Friday, December 16, 2011

Experiences with new Mac Mini

Earlier this month I bought a Core i5 Mac Mini. It was quite an impulsive decision, partly influenced by the fact that it was a bit annoying frequently rebooting my office Dell desktop to switch back and forth between Windows and Linux. I have been using Linux for everything (like browsing, programming, creating Tex documents as well as for music and movies) since the last 4+ years. However, when I joined as a Grad student in CQT, earlier this year, my requirements changed a bit, which made be quite a bit dependent on Windows. I got involved in some device driver development in Windows, creating/maintaining several VIs in Labview and working in AutoDesk occasionally to coordinate with workshop technicians. Moreover the lab-notebooks were traditionally being maintained in MS OneNote. Since I am heavily reluctant to completely move away from *nix for my computing needs, I tried dual-booting my Core i7 desktop with Windows 7 and Ubuntu 11.10. Primarily I was using Ubuntu, but had to frequently reboot into Windows for either Labview/Autodesk/Onenote. At this point wanted to give OS X a try and ordered the base version of the new Core i5 Mac Mini online. It came with a 500GB HDD and 2GB DDR3 RAM. It was pointless giving $$$ to Apple for memory upgrade, when 4GB Kingston DDR3 modules are available in the market at a fraction of Apple's price. Even before my Mac Mini arrived, I headed off to Sim Lim Square to get a pair of 4GB, 1333MHz DDR3 Kingston modules for 78 SGD.
When the Mini arrived in my office, before switching it on, I took off the back cover and replaced the 2GB modules with the 8GB ones. I had a Dell 23" display and Microsoft wireless keyboard/mouse, so without wasting anymore time, hooked them and booted the Mini. First time startup configuration was highly "Idiot Friendly". All I had  to do, was enter my Apple ID, everything else was done automagically.
Ofcourse, having used a Hackintosh for sometime, the OS X experience was nothing new. But I was pissed off a bit by the fact that the new computer didn't come with any inbuilt system recovery option. Even though I didn't have any urgent need to do a system recovery, I tried the much famed "Lion Internet Recovery", where the Mac downloads a recovery image of Lion directly off Apple's server. But  I was heavily disappointed to find that it doesn't work reliably. A little bit of Googling revealed that, I am not the only one, it fails to work reliably for most Earthlings.
Anyway, I used SuperDuper to create a full disk image and stored it away in a external USB drive safely, in case I manage to bork the system in the future.