It isn’t something I think about much but today I was a little astonished when I realized the Mac mini has been running for about 18 months. Not continuously. I did shut it down for about six hours once when I upgraded the memory at a friends house. Another time it was down for about four hours when I moved my office. Other than those ten hours of rest the mini has been restarted when Apple released updates to the OS that insist on a restart.
The mini has been with me since October of 2005. At that time I was still running Windows (2000 for the curious, I swore I wouldn’t commit to yet another version after that one despite owning several legit licenses for XP) on an aging box I had put together in the spring of 2003. In May of 2005 I had a contract for which I purchased a 15.2″ PowerBook and a Apple Cinema 20″ Flat-Panel Display. Running the two together at work gave me plenty of room for working in Eclipse, in fact the 20 inch was used almost exclusively for the Eclipse workspace. I really liked the level of efficiency I could work at with this setup. In August of that year, when my contract ended, my home office suddenly included a nearly new 20 inch display. This was a huge step up from my old 19″ flat CRT Viewsonic, not in size but certainly in quality and ergonomics. I figured I’d use it with the Windows box, since it had a DVI out and I was tired of plugging and unplugging to and from my PowerBook. Long story short, Windows did not play nice with two displays. So after a few months trying to resist the urge I finally ended up with a Mac on my desktop too.
The next major change came in February of 2006. That is when that same little mini got it’s first OS upgrade. I decided to install Mac OS X Server. If you have to ask why you’re probably not a geek. I’ve run Linux servers off and on for years to test web sites, etc. Now I do the same on the mini, but with less administrative burden and a lot less noise. If you’re wondering, the install was about as simple and mindless as mentioning it here was. In fact it just struck me that I installed and a year later I have yet to have any regrets about choices made during the install. Try that with a Linux distro you are not familiar with or even Windows 2003.
So here I am about a year and a half after my purchase of the mini (PowerPC version, I think the Intel version came out about two months later) and I have no regrets. In fact the mini has become a part of our lives. My wife uses it all the time, though lately she has grown fond of grabbing my PowerBook and heading for the couch (I can’t complain I think she might have learned this trick from me). The fact that the machine is always on means we never think twice about checking something even when we’re in a hurry. For example do we have time to grab coffee before the next showing of a movie, or where was the party we are supposed to be at in thirty minutes. In addition it provides a test bed for server applications I work on, acts as a centralized location for all my email, shares our media, and hosts the occasional database. All of this on the “slow” G4 version. I did mention a memory upgrade and for quite some time I did use this machine with only 256 MB, but with 1 GB (the max for this type) it really shines.
Basically the uptime on this thing has been of great value to me because I can use it for several important tasks that I don’t want to run on a bigger louder machine. The instant on factor has also allowed us (myself and family) to use it in ways we previously did not use any computers. The mini is a cheap way to get into a Mac and find out why people like me (and probably every other Mac user) sound so obsessed with the Mac.
Brief Philosophical Note: I really don’t think I am obsessed with the Mac. I just think that a pessimist has a difficult time transitioning from an environment where you expect and often get failure to an environment where you do not get failure. This lack of validation of the inborn pessimistic tendency leads to bouts of rambling optimistic and perhaps obsessive sounding insights. More importantly using a Mac leads to a simpler life, a persistent feeling of well being, and ultimately world peace. Unfortunately even using a Mac does not allow me to effectively express the degree of sarcasm that is infused in that last statement using only text and HTML. I guess even Macs have limitations, but I’d like to think that the degree of sarcasm that I did manage to represent would have crashed a Windows machine (at least on the authoring end).