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Right! It's Time to Buy a Mac

Friday 14 January, 2005 (12:32PM GMT)

I'm going to take my first foray into the wanktastic world of Apple.

It wasn't a surprise to anyone (even me, and I don't usually give a shit about Macs) when Mr. Jobs recently revealed the Mac Mini - Apple's attempt to turn PC users to the shiny side. OK Mr. Jobs. Let's see what this microscopic little box can do.

In my experience, people who own Macs love Macs. In an almost worrying way. I've never been that excited about a box of switches and seeing as I sit behind one for 25 hours a day, I'd kind of like to be (I think). So in marrying one rather than fooling around with one, I'm hoping to see what all of the fuss is about.

To relate this to the topic of web design and development (which, after all, is what this here blog is supposed to be all about) I should point out that the main reason for getting one of these matchboxes is to adequately test sites on what is an increasingly popular platform (and I think will become even more so now - this is a good business move by Apple). Business has been going well and I think 300 quid is justifiable for a testing machine.

If anyone can offer any advice... Cheaper, slower version or more expensive, faster version? Standard 256Mb memory or upgrade? (Note that's it's going to take a lot of convincing to make me opt for anything other than the most basic setup. I trust Apple aren't going to piss people off by supplying an inadequate amount of memory for OS X) Where's the best place to get it from (in the UK)? Apple Store? And where / what the hell do I get for it (namely word processor, code editor and "cheap" Photoshop etc. etc.)?


Comment 1

Alan Cooper provides the answer to question "Why people love Mac" in his "Inmates are running the Asylum".
I kinda believe him... and book is just great.

So said Rimantas on Friday 14 January, 2005 at 1:14PM GMT.

Comment 2

In my experience, Mac OS X isn't happy with less than 512MB of RAM. I'm still baffled why Apple make 256MB the standard memory across the range; it's simply not enough. If you're just doing website testing, you can probably handle 256MB quite happily, but if you succumb to the lure of the Mac, you'll be wanting more.

I've got 768MB in my Powerbook G4, which is quite comfortable.

So said MaW on Friday 14 January, 2005 at 1:32PM GMT.

Comment 3

Sadly Apple have always been rather stingy with the amount of memory they give you in the basic setup. As always with memory more is better. The mac mini will take up to 1Gb BUT it is REALLY expensive from Apple (as always) and the Mac Mini memory is supposedly not user upgradable. I personally would wait till the major UK mac specialists (, start doing the mac mini and have them upgrade the memory (or your local mac specialist). 512Mb really is the least I would be inclined to have installed.

So said SteamSHIFT\ on Friday 14 January, 2005 at 1:41PM GMT.

Comment 4

I bought a Mac mini on Tuesday morning for the same reasons as you - browser testing. Definitely get the upgrade to 512Mb. I've seen many comments out saying Mac OSX doesn't really perform with 256Mb. I didn't go for the 1Gb option because £280 was extortionate. I left it with the 40Gb drive. I went for the £339 model and only upped the memory to 512Mb. Not much difference between 1.25Ghz and 1.4Ghz I thought.

The only concern I have is the monitor connection - its DVII - I don't know what's needed to be able to plug in a VGA type connection (I guess something more than just brute force).

So said Isofarro on Friday 14 January, 2005 at 2:02PM GMT.

Comment 5

re: DVI connection - I am fairly sure it comes with an adaptor in the box. If you want to connect to anything else eg s-vdieo, you need to buy an adaptor (~£15).

So said SteamSHIFT on Friday 14 January, 2005 at 2:07PM GMT.

Comment 6

I don't care so much about the hardware (I have an older PowerBook), but the software is amazing. As a design professional, if you spend some time with it, you'll get to see that its UI was mostly designed for humans, unlike other OS. It's more expensive, but everything is better, except for maybe gaming releases.

So said Gabriel Mihalache on Friday 14 January, 2005 at 2:48PM GMT.

Comment 7

The Mac Mini looks like a great way for people to dip their toes into the Apple universe. However If I were you I'd invest in a G5 iMac. The specs are great, it'll last for ages and is a pleasure to use.

