I like Bjango. They make the kind of simple, polished, and useful software that defines OS X as a platform with equal attention to beautiful pixels and powerful features. I was already a big fan of Consume and Skala. Bjango’s latest release, iStat 2, falls exactly under this category of apps: great-looking and efficient at the same time.
I own a 13-inch MacBook Air and a 21.5-inch iMac. My MBA is the “work machine”, whereas the iMac has always been the media center of the house, as it’s connected to a couple of external drives with my iTunes library on it. For the past few months, however, I’ve been increasingly switching every part of my “entertainment workflow” from local to cloud-based. It started with Rdio a year ago (now, I have a Family account and I’m not switching any time soon). For iTunes, it means I’ve slowly uploaded my library to a Mac mini hosted on Macminicolo. As documented elsewhere, I’m very happy with Macminicolo, their reliability, and the overall message of a Mac mini server always available in the cloud.
But I’m not a “server guy”. I don’t understand the teminology behind server management, and my limited skills go as far as restarting WebDAV and Apache. I use my Mac mini primarily for media streaming through Plex and as a server for Mail, OmniFocus, Dropbox, and other services or apps that allow me to automate my workflow in the cloud. All my Dropbox-based scripts for plain text and OmniFocus are created with the Mac mini in mind, because it’s always-on and lets me receive results in real time. Hazel is another invaluable utility when it comes to automating a remote Mac.
I do put my Mac mini through some more processor-intensive tasks every once in a while. Usually, it’s movie conversion through Handbrake or movie streaming through Plex Media Server. I recoginize this doesn’t compare to using a mini as an Xcode build server, but it’s still something that I want to keep an eye on. (more…)
During this afternoon’s Apple Special Event at the California Theater in San Jose, California, Phil Schiller announced the availability of an updated Mac Mini, starting at $599 for the base model.
The updated Mac Mini comes in multiple configurations for desktop and server. The base configuration features a 2.5 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 4 GB of memory, and a 500 GB hard drive for storage. A second configuration for $799 comes with a 2.3 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, 4 GB of memory, and a 1 TB hard drive for strorage. An updated Mac Mini with OS X Server is also available for $999, which includes a 2.3 GHz quad-core processor, 4 GB of memory, and two 1 TB hard drives(and is preloaded with OS X Server). The Mac Minis can be optionally configured with a 2.6 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, 16 GB of memory, a 256 GB solid-state drive or a 1 TB fusion drive. The Mac Mini with OS X Server can be additionally configured with two 256 GB solid-state drives.
Inside the chassis you’ll find Intel HD Graphics 4000 for graphics and video. All Mac Minis have a Thunderbolt port with support for monitors up to 2560-by-1600 resolution, an HDMI port with support for up to 1920-by-1200 resolution, a Firewire 800 port, four USB 3 ports, an SDXC port, an audio line in minijack, and an audio line out/headphone minijack. For networking and wireless peripheral connections, 802.11n and Bluetooth 4.0 are also available.
I recently became tired with the fact that OmniFocus needs to be launched every once in a while in order to get the latest version of its synced database. For almost two years, I synced OmniFocus through The Omni Group’s excellent (and free) Omni Sync Server service, but I switched to a manual WebDAV location hosted on my Macminicolo machine because I like to be in control of the app’s sync sessions, and to fiddle around with ways to better automate the app’s syncing system.
Over the past few months, however, I have found myself increasingly missing notifications for due items because I am not always using the same device to manage OmniFocus, and I tend to forget to launch the app and hit the Sync button. I may go a full week without using OmniFocus for Mac, but I’d still like to be reminded of important items even if I don’t sync my iPhone and iPad all the time. Unfortunately, in the way OmniFocus is structured, the standard sync doesn’t allow items to be “pushed” in the background.
I came up with a way to have OmniFocus’ due reminders synced “in the cloud” and always up-to-date that enables me to keep using the app like I always have, yet staying assured I won’t miss items because I forgot to sync or open the app. It uses OmniFocus’ built-in calendar export functionality, and a mix of automation, Macminicolo hosting, and third-party apps to get the job done reliably and consistently. It’s not perfect (mainly due to Apple’s fault) and it’s likely doable in some other way with some other hosting solution, but I found this method to work perfectly for me in my workflow. (more…)
While the Mac mini began its life as a low-end PowerPC G4 machine, current build-to-order models can meet or exceed stock-configuration iMacs. They’ve become smaller, more powerful, yet are still an excellent switcher machine for those who already own a monitor and keyboard. They also can function as a server or serve a variety of needs for homes and businesses.
In setting up a media server with my old MacBook earlier this week, I thought about getting a newer, faster Mac mini to do the job. My MacBook Pro has an internal SSD whilst the standard mini comes with a spinning drive, but on the other hand the new minis blow my old MBP’s performances out of the water and offer Thunderbolt, which is something I’d like to have on a media server looking forward. Plus, my MacBook’s internal SSD is only 128 GB, whereas a standard Mac mini has 500 GB of storage and can be easily extended with different, even multiple drives.
Maybe I’ll get a Mac mini someday. Thing is, I believe the Mac mini is the coolest machine Apple makes: not the most powerful or successful, just awesome to have around. It can be extended. It’s got minimal footprint but it’s packed with powerful internals. It’s extremely reliable, otherwise the good folks at Macminicolo wouldn’t have built a (terrific) business on it.
Two days ago we reported Apple was moving closer to the release and retail distribution of Thunderbolt Displays (announced in July) with an EFI firmware update for the MacBook Air, which improved performances in Lion Internet Recovery and added a number of Thunderbolt-related fixes. Today Apple has released two additional EFI firmware updates for the Mac mini and MacBook Pro.
