Tag Archives: Mac Mini

Initial Thoughts on the Mac Mini

The new Mac Mini has been up and running for 10 days now and I have some initial thoughts. For context and clarity, I bought the newest Mac Mini (M1 2020), which is running the Apple M1 chip. I bought it with 16 GB of memory (way up from the 4 GB I have on my MacBook Air). The internal disk has 250 GB, but I’ve got two external disks connected to the machine, each of which is 3 TB giving me a total of 6.25 TB of disk space. One of the external disks is for media files and archived data; the other is a local Time Machine backup disk.

As far as performance goes, this machine flies. Applications open so much faster than on my MacBook Air. There doesn’t seem to be any performance hit with backups running and with the various services I have in the background. I really like how fast the machine is.

There are a few downsides I’ve discovered, however.

The M1 chip is the biggest blocker so far. While it is super-fast, not every app has caught up yet, and several still expect an Intel processor. For instance, I use Docker for development work, and I have to run a preview version of Docker Desktop because there is not yet a production version compatible with the M1 chip.

There are some quirks with homebrew as well. Homebrew can be run natively or using Rosetta2 which makes apps compatible, but at a performance cost. Running homebrew natively takes a couple of extra steps to setup, and some bottles have to be built locally to allow them to run natively.

MySQL runs fine on the Mac Mini, but there is not yet a compatible Docker image for MySQL for the M1 chip.

These are relatively minor issues, which only apply to someone doing development work. It appears that most places are working toward making their apps natively compatible with the M1 so I suspect most of these issues will go away with time.

For other tasks: writing, photos, general productivity, I am very pleased with the Mac Mini thus far. Given that it cost significantly less than the newest MacBook Air, it is well worth the cost so far.

I have set up the machine as a home server. I’ve got an internal web server that I am using to build a custom reading list app (that I plan on moving to my domain eventually). I am also using it to host an app for home document archive. Screen-sharing works well with it (I can use screen sharing from my MacBook Air to do development work on the Mac Mini when I am not in my office). I’ll have more to say on these things in a future post.

You can see the new computer in the photo above, peeking between the monitor and the external disks. At some point, I need to clean up all of the cables.

At this point, with the exception of a few development quirks related to the M1 chip, I am very pleased with the new Mac Mini.

Arriving Today: A New Mac Mini

I am writing this post on the same MacBook Air that I’ve used for my writing since I first got it in August 2014. It is still serviceable, and I am not one to jump to the latest and greatest, just because it is the latest and greatest. Indeed, in someways, I am technologically stubborn. If Word 5.5. for DOS was a still available in a reasonable form that I could use on the Mac (not in DOSBox) I’d still be using it.

But things break down over time. For instance, the down arrow on the laptop keyboard fell outs and I had to awkwardly superglue it back in. Also, the laptop has 4 GB of RAM and Big Sur runs notably slower on it than on my work MacBook Pro. So, in December, I ordered myself a Mac Mini and I was notified today that the Mac Mini will arrive before the day is done.

Why a Mac mini?

Well, for one thing, the price was pretty good. It is the newer Mac Mini with the M1 processor. I opted to bump up the RAM to 16 GB on it, which is why it took longer to ship and deliver. Currently, my MacBook Air doesn’t go anywhere. It serves as the home server in addition to the computer that I write on. I’ve got an external mechanical keyboard attached to it, as well as 2 external hard disks with the archive of documents, photos, etc.

I already have an external monitor, so I figured I’d get the Mac Mini with lots of RAM and let it replace my MacBook Air as the home server. That frees up the MacBook Air to be mobile for as long as it continues to function. My plan is:

  • Use the Mac Mini for all of the writing I do sitting here at my desk.
  • Use the MacBook Air for all of the writing I do away from my desk.

In all honesty, outside of this blog, I haven’t been doing that much writing–something I will be discussing in an upcoming post–but I am hoping to change that.

I am using this opportunity to set up a home archive that I have slowly been cobbling together. Initially, this will be an archive of all of my writing, back to the very beginning. I plan on sticking some kind of UI on it so that it is readily searchable. I considered doing this in Evernote, but it doesn’t have the look and feel that I want for this archive.

I am also using this opportunity to automate all the administrative tasks surrounding writing so that I can focus on just the writing itself. More on that in a future post, as well.

It turns out that delivery today has a silver lining: instead of refreshing the New York Times to see the most current results of the Ossoff / Perdue runoff election, I am refreshing the UPS tracking site for my new computer.

Once the system has been set up and I’ve been using it for a little while, I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with an ear worm: for some reason, I’ve been humming”Georgia On My Mind” under my breath all morning.