I think the main reason why people like Macs and OS X is *because* they use them 25 hours a day. When I was a PC user I'd probably spend about 5% of my time trying to keep my OS ticking along or fixing weird problems. With OS X I probably spend about 0.01% of my time doing that. OS X isn't bug free but problems happen so rarely for me that it actually seems like quite a big deal when they crop up.

So said Andy Budd on Friday 14 January, 2005 at 2:51PM GMT.

Comment 8

One of the recent posts in MacCentral gives a nice overview of all options you may consider:

Apparently the RAM slot on the Mac mini seems to be easy accessible. You can do it yourself later on if it turns out You need more memory.

So said Piotr on Friday 14 January, 2005 at 3:36PM GMT.

Comment 9

The slowest one is just fine, but 256 MB RAM is defenitely not enough, 512 will help a lot, 1 Gig is way to expensive.
Get SubEthaEdit (free) for HTML-Coding
That's it, although there is lots of good stuff.

So said Ortwin on Friday 14 January, 2005 at 3:44PM GMT.

Comment 10

Right now this is only a dip in the water, so I won't be going the iMac route. Although it's quite possible that I'll be a tad annoyed in a few months time when I realise I really do like the Mac and have to get a more serious machine, leaving the Mac Midget redundant.

It seems by pretty-much everyone's reckoning that 512Mb is a necessity. I really don't understand why Apple have this as the base memory not just on this machine, but all of their current products. Bit crap if you ask me. The irritating thing here is that I either opt for Apple to upgrade the memory from the outset, which is £50 or I have to discard the pre-installed memory to replace it with non-Apple branded memory - there's only one memory slot. I can see why, but if there were two I could pay £50 for a non-Apple branded 512Mb from, bumping it up to 768Mb. Ah well.

So said Patrick on Friday 14 January, 2005 at 3:59PM GMT.

Comment 11

I bought a 12" ibook G4 a couple of months ago - my first Mac for more than a decade! - and have been really happy with it. The spec is pretty similar to a Mac mini, and it seems to do everything I want of it quite happily, although I did upgrade to 512MB RAM. As for software, the great thing about Mac OS X is that as it's based on FreeBSD, so you can get loads of good open source software that runs under X windows ( Open Office ( and the Gimp (photoshop equivalent; are two of the best. Both are available for PC too, if you want to completely avoid giving money to Microsoft and Adobe. There are also some good cheap or free web dev tools, such as
MAMP (Mysqladmin, Apache, MySQL, PHP package;, skEdit (a good HTML editor for $20;, and Taco HTML editor (free! When you combine that lot with the iLife bundle that comes with each Mac - plus Firefox and Thunderbird, of course - that's a hell of a lot of software for no extra cost!

So said Stuart Church on Friday 14 January, 2005 at 4:51PM GMT.

Comment 12

Fantastic! Thanks Stuart.

Must fix that annoying habit of Movable Type making closing brackets and commas part of URL's...

So said Patrick on Friday 14 January, 2005 at 5:03PM GMT.

Comment 13

Believe it or not, a G4 1.25Ghz *is* a serious work machine. It's just not as flashy as the high-end models. But if you're going to use it for serious work, 1gb of RAM is a necessity. Hwoever, it runs just fine on 512. As other say, 256 is tempting the gods.

So said GabrielK on Friday 14 January, 2005 at 6:08PM GMT.

Comment 14

I had thought the Mac Mini would only be appealing to families looking for a basic computer too hook up to their TV, as a cetral music server, or to buy for your kids, all things I have no interest in. But as an affordable way to cross-platform test your web designs, and to get into using a Mac, I would consider it. Would you then use whatever old keyboard / mouse / monitor you having laying around, buy new Mac ones, or --perhaps more affordably--try and hook up the Mini to the PC peripherals you currently use at the same time, and somehow switch between the two boxes?

So said Jeff Werner on Friday 14 January, 2005 at 10:28PM GMT.

Comment 15

I have been a PC user for years, but last year I also bought a Mac G-5. I liked it so much that I got another to use at work. My sister has a G-4 and it works very well on OS 10.3 -- BUT 256 MB is really not enough.

