I recently bought a MacMini, mostly because I loved the new Apple Remote control, and because I figured I could use it to play the 500+ Gigs of videos stored on my server, on my TV downstairs thru my wireless LAN.
I never had an Apple before, and I promised myself I’d never buy a computer again, since I learned how to build my own cheaper and better. I especially hated Apple because of the premium you have to pay for the “boutique” technology. However when the MacMini first came out I thought I’d be really cool for playing DVDs and web browsing on my TV, which hangs on top of my fireplace. However, after doing a proof of concept with my best friend’s Apple Laptop, I abandoned the idea in favor of a hypothetically upcoming PC Mini, which should be cheaper and would allow me to install Linux on it.
A year and a half later the Intel Macs came out, but the PC Minis are still extremely rare. AOpen is offering a PC Mini kit, which lets you buy the components, and put it together yourself (you can even choose to buy a barebone, then find cheaper components somewhere else), which is perfect for me! However when I did a cost analysis, buying an Intel CoreDuo MacMini was cheaper! The Mini uses DDR2 memory (due to the Intel Dual Core processor) and SATA drives, while the PC Mini was still DDR, ATA, and single core. On top of that, Apple has a new Killer Application. It’s called FrontRow and its activated and operated thru the 6-button Apple Remote control that comes with the MacMini. FrontRow lets you play movies, videos, pictures, music and DVDs from the simplicity of the 6-button remote. The entire setup is so easy to use; my Grandma could do it. However I still wasn’t convinced. Remember, a week ago I still hated Apple for being a racket.
My best friend is a big Apple fan and bought himself a MacMini. He brought it to my place for a new proof of concept. We installed all CODECS for QuickTime to play DivX videos with AC3/9 audio. When we plugged it into my wireless LAN we were able to use the Apple Remote to browse thru my video collection with FrontRow, and to play most of them. Some videos caused FrontRow and/or QuickTime to crash, but I figured Apple will, eventually, fix these software bugs. And the whole setup was so cool! My girlfriend loved it because each time we want to watch any of my videos, I have to plug in my laptop to the plasma TV and use the mouse to navigate thru the video directory tree. Not that this is too complex for her, but she’d rather stay away from it.
We also played my MP3 music collection and pictures, all stored on my Linux server, thru the wireless LAN, using the NFS client from Mac OS X. At this point I figured I wouldn’t be able to build something this cool, with Open Source components, at a better price, for a very long time. A few weeks later, I was the proud owner of a CoreDuo MacMini with 1 Gig of ram and 100 Gig drive.
Although I had no intention whatsoever of turning the Mac into my new desktop, when I had the opportunity to play with it in order to set it up to play content, I started to understand why so many people love their Macs. Don’t take me wrong, I’ve always perceived Apple to have the best desktop, bar none, but I had never experienced it myself for more than 5 minutes.
Its not just the flashy GUI components, but also the interface speed and consistency. Not to mention that Mac OS hasn’t crashed once since I bought it. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed playing with a computer this much. And when I needed to SSH to my Linux box, I simply opened a terminal window.
Despite all this, I’m still not planning to switch to my desktop to Apple in the foreseeable future, because I love Linux too much. Besides, I use a lot more things of Linux than the desktop. But I can’t stop wondering “Why can’t I have something as good as the Apple desktop on Linux?” It’s not a matter of the underlying OS. I consider Linux to be as good, if not better, than BSD. There are many desktops available for Linux, but not one of them comes close to Apple, not even to MS-Windows. That, I believe, is the biggest obstacle stopping massive Linux adoption.