Mac mini EFI Firmware Update 1.3
This update includes fixes that enhance the stability of Lion Recovery from an Internet connection, and resolve issues with Apple Thunderbolt Display compatibility and Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode performance on Mac Mini (mid 2011) models.
Macbook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.2
This update enables Lion Recovery from an Internet connection and includes fixes that resolve issues with Apple Thunderbolt Display compatibility and Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode performance on MacBook Pro (early 2011) models.
Notably, Apple has enabled Lion Internet Recovery in the new MacBook Pro models introduced back in February. Lion Internet Recovery debuted alongside Lion in July, but it was exclusive to the updated mini and Air models; the feature allows Mac users to reinstall Lion over the air from Apple’s servers.
Both updates are available on Apple’s website or through Software Update. Direct links below. The Thunderbolt Display, priced at $999, is shipping in 2-3 weeks from Apple’s website.
Macworld takes a look at a build-to-order (BTO) Mac mini with a 2.7GHz dual-core Core i7 processor, and 256 GB solid state drive. At $300 more than a standard 21.5-inch 2.5GHz Core i5 iMac (both machines come equipped with 4 GB of RAM), the maxed-out Mac mini was faster than the iMac at disk-intensive tests like file duplication, whereas performances on Apple’s recently updated small desktop box started to take a hit with graphic-intensive tasks such as playing Portal 2 or running Cinebench tests.
Not surprisingly, the BTO Mac mini with its SSD blazed past the iMac in disk-intensive tests such as the 2GB folder duplication (31 percent faster) and 4GB file unzip (42 percent faster). The BTO Mac mini also beat the iMac in our 4GB zip test (5 percent faster), our Pages import Word doc test (20 percent faster), and our Parallels WorldBench multitask test (4 percent faster).
Macworld concludes that the BTO Mac mini is a “pricey proposition” and the iMac is still faster at most tasks, though some users would prefer the Mac mini’s simple configuration in that they won’t end up with an additional screen, trackpad, and so forth.
Considering that you don’t get several important items with the Mac mini that you do get with the iMac—a keyboard, mouse/trackpad, display—the BTO Mac mini we tested is a pricey proposition. However, some people may not want a new display (or don’t like the iMac’s glass-covered displays) and new input devices, and the Mac mini’s small case is preferable than the Mac Pro’s bulky tower. For general use, the BTO Mac mini can keep up with the 21.5-inch 2.5GHz Core i5 iMac. But the iMac fares better with software that can take advantage of multiple cores or graphic-intensive tasks.
By getting rid of the optical drive and making room for an additional hard drive in the aluminum enclosure, Apple has turned the 2011 Mac mini into the most lightweight and configurable consumer-oriented Mac ever made. Check out Macworld’s full tests here.
Last month’s release of new MacBook Airs and OS X Lion seems to have given Apple a significant boost in sales for the first month of the September quarter. The latest statistics from NPD reveal that year-over-year, Mac sales were up by 26% – to put that into context it means that Mac growth outpaces the growth of the PC market six-fold.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster believes that if that kind of growth continues Apple will easily make the estimates of 4.5 million total Mac sales for the quarter. He noted to his clients that the Lion, MacBook Air and Mac Mini launches in mid-July helped inflate Mac sales for the month. However, he did caution them that “these tailwinds will fade throughout the September quarter and year-over-year compares get slightly tougher in the last two months of the quarter”.
The rapid Mac sales growth has seen the platform outpace the growth of the PC market for 21 consecutive quarters and most believe that trend will continue for some time yet. Ben Reitzes of Barclays notes that they expect Apple to continue to gain share in Macs in the long term, despite the iPad’s presence. He adds that their “estimate for Mac growth of 18 percent year-over-year for Apple’s C3Q, may turn out to be conservative even though the global economy appears to be slowing quite a bit.”
Don’t want to spend an extra $400 for the server model just for the ability to add a second hard drive? No problem! iFixit is offering a sweet kit that adds a second hard drive to the base model — it includes the the mounting screws, drive ribbon, and all of the tools you need to upgrade your Mac Mini. The kit is only $69.95 on iFixit, and gives you the ability to install any aftermarket SSD or HDD you want to the machine with an easy modification (if you’re going SSD, I recommend OWC). They’ve got all of the instructions you need to make the change, and have provided all the details in a recent blog post.
By The Numbers: What Can An OWC 6G SSD Do For Your 2011 Mac mini?
But if you’re into audio editing, video editing, or doing anything else that reads and writes large amounts (or several small amounts) of data – there’s just no substitute for a SATA Revision 3.0 capable SSD such as the OWC Mercury EXTREME 6G SSD. The speeds are well over twice as fast [as Apple's SSD] boasting 506MB/s read speeds and 432MB/s write speeds from a single drive!
Then we tested two OWC Mercury EXTREME 6G SSD in a RAID 0 configuration (on the server model of Mac mini – again we’re looking into how to get a second hard drive into the consumer model, but that will be another blog post down the road after we figure it all out) we got Thunderbolt-saturating speeds averaging 995MB/s and 994MB/s for read and write speeds respectively.
When I put a Mercury EXTREME 3G into my MacBook, cold boot times were reduced from a minute thirty to just 25 seconds — reboots are even faster. OWC knows their stuff, and their USA grade solid state drives are impressive as always. With the Mac Mini, they found they could achieve more than 10x the speed of a conventional hard drive, and over 4x the speed over Apple’s SSD with their setups. Regardless of whether you choose Apple’s or OWC’s Mercury EXTREME 6G SSDs, the performance boost over a traditional hard drive is stunning.