You would think that they wouldn't sell a machine that people wouldn't like, but trust me they do. Many Mac users add memory from aftermarket sources because it has been MUCH cheaper than getting it from Apple. (About 1/2 cost.) In my dual processor G-5 I have 8 slots for memory. I bought the machine, a dual processor model, with 512 (256 x 2). It ran flawlessly, but slowly. I added 1G (2 x 512) and it ran flawlessly and fast.

With the new mini there is only one slot. I would advise you to get at least 512--really. I may buy one and I will start off with 1 G.

My sister with the G-4 has 1.25 G and it runs nearly as well as my G-5s. I bet you will love your new Mac. By the way, I still use PC's for most things, but for personal webbrowsing and fun I find myself moving "to the shiny side."

Web browsers that you will love are Safari, OminWeb, and Firefox for Mac. They are all very good.

So said Bill Craft on Friday 14 January, 2005 at 10:55PM GMT.

Comment 16

Surely there's no need for extra keyboard and stuff..
just get a KVM Switch and that takes USB inputs...
I just scrounged an old G3 at work for testing hooked it into the KVM switch and it runs quite well.. I just have to get used to the ma environment again.

So said soul on Sunday 16 January, 2005 at 5:13AM GMT.

Comment 17

As far as I know you can use Eclipse on OSX and these days eclipse is more than just a java IDE, it does php, html, javascript, css and all manner of other things and its free.....

So said Tom Lyle on Monday 17 January, 2005 at 9:25PM GMT.

Comment 18

Great, the mini-Mac is affordable, but I'd still have to shell out a couple thousand bucks for software - not to mention monitor, mouse, keyboard, etc. I guess if you're using it solely for browser testing, it IS a good (and increasingly necessary) investment.

So said Scott on Tuesday 18 January, 2005 at 5:18AM GMT.

Comment 19

The mac mini definately needs more memory. A gig would definately do good.

So said Dustin on Tuesday 18 January, 2005 at 10:55PM GMT.

Comment 20

That's what annoyed me when I had a Mac, upgrading was so expensive. I switch to PC hardware and Linux after a while. When I have a bit more cash I'd love to be a Mac user again. I haven't tried Mac OS X yet.

So said Robin on Wednesday 26 January, 2005 at 5:42PM GMT.

Comment 21

For what it's worth, I'm running Mac OS X Panther on a couple of six-year-old iMacs (you know, the ugly looking old original ones). Anyhow, one has 256MB and the other has (gasp) only 192MB! Both run Mac OS X fine, even with several apps up at once. I mostly use them for Unixy type stuff and for doing AppleTalk testing (I'm a network engineer by day) which might not be the same as web work, but they do run Firefox quite well and quite frequently.

I do have to say, after using Mac OS X for a few hours, going back to my Windows XP laptop is like going back to Windows 3.1 (shudder). Seriously, after using that sweetest of the sweet UIs it makes me wonder how much longer I can stand to wait before I dump all my PCs and replace them with Macs. At 500 bucks a pop for the mini, I could certainly afford to do it.

P.S. I live across the pond, and I really get a kick out of it when you blokes say, "quid". C'mon... say it! say it! I know you want to.

So said Dan on Saturday 29 January, 2005 at 9:37PM GMT.

Comment 22

I am happily typing this using my newly delivered Mini, if your just going to do web browser testing 256Mb is fine. I have also used the other apps in iLife and tried hammering it to see what it performs like, Yep it slows down but not too annoyingly so. As for the keyboard/mouse/KVM debate why not use VNC or the OS X/MS remote desktop which you can download from Microsoft?.
No complaints here (apart from I inserted a disc that wast recongnised and had great fun ejecting!!)

For £300 odd nicker take a dive.....

So said Pete on Thursday 3 February, 2005 at 7:34PM GMT.

Comment 23

Get at leased 512 MB of RAM. I got a GIG in my Mini Mac but I had to pay $275 for it. 512mb should only cost you about $80.

So said Jung on Sunday 6 February, 2005 at 4:08PM GMT.

