Saturday, January 15, 2005

Wow...in the "I have just been positively wowed" sense.

Usually when I say, "wow," I refer to the negative sense of the word. This is most definitely a positive "wow."

Apple has recently slashed prices on their hardware. About a year ago I got a new PC, but at the same time I was seriously considering a Mac. All developers, look at this:

http://www.apple.com/macmini/

The Mac mini is visually impressive, but that isn't what counts. I have been saying for a long time that people won't move to Linux because it is unusable. Macintosh/Apple/whatever their name is today (such is the sad result of mergers - you can't figure out a company's name any more), has their sticky fingers all over making a usable OS. I would recommend Mac over Linux any day. I could care less about proprietary hardware - in fact, as a developer, it probably makes my life easier.

For developers, I have been eyeing the Mac for a really long time. It has one thing that every developer needs: Three OSes rolled into one without rebooting. On a Mac, I can get access to the proprietary Mac APIs (Mac OSX), some *NIX variant (BSD of some sort), AND Windows of all flavors (via VirtualPC). OSX is just as visually appealing as XP (although, I could do without bouncing, animated icons).

The Mac mini seems to be the perfect computer. It is 6.5 inches square. I just measured the top of my two computer full tower cases and it would fit quite comfortably there. It is interesting to note that you could stack these things like:

http://msdn.imation.com/

So, you could build an entire cluster of the Mac minis. Not sure what good that would do except for the "cool"/"sweetness" factor, but it wouldn't occupy very much space.

Now, I know PCs are available in that size as well, but you only get two OSes to choose from: Windows and some unusable *NIX flavor. 90% of the population using PCs have declared that Windows is more usable by putting their money where their mouth is. If you want to eat money, that's fine, but realize that it has been places I don't even want to talk about (some people use it as washable toilet paper - yeah, go chew on that one - think you can dig around my HTML).

Now, I'm not Windows bashing, but the next time you buy a computer, seriously consider the Mac Mini. I like how they allow you to pick what monitor, keyboard, and mouse you use. It offers plenty of firepower CPU-wise to compile code and type it into an editor. Unless you work with insanely huge projects, you probably don't spend much time compiling - so the extra cycles of a fancy-schmancy 3GHz PC are wasted.

Basically, for $500, you get the computer of your dreams (even comes with a reasonable ATI Radeon video card). It will take about a week to adapt to the minor changes between OSes (remember, the Windows UI stole from Mac). The only annoying thing about the Mini is the hard drive size. Let's see - my own code and data consumes roughly 13GB. I've got another 36GB in downloads (programs, applications, demos). If the OS uses 2GB and I like to play the occassional game that says it needs 5.5GB of space to play, I just ran out of space. I have approximately 300GB (.3TB) of space on my current hard drive. I need to be able to have lots of room to grow. So does every developer I know of. So, the best approach to this is to have a central, organized, global download repository. That eliminates 36GB of stuff and frees up about 20GB of space to play with on the default 40GB system. I can still utilize my .3TB storage system from the Mac via network shares. Pretty nifty.

Of course, if you are a hardcore gamer, don't get rid of that PC yet - all the good games are for Windows first and maybe for Mac later, so a KVM switch comes in nice and handy :)

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