that the Sept 2006 Intel Core Duo model did indeed have two banks for memory, not just one.

Thanks, great site.

Eric

Eric,

You're technically correct: There are two sockets for memory in the Mac mini. However, Apple sells the Intel-based Mac mini with a matched pair of memory modules and says that memory upgrades should always be installed in matched pairs. That's why I refer to it as having a single bank, although it does have two socket.

That said, you can run the Mac mini with mismatched RAM, and Other World Computing has published benchmark results that show that in general having more unmatched RAM provides better performance than less matched RAM. That said, the pre-Core 2 minis can only use 2 GB of RAM, and 1 MB modules are affordable enough that you may as well just max things out.

I will update the Road Apple articles to mention mismatched RAM.

Dan

Reuse Is the Best Form of Recycling

From Bob Bruns:

Hello Dan,

I am a Apple user from the 70s to present with one year of PC use (2002). I now own a recycling company which I started by saving old Macs. I have used your site as a reference for years, and as resource for our new to Apple customers. Today as I was reading some specs on your site, I had time to click around and see that you had areas for links to auction sellers and people who carry Apple parts.

We always have a selection of iMacs up and frequently have Apple II vintage items for sale on eBay. Typically we have a 75 to 100 or more Apple auctions up at all times. We are as a company Apple users: we have one PC running in the building, and I want to replace it with a mini but cannot load one with windows - it seems so wrong.

We are a growing recycling company in Texas and believe firmly in reuse. Towards that end we run over 100,000 online auctions a year; the proceeds help support the more expensive aspects of responsible recycling.

You can find our eBay store at.... http://stores.ebay.com/ Erecycleronline_W0QQsspagenameZMEQ3aFQ3aSTQQtZkm

I would be honored if you would link us.

Thank you for providing to us a valuable resource, while I cannot imagine the effort it takes, I can relate to the dedication required.

Bob Bruns
~Ringmaster~
Erecycler Llc

Bob,

I absolutely have to agree with you: Reuse is the best form of recycling. Sometimes things die and can't be fixed, but I'd rather see an old usable Mac given a new home than stripped for recycling. I'll be sure to list you on our Used Dealers page.

Dan

Leopard on an 800 MHz iBook G4

From Lisa Mehonoshen:

Hi Dan

I have 10.5 running on my 12" iBook G4. It had 640 MB RAM and 12 GB free space on the drive when I installed it. It was installed by putting it into Target Disk Mode and connecting to a G5 iMac and running the installer from there. The upgrade took it from 10.3.9. It has since had the keychain update.

Everything runs okay, including DVD Player, Front Row and Time Machine. It boots noticeably slower, but the only noticeable issue is the graphics breaking occasionally, such as when running the cursor rapidly along the Dock. Xbench gave a score of 19.85. Boosting the RAM up to 1.12 GB dropped the Xbench score to 19.35 but has had little other impact. A disk upgrade is probably better value.

Cheers
Lisa

Lisa,

Thanks for the report. Yes, if you don't already have a 5400 rpm drive in your iBook, you'll love the difference. Try to find one with an 8-16 MB buffer. Although there are 7200 rpm notebook drives, there seems to be a much bigger improvement going from a 4200 rpm drive to 5400 than from 5400 to 7200.

Dan

Leopard on a 1.6 GHz Sawtooth

From Ed Foy:

Dan

I have an upgraded Power Mac G4 AGP (Sawtooth) that has been upgraded.

  1. Power Logic G4 1.6 GHz (2447a)
  2. Nvidia GeForce FX5200 PC version (flashed) 128 MB RAM
  3. I/O/ experts dual layer DVD Burner.

The Leopard installer not only worked on this machine but was also used to install to a mini with a failing slot-loader. The installations were textbook. The mini booted and runs fine.

The Sawtooth did not boot. At the white start up screen, the machine would power down in the first few seconds of the boot. I tried the trouble shooting, zapping PRAM, reseating RAM, etc. I eventually cloned the mini install, using Target Disk Mode and Carbon Copy Cloner. I formatted the hard drive first using the Leopard's disk utility. Everything copied over. On reboot, the machine booted fine. I expect it was OS 9 disk drivers that Leopard did not like. (Just guessing.)Core Graphics and Quartz Extreme are supported. Front Row, DVD Player, and Time Machine all work fine. They actually perform better than the 1.42 GHz mini does, which is a supported machine.

