The story of my lack of a Mac Mini

I’ve been considering purchasing a Mac for a few years. I was never overly impressed with older version of Mac OS, but ever since OSX was released I’ve been excited about the possibility of having a high quality Unix based desktop OS. Now before anyone can say “but what about Linux/FreeBSD/Solaris x86/KDE/Gnome/whatever?” let me say that I have used every one of these in the past and actually liked most of them. I ran a Linux desktop as my primary PC for around 3 years and would still be running it if I didn’t have a need for a few Windows specific applications. This website is hosted on FreeBSD, and all of my labs at school are done on Solaris. But you have to pick the best tool for the job, and Linux or BSD might be the best tool if the job is hosting a PHP/MySQL webapp, but it’s not if the job is to run MS Office. I could be wrong about OSX being the best choice for a Unix desktop, but I want to at least give it a try.

For the longest time I watched the Mac prices but not actually consider making a purchase. At least not a new Mac, and a quick look at the prices on Ebay convinced me even used Macs were way overpriced. Then Apple released the Mac Mini, with prices starting at $499. That’s my price range, so I decided I’d wait a month or so and buy one as soon as OSX 10.4 was released. I didn’t want to buy a $500 computer and then one month later have to spend another 20% of the purchase price upgrading the operating system. So a month or so went by and 10.4 was released. And all of the Macs except the Mac Mini started shipping with 512mb of RAM as the standard configuration. I figured that if I waited a couple months Apple would increase the base RAM in the Mini as well, which they did. Now I hear that Apple is shipping 1.5ghz machines to some customers that order the 1.42ghz ones, and the new 1.5ghz machines also have faster hard drives and more video RAM. But I can’t order a 1.5ghz machine. I’d have to order a 1.42ghz and take my chances on getting the upgrade, and would have no room to complain if I received what I ordered instead of what I wanted. And even if Apple publishes the new specs, there is always the Intel Macs coming next year.

This is the heart of the problem. Apple builds computers for people who treat them like they are appliances. People buy them, use them for a few years, and replace them. While this is much of the attraction for a lot of people, it’s a big cultural change for people in the PC community who are used to constant tinkering and upgrading along the way. If you are buying a machine you can’t really upgrade much and you’re going to keep it for a few years, you want it to be the as well equipped as possible to start out, and Apple always has something cool just around the corner that seems worth waiting for.

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