The Low End Mac Mailbag

Macs for Seniors, Death of the Mac mini, and More on Running Macs from Compact Flash

Dan Knight - 2007.05.30

More on Macs for Seniors

Following up on Making New Mac Users with Old iMacs and Tiger, Bill Brown writes:

Yo again Dan,

Thank you for the kind words. I shall share them with my compatriots in Mac.

Would it be safe to assume that you're turning off Spotlight and the Dashboard?

In answer to your question, No we don't turn off Spotlight or Dashboard. We run 'em suffering whatever the consequence. Or purpose is to train Mac basics, and these are a part of what we train. To date we have had no significant growth of the crap on the drive. But, then, we don't create a lot of clutter in our classes. For each new class, we create a new user account. At the end of the class, we dump this user account and start a new one for the next class. This seems to keep clutter and growth to a minimum.

Our classes consist of eight one-and-a-half hour sessions on Friday mornings - three classes a year - Fall, Winter, and Spring. We have been doing this since the SE and System 7.0.1. Currently we are booked through the end of the year.

What do we get out of it? Free senior center coffee, more Macs to fuss with than anybody could dream, and lots of yucks.

And your site is a part of our training.



Thanks for the kind words, and kudos to you and your gang for helping these seniors stay in touch with friends and family in the Internet age.


If the Mac mini and 17" iMac Are Dead....

Richard Eppert responds to If the Mac mini Is Dead, What Will Replace It?

Hi Dan,

I liked your article on Low End Mac about the Mac mini (and thought you were spot on too). I also have been wondering about this rumor. And if you add to that one of the rumors of the demise of the 17" iMac, this makes me wonder what's coming down the pike from Apple.

What if Apple is working on an entirely different form factor to fill the void for both of these computers? I would like some of the options and pricing you suggested, but something that would really be important to those of us in high ed (and K-12 too) is a computer that is a lot more easy to secure than a mini. I would have used the mini in more public computing spaces, but I just feel like it is just too hard to secure them. The security slot just doesn't work that well with most cables I've seen, and they are just too easy to stick in a backpack.

Because of these issues, we've been using 17" iMacs instead. But I wouldn't mind using a slightly larger and more easy to secure, stand alone Mac CPU.

Just my $0.02.

-Richard Eppert
IUPUI University Library


You raise a good point - I'd never contemplated how easy it would be to steal a Mac mini.

And thanks for raising the issue of the 17" iMac, which most sources agree is on its way out with the next iMac revision. I have mixed feelings about that, as the 1440 x 900 pixel display is more than adequate for most users, and the 20" iMac currently retails for $300 more. Even if Apple found a way to slash $200 off that difference, it would be a shame to see the smaller, lighter 17" model discontinued.

Of course, Apple could be up to something different. There are 18" and 19" widescreen LCDs these days....


The Mac mini Is 'Dog Food'

Mike Perlman writes:

I think you are asking Apple a lot. They apparently make more profit with the iMacs.

Maybe they should make a "hackers machine" deliberately so it won't appeal to mainstream consumers but instead offer a bit of funky customization. Maybe a base machine with no HD, RAM, video card, keyboard, or mouse. Just the OS X DVDs. They could offer a special self build burn-in and go service at the Apple Stores. Who knows?

The problem is - look at the MacBook sales. It is widely popular and still comes at a good price premium. Compared to that the Mac mini is dog food.


Don't kid yourself - Apple is turning a profit on the Mac mini. Sure, they make more profit from a $1,200 computer than a $600 one, but with the mini Apple gets add-on sales (and additional profits) for mice, keyboards, memory upgrades, and probably some displays as well.

As for the MacBook, it's probably the ideal notebook for most people who want a portable, and 'Books make up well over half of Apple's unit sales. But the Mac mini isn't aimed at that market; it's for people who want a desktop setup, can't justify the cost of a Mac Pro (Apple's only other modular Mac), and don't want to be locked into the iMac's fixed display (or can't justify its expense).

I agree that Apple should sell a hacker-friendly Mac, something I've been saying for years. After all, computer geeks are the people others come to for advice, and if they're happily using Macs, they're going to recommend them. If they avoid Macs because they're not hackable enough (such as adding a video card), they're going to recommend the other platform.


Death of Mac mini and iMac 17?

Robert Crane says:

If the Mac mini is killed and also the iMac 17, that might mean that Apple is actually raising its prices:

Current difference between bottom end iMac 17 and basic iMac 20 is $400.00

Would Apple offer a basic iMac 20 with combo for $999?

I kind of doubt it.

Probably the basic I20 would go up to $1,099 and the SuperDrive I20 could drop to $1,299

It's a good deal, but it would still be an effective price rise, and Apple gets to simplify its product line by getting rid of Mac mini and I17.



Apple has a pretty simple product line: Pro desktop (one model with a host of build-to-order options), 15" and 17" pro notebooks, three sizes of iMac (four models), the 13" MacBooks (three versions), and the Mac mini (two versions).

I don't have a crystal ball, but I can't imagine Apple no longer offering a sub-$1,000 consumer Mac. If they are discontinuing the Mac mini, I believe it will be so they can replace it with a more expandable, more affordable, and possibly more profitable model.

