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A mini for All Seasons...

I am a very busy full-time consultant for Small Dog. Sometimes I help clients at our Vermont retail stores, but most of the time, I am on the road visiting our clients at their locations. My employer provides me with a modern MacBook Pro, and my ten most-used workday apps, in order of usage, would be:

Safari, Mail, Finder, Apple Remote Desktop, iCal, Server, AirPort Utility, Console, Address Book, and Terminal.

I didn’t plan this out, but in writing out this list, I notice that all these top ten apps are from Apple. While working with Apple products all day long, and using them at home, I do not consider myself an Apple fanboy. I will not buy every new product just because it comes from Apple. However, I agree with most of Apple’s design decisions, and it is interface functionality that earns my loyalty. I can get more done, faster, with less annoyance when I use Apple’s products. I also love many third-party applications and hardware, as long as they demonstrate that design and interface are important.

I find that MacBook Pro and MacBook Air computers are perfect for my mobile business clients, and the newest Retina machines are unbelievable for graphic quality. iMacs make excellent home machines with great displays and minimal mess. However, in my patient progression between future-proofed Apple computers, I find none carry as much long term value as the Mac mini.

Let me reiterate — for mobile users, the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air cannot be beat! And for home users, the iMacs provides the most computer and display in the least space. I write this opinion as someone whose mobile needs are met by my employer! Anything else I use is for fun and ease of support!

For the hobbyist, of which I consider myself a professional, the Mac mini provides an amazing semi-modular platform from which to satisfy both our cleverness and our thrift. While we must live with our choice of processor and graphics card, we mini owners can freely upgrade our RAM and not just one, but two hard drives. I am currently running on a special-order Mid 2011 Mac mini Server, which came with a 2.0 GHz Quad-Core i7, and 2 × 750GB 7200 RPM drives, which I have upgraded from 4GB to 16GB of of RAM. The newest Mac minis are even faster and come with a better video cards. The server version now comes with 2 × 1TB 5400 RPM drives, for even more storage, faster processors and graphics, better power usage, and just slightly less storage speed. I think an extra $100 maximizes the processor.

However, when you get a mini, you have a chance to take advantage of third-party pricing for RAM and hard drive storage. When I bought by Mac mini, I knew I needed more than 4GB of RAM, but I saved money by buying my extra RAM from Small Dog, and I put my original RAM into upgrading my wife’s design workstation iMac. Soon I will upgrade my main Mac mini hard drive to an SSD (Solid State Drive), with a matching clone drive, and move my original 2 × 750GB drives to an external case for video production.

I run my Mac mini not just as a personal machine, but as a media and web server for my family’s entertainment and hobbyist needs. I use it as something to experiment on and not be hampered by the limitations of other operating systems or user interfaces. For my business clients, I run around forty servers, most of which are Mac minis, and I am always happy to do support work for our Mac mini Server clients. They use so little electricity for so much Mac-based power. While I dream of a perfect maxed-out Retina MacBook Pro, the newest Mac mini Server remains on my thrifty wish list year after year.

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