After I found everything to be okay, I cloned my setup to another Sawtooth tower 450 MHz machine I have, and that works also. The only upgrade in that machine is ATI Radeon 7000 flashed PC edition. Core Graphics are supported in Leopard using software. DVD Player works; Time machine works. Front Row does not: Black Screen.

I hope some of this helps.

Low End Mac Reader Since 1997

Ed,

This fits with our findings: As long as the installed CPU is at least 867 MHz, even if the computer was originally a lot slower than that, the Leopard installer will work.

Thanks for sharing your problem installing to a drive with OS 9 drivers. I really hope that isn't a general problem, as my G4 Power Mac can boot into OS 9, and I'd hate to have to give up that capability when I try Leopard.

Dan

Leopard on a 733 MHz Power Mac G4

From Ryan Chang:

What unsupported Mac(s) have you installed it on? Power Mac G4 (Digital Audio)

  • How much RAM? 768 MB
  • How fast a CPU, and what brand, if it's an upgrade? 733 MHz, stock processor
  • What video card does your Mac have? I believe it's the stock card that came with the machine, GeForce 2 MX

Which installation method did you use, a modified installer or installing from a supported Mac? I installed it on a G4 Mac mini

  • Did you install to a second internal hard drive, an external FireWire hard drive, or using FireWire Target Disk Mode? Second internal hard drive and FireWire Target Disk Mode
  • If you used a FireWire drive, did you clone it to your Mac's internal hard drive? If so, what program did you use to do this? I did clone it to the internal hard drive using Carbon Copy Cloner

What doesn't work? Especially check out Time Machine (which requires a second hard drive at least as big as your main one), DVD Player, Front Row, and VLC. I could not run Time Machine since I don't have a second hard drive, Front Row works albeit just slightly sluggish. Apparently there's no DVD drive in my machine, so I can't test DVD playback. A widescreen video I played in VLC ran sluggishly though. Too sluggishly to be viewable.

How does performance compare with Tiger subjectively and objectively? I am very surprised that it is performing well. This machine was previously used a server running 10.4.10 Server, so I am not able to judge the performance difference very much, but compared to my other similarly equipped machines, this Power Mac runs everything very smoothly. Cover Flow even runs decently.

If you have a chance, run Xbench and Geekbench (before and after would be nice) and let us know the results. I did not have the chance to run either under 10.4.

Have you made any changes to your Mac since installing Leopard - more RAM, a better video card, a faster hard drive? How has that improved things? No changes so far, I am very content with what I have right now though.

One other note: I first tried installing Leopard on a 450 MHz Power Mac G4 (AGP Graphics) to no avail. I used the same method as above (Carbon Copy Cloned the hard drive from a Mac mini). When I started the machine up, the Apple logo would appear and the machine would suddenly shut down without warning. Perhaps it's out of date firmware, but I didn't bother to update it since I also had the Digital Audio Power Mac.

Thank you very much,
Ryan Chang

Ryan,

Thanks for sharing your findings. You'll have to boot your 450 MHz Power Mac G4 into OS 9 to update the firmware, but I suspect you'd find that machine taking a back seat to your 733 MHz Digital Audio Power Mac.

Dan

G4 Processor Upgrades in the UK

From Matt Stevenson:

Hi there,

I very recently invested in a 'new' Mac - an 867 MHz G4 Quicksilver with a 20" Cinema Display. The only problem really with it is the not-particularly-great processor speed and the slightly flagging speed of the memory. Now, having read most of your articles, I know that there are upgrade cards for the G4 processors, but I'm wondering if any of your team know where I'd get one secondhand/cheap in the UK (short of hanging around on eBay for weeks on end)?

There's no urgency; I'd appreciate a response when you have a spare minute please.

Oh and by the way, thanks for your site - it's a lifesaver when someone rings you up with the offer of buying a Mac that you don't know the specs of! It's also a damn good read when I'm in the Mac mood, which happens quite a bit now I've got a big bloody monitor in front of me. :D

Kind regards,
Matt

Matt,

I can't say much about the Mac world on your side of the pond, but we do run the Mac UK List for users in Great Britain (and the rest of Europe). One or more members of that list may be able to steer you somewhere.

That said, there are a few fast G4 upgrades out there selling for a bit over US$200 (1.4 GHz single G4) brand spanking new.

Dan

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Dan Knight has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. Mailbag columns come from email responses to his Mac Musings, Mac Daniel, Online Tech Journal, and other columns on the site.

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