Mac mini 2.0

It’s been a strange week for me. I’m wrapping up my job of 23 months and getting ready to start a new gig on Monday (from MSDN to Microsoft Game Studio) true, but I went ahead and complicated matters further by getting a MacBook Pro on Monday.

Uwah, MacBook Pro? Why is this about a Mac mini then?

I purposely didn’t open the MacBook Pro box on Monday night. Apple may have good customer service, but they also have a restocking fee for opened products… personally I think this started due to iPod returns, but whatever. 10% on a MBP kept me from buying one sooner… after all, it’s really, really hard to drop $2500 on a notebook that you haven’t seen the exact model that you’re getting. I did it once for IBM – it worked out well – but with Apple it’s different… they have MBP’s out on display but they’re all so damned hot that you can barely touch them. After following heat related threads for two weeks, it began to sound like later made models weren’t as hot.

Tuesday, there was a lot of talk about the new iBook replacement coming out, so I wanted to wait and see what that looked like. Even though there was no news on Tuesday, I still didn’t open it. Tuesday night I wasn’t home, so the box stayed sealed until Wednesday night.

So I took a shot and bought one. 2.0GHz, 1GB, 100GB HD… the middle one. Light up keyboard? Booyah. Screen? Nice. Speed? Whoa, fast! Heat? Nearly melted the rubber off the laptop desk that I bought back when I had a G4 Powerbook 12″ just by dropping a DVD in it. That was disconcerting. Especially when the metal over the speakers grills started to heat up. I then took the AC adapter and MBP to the den so I could download the 200MB of updates – yeah, you heard me MacHeads: you have the nerve to bitch about Windows Update? Same bloody boat! – via the wired network and that’s when I heard The Whine.

I had plugged in the AC Adapter but forgot to turn on the power strip. And yeah, there’s this strange whine start coming from near the left speaker while I was on battery power. Sometimes. Sometimes for me and it looks like not every MBP has this problem. At first I thought it was the HDD ticking or something but then I heard the HDD spin and knew this was a different sound. Went up to the Apple forums and noticed that it’s not just any whine… it’s The Whine.

I started to think, well, how often do I run on battery power anyway? Besides, if I turn on the iSight camera, it goes away… and then I could always— what the fuck am I doing here?!

This is what happened with the Powerbook three years ago: I started to make subtle changes. A couple of small workarounds. Tidy bitty things that I didn’t think were “too big a deal” when they first came around… three months later and I realized all the compromises I was making just to carry an Apple logo’d notebook. Not. Again.

While reading through a bunch of posts on The Whine I saw some people reference other posts about The Moo. Moo? Yes, Moo. The Moo is this moo-like sound that comes from under the keyboard, usually when the machine gets uber hot. So I downloaded a CPU Temperature watcher, applied a Firmware upgrade – why wasn’t that included in Software Upgrades? – and took a look… while idle it was running at 65C. A little hot for an idle CPU, but OK, lets make it work. I dropped in a DVD again, it started to peek at 70. Opened a couple of terminal windows with a yes > /dev/null to get the two cores of the CPU running at 100%. I stopped this “test” when the CPU temperature hit 85C. There was definitely some air coming out the back of the MBP but there was no WHOOOOOOSH that I’d expect to hear for this amount of heat. Any other notebook I had would do that; even the Powerbook. And then, as I leaned close to the keyboard I heard a wmmMooooo… which sounds suspiciously like a fan that is trying to start up but isn’t quite getting there.

That was it. Done. Right then and there. $2500 and the thing whines, moos, and gets so hot that you can’t comfortably touch it… unacceptable in a notebook. [Or in a fiancée. The last candidate for that role had some shared traits with the MBP but certainly cost a lot more than the notebook did – she came with a restocking fee, too, but that’s another story.]

Thursday morning at 9:30am I was back in the local Apple store, returning a defective MacBook Pro. …and then buying a new Mac mini.