Comment 24

Check how your web pages will look in Safari without the need for a mac.

So said Chris on Monday 7 February, 2005 at 11:49AM GMT.

Comment 25

Chris - that's what I did before. As great as the service is, it's not that practical when trying to iron out little niggles.

So said Patrick on Monday 7 February, 2005 at 11:54AM GMT.

Comment 26

You don't need to add anything to test the mac mini. More memory is better. Mac mini should take DVI or VGA (comes with a DVI to VGA adaptor. I started with Macs, went to PC/Win, then PC/Linux, and am back on Mac. Long story short.

I really enjoy Apple. You get all the arrogance of Microsoft with none of the market share.

So said Paul on Sunday 27 February, 2005 at 1:55AM GMT.

Comment 27

Before I give some reasons why mac people love macs, I'll tell you my story... my first computer was an AV Mac (for those who don't know mac jargon, the 'AV' stands for AudioVisual capabilities). I believe the year was 1994: back in the days when the internet and all its revolution was still in its infancy. Anyway, there wasn't anything I wanted to do I coudn't do on that machine, I mean "anything". To give you a general idea, that old computer was my fax, telephone, answering machine, TV, music player, video conferencing box, art and music studio, and more, much more. Something AMAZING, considering it was more than ten years ago. Then, after a few years of bliss and happines and after being comfortably and smoothly matured as a mac user, for work reasons, grudgingly, I was forced to learn and use the PC (and all the Windows paraphernalia that comes with it).

This is where my reasons for loving the mac began. First, I won't deny that the mac "seemingly" is a bit pricier, but, when you get a PC, whatever little you save at the onset you will pay later in frustration, and undoubtedly lots of ARGHHH!

Let me explain, I'll start with troubleshooting the PC, for instance, simple things like unistalling software, good or evil, it doesn't matter, it's just a nightmare, period: in PC world application files spill all over the place so is not uncommon that when you think that you've removed this applications, ghost files manage to reappear from nowhere, especially if we are talking about those pesky 'spyware' files... on the mac, uninstalling is a breeze.

Okay, let's move on to software: when you get a PC all you get with it, really, is an box and an ugly and cumbersome OS, anything else you want or need have to be bought or searched for in the internet for hours while you pray and do some voo-doo at the same time hoping to find it... with the mac, you get a lot of software built into the OS, especially if you are interested in programming.

Now, let's talk compatibility: the PC still today won't read anything that's not PC formatted unless you either go and buy something or, again, spend some more hours in the internet looking for that program or driver that will... the mac will read anything, including PC applications via PC emulatos for those reluctant to let go of their PC interfaces. I have to mention here that you can't do that on a PC: there are no Mac OS X emulators for the PC yet.

Well friends, I could keep going, and going, but the point is that the Mac is an elegant and sophisticated OS which is now built around a unix-like kernel, and wrapped around the most beautiful UI you can find on the market today. So if what you want is power, beauty, and elegance without the pain and the aggravation of the PC, choose a Mac, preferably a good one. If your budget is limited and you can't afford one from the middle or the better line then get the Mac Mini. But, beware, you will want "that" better one you didn't get down the road.

So said Lery on Tuesday 1 March, 2005 at 3:36AM GMT.

Comment 28

I've just got a 17" 1.6Ghz G5 iMac. It's an absolute joy, from the aesthetics, to the wireless keyboard and mouse to that wonderful OS.

Some things are throwing me (thanks for the recent article on how to find the # key!), but overall, I'd rather work on this than on my XP box anyday. Sadly, it was bought as out family PC, so I have to get in line behind my wife and daughter! :)

So said JY on Friday 4 March, 2005 at 3:48PM GMT.

Comment 29

A great code editor for HTML and PHP which I use is WebDesign. I used to use a Windows and when I switched to the Mac about 2 years ago someone recommened it to me. It's cheap, only about 30 bucks and has been around for a while. You can get it at

There is also a bundle with a cross platform CSS editor called Style Master, if you do alot of CSS work.

So said Phil on Thursday 2 June, 2005 at 6:09AM GMT.

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