Likewise, if Apple discontinues the 17" iMac, it will either be because they can now sell the 20" iMac for a $100 premium over the current 17" models or because they have found a better deal on 18" or 19" displays.

My best guess is that Apple will offer three iMacs with the next revision: an entry-level 19" or 20" model with integrated graphics at US$1,099, the same display with a separate video section at $1,299, and a 24" iMac at the top selling for $1,799.


Merging the Mac mini with Apple TV

Matthew Wright says:

Heya Dan,

I was thinking about this lately, and it seems to me that the mini and the Apple TV are moving towards each other. The mini is a fully functional desktop but still sorta limited for the price (as you noted). Why not just spend another couple hundred bucks for the entry level iMac, you know? In contrast, the Apple TV is cheap but limited in what it can do (as in it really isn't a standalone computer despite all hacks to the contrary).

My bet would be that Apple will marry these two in the near-future, giving the next mini all the functionality of the TV and justifying the price tag. If so, there will probably be an "entry-level" TV that's pretty much the Apple TV as it is now (a peripheral, really) and a high-end/pro Apple TV that is essentially the mini as it is now with all the fun and functionality of the Apple TV (a TV that doesn't need to be tethered to a "real" computer - maybe even some DVR functions too). It brings the successful tiered iPod model to what is essentially a new kind of Mac. A friend of mine has already hacked his mini to be a better Apple TV.

As far as the need to fill the low end desktop niche (and the middle end for that matter), I don't know. I've never been impressed with the mini for a viable desktop for what you get for the price. If I don't get any expandability, I might as well spend another few hundred and get a built in monitor in the bargain (a la MacBook or iMac).

Just a thought.

As always, keep up the good work at LEM.



Interesting speculation, as it addresses both the well know shortcomings of Apple TV (it's not really a computer) and the Mac mini (it's not especially good at working with your TV). Perhaps Apple will replace the Mac mini with more of a hybrid, a media center Mac, if you will.

That would be hot!


The Mac mini Replacement

Tom Gabriel says:


Low End Mac is so consistently good, informative, and useful, I stop by daily.

Your article "If the Mac mini Is Dead, What Will Replace It?" is a solid grand slam. You ought to be in Apple's New Product Department.

When you mentioned a Mac mini replacement with a six-inch footprint, Cube-like design, PCI slots, and the rest, maybe even starting at $399, all I could think of was, "I hope somebody from Apple is reading this."

It really could work! In fact, I'd bet on long lines at the Apple Store the day of it's introduction. I'd even bet that one of the people in one of those lines would be me,

Great stuff, keep it up!

Tom Gabriel


If Apple were to produce such a computer, I'd order one sight unseen. And I'd bet a lot of Windows users would seriously consider it rather than buying a new Vista machine.


Mac OS 9 on Compact Flash

Gregory J. Smith writes:

I experimented with booting a Lombard of a CF card in 2003. My results are here: <>

Gregory J. Smith


Nice project. It's great seeing how affordable Compact Flash and these IDE adapters have become. With 2 GB cards as cheap at $23 these days, I hope you'll given OS X a try.


Addonics CF PC-Card for Old World ROM PowerBooks?

In response to Addonics Compact Flash Adapter Questions, David F. writes:

You mention the form-factor of old laptops (12.5mm) will support a dual bank CF PCMCIA card....

But what about the drivers/firmware for legacy laptops?

I vaguely recall my experience with a friend's 1400 circa 2000 . . . I discovered that she could not upgrade to a combo enet+modem PCMCIA card because the (16-bit?) PCMCIA adapter was hard-wired to the motherboard of older PowerBooks, so it couldn't be upgraded with a modern (32-bit?) PCMCIA controller.

So this makes me wonder . . . do these new fancy dual-bank CF readers only work with modern PCMCIA (aka PC-Card) or do they also work with the 1st generation PCMCIA Apple was using - which (might?) correspond to the difference between Old World vs. New World ROM PPC laptops.

Your insight would probably help readers avoid a 'gotcha'.



We're not talking about PCMCIA adapters or PC Card adapters; the Addonics adapter plugs into the IDE bus and replaces the hard drive. There are no issues with firmware or drivers. The only issue is that the Compact Flash card should support "fixed disk mode" (UDMA).

What you're thinking of is that the PB 1400 supports PC Cards but doesn't support the later 32-bit CardBus specification. Thus, the newer CardBus cards are not compatible with the older PowerBook.


Another Type of Flash Drive

Benito Flores-Meath writes:

I haven't used these, but instead of using an adapter with a CF card, here you get an IDE drive in one step.




Thanks for the info. These Transcend 2.5" IDE Flash Disks are more costly ($69 for 2 GB, $139 for 4, $208 for 8) than the Addonics adapters ($25-30) plus Compact Flash ($23 for 2 GB, $40 for 4, $75 for 8), and they would be less flexible as well, as you can't simply replace a CF card but would have to buy a new Flash Disk if you ran out of room.

On the other hand, you don't have to worry about buying the right kind of CF card (UDMA) or card speed, and they may be using flash memory with a longer lifespan than low cost CF cards offer (the Transcend drives are rated at over 2 million cycles).


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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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