Got the 1.66 Core Duo model and bumped it up to 1GB of RAM. Brought it home, transfered my settings from my current G4-based Mac mini. I gotta admit it: on both the MBP and the mini, the out of box experience is just insanely polished. The MBP even asks to take your picture with the integrated iSight, for your user account… I guess that’s possible if you control the hardware and the software, but whatever: it was simply an incredible experience that can’t currently be matched by any Windows OEM or Linux OEM.

And after the out of box, I spent an hour or two tweaking. Yes, it’s an OS: while it might be easy to use for the novice user, it’s still going to have nooks and crannies to deal with once you get past the shiny outer shell. Like keyboard and mice drivers. Bleh.

Even so, the latest Mac mini is pretty slick. Fast as all hell. VNC feels faster, although the real test will be over WiFi. Speaking of WiFi, the damned thing has WiFi and Bluetooth as stock items now – I could pretty much take this into the living room with just the mini box and the power supply: bam, FrontRow on the TV. The included remote is a nice touch. Support for the VGA/DVI converter looks better – not nearly as washed out as I thought the original mini was. First real test of speed will be sucking in a MiniDV video click and plop it onto a DVD: I expect the rendering to be much faster than the G4, and definitely faster than my three year old P4 2.53GHz PC…

And now I get to sell off the old Mac mini on eBay now… w00t!

6 thoughts on “Mac mini 2.0”

  1. You think that’s snazzy, you should see the inside of one of those watercooled G5’s. Man, they sure know how to show off. It will make even the most die hard anti-mac nerd drool.

    I’ve never seen that kind of attention to detail anywhere else. Geek porn at it’s finest.

    And hell, even in penguin land you got to deal with massive updates. Not as many critical ones as Windows, but the non-critical ones take just as long to download. I doubt that will ever die. I heard they’re already planning service packs for Vista!

  2. See, that’s freakin’ rockin. Design wise. I mean the insides of the mini are a mess (having seen pics) but that’s why you aren’t allowed to open it. Notebooks are like that too in most cases: IBM/Lenovo are one of the few that I know of that encourage user-made repairs/upgrades. But even so, PC OEMs overlook the physical design way too often IMHO. Dell’s latest “extreme” system – from the floor of E3 – looks like it’s heading in that direction, which is nice to see.

    Anyway, with the updates I think they sometimes use that “critical” word to scare people into downloading something they wouldn’t both with ordinarily. Sometimes it’s a huge hole and other times it’s a “you should get it”. Either way I tell everything the same thing: updates are a good thing.

  3. Let me start by saying I’m a Mac hardware and OS X fan. I use Windows because my job requires it. My home computers are; G4 Powerbook, G4 iBook, iMac (400 MHz) and Dell Latitude D600. I just came back from the Apple Danbury store. Randy, you were right in returning the new Macbook Pro. I could not hear the fans and other sounds you described because of all the background noise of the store. However, those notebooks run very HOT, to the point where you cannot leave your fingers under the notebook for more than a couple of seconds. With all of this heat that is generated by the Macbook Pro I figure the fans have to be running all of the time, thus more noise then is necessary. As for the new MacBook, again I was disappointed. First, all displays for all models are the glossy widescreen displays. When I to go into Circuit City or CompUSA I would laugh at those screens. The glare was devastating. I could not figure out why Apple did this until I read that those screens are less costly. Second, the keyboard is of the chicklets variety. I don’t know if anyone remembers the IBM fiasco when they introduced the Junior PC with the same chicklet style keyboard. Third, this notebook also runs hot. Not as hot as the MacBook Pro but hot enough that I would think the fan(s) would be kicking in too often thus making too much noise. I like the look of the new notebooks especially the black model, but, I’m hoping the next version of these models will address my complaints.

  4. One would hope… now I’m hearing that there’s a fireware update that “fixes” the heat issue. Even tho Apple says there IS no heat issue.

    Total bunk.

    The Mac mini is a sweet machine tho: that much I can say :)

  5. in ths laptop can i get inbuild graphic gard n can u tel me hw mch space of harddish in build can u tal me what the prices of ths laptop

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