Monday, February 25, 2013

The Refurbished Mac Mini Story Part 3: The Ending?

Refurbished Mac Mini

The Refurbished Mac Mini Story Part 3: The Ending?

Before you read this, make sure you read the following first:

The Refurbished Mac Mini Story Part 1: The Hardware

The Refurbished Mac Mini Story Part 2: The Software

Now that I had the hardware and software set up the way I wanted, I have used the refurbished Mac Mini for years.  In fact, I'm still using it now.  Since it is a pint sized computer, it was able to grow with my needs.

In the beginning, I only needed it to function as a media center/media player.  I was streaming media from my Windows tower to the Mac Mini.  Later, it replaced the Windows tower altogether when I added an external hard drive.  So today, it does most of the heavy lifting for my computing needs.  I use my Macbook for every day use such as web browsing, checking emails, and creating documents.  Anything beyond that, I turn to the Mac Mini.  I just remotely connect to it from my Macbook and then work with it.

Sadly, the refurbished Mac Mini has been with me for a long time, but there are only so many upgrades you can make.  It has a Solid State Drive and 4 GB of memory (only recognizes 3 GB).  It is fine for normal computing but too much for the tasks I ask of it:  Media center, storage server, iTunes server, watching web based video on big screen, creating virtual networks, and running virtual computers.

I have been looking at the new Mac Minis and their specs seem to be inline with what I require.  As usual, the price is a little more than I would like to spend.  Based on my experience with my Mac Mini, I think I will probably purchase another refurbished Mac Mini in the near future.  I will try to find a role for my current Mac Mini.  Maybe something like this:

Refurbished Mac Mini in Car

In, conclusion, consider buying a refurbished Mac Mini if you are looking for a Mac Mini.  From my experience, it looks brand new, will save you money, and you can upgrade it with your savings.  This is the least expensive, smallest footprint, computer Apple offers.  This is a great computer to learn about Macs.  This little computer is powerful and always ready to work!

The end?

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Refurbished Mac Mini Story Part 2: The Software

The Refurbished Mac Mini Story

The Refurbished Mac Mini Story Part 2: The Software

Before you read this, you should read The Refurbished Mac Mini Story Part 1: The Hardware first!

Now that I had purchased my first Mac, the refurbished Mac Mini and upgraded the RAM, I was so excited!  I connected the Mac Mini to a keyboard, mouse, and monitor for initial setup.  The operating system was different from Windows but not completely different from Linux.  I had played with a few Linux installations in the past.  I had a few growing pains as I used my Mac because I just didn't know where to find some features so I turned to the search engines for guidance.  Soon I was learning more and more about Macs.  And liking it more with everything I learned.

Since I wanted to use the refurbished Mac Mini for a media center computer, I started with Front Row, the media center software that was included in the operating system.  I liked Front Row but there were some features that were lacking for my entertainment desires.  I felt like the Mac Mini was capable of more so once I again, I turned to the search engines until I found OSXBMC (now called Plex).  It was free media center software and I was very excited about it.  I was a little familiar with Xbox Media Center and this was similar but for Macs.  The team behind it was constantly working to improve the software so there were the occasional bugs, but overall, it was great.  For starters, this software played all media formats and it made it easier to organize the media I had.  At the time, I still had a Windows tower for my media storage and I just streamed the media to my Mac Mini.  This allowed me to keep my loud (due to multiple fans) tower out of my living room.  Later, I added an external hard drive to the Mac Mini and retired the Windows tower.  Note:  You should have a backup solution if you do this.  You never know when the external hard drive will fail.  Next, I setup Screen Sharing on  the refurbished Mac Mini.  I used TightVNC on my windows laptop (later replaced by a Macbook) so that I could add the Mac Mini to my entertainment center and control it from my laptop.  Once I purchased my Macbook, this capability was built in so I no longer needed TightVNC.  I also added the Caffeine app to keep my Mac from going into sleep mode.  Now, my refurbished Mac Mini was ready to be my media center computer.

This was fine for a while but I wanted to find more use for my refurbished Mac Mini.  It did the job as media center very well but it was a computer, a Mac at that.  I knew it could do more!  Later, I installed VMWare Fusion so I could test and run other operating systems.  I use Screen Sharing to access the Mac Mini, then operate the virtual machines so everything appears on my Macbook while the Mac Mini is doing the hard work.  Also, recently I cancelled my cable television service.  Using the web browser, I still have access to plenty of television shows using different services such as Project Free TV and Hulu+ (on Apple TV).  It's not always as convenient as cable but it works and I can watch whenever I choose.

If you have or decide to buy a Mac Mini, the software listed above can be helpful.  There are more options depending on how you want to use your Mac Mini.

Continue to The Refurbished Mac Mini Story Part 3: The Ending?

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Refurbished Mac Mini Story Part 1: The Hardware

The Refurbished Mac Mini Story

The Refurbished Mac Mini Story Part 1: The Hardware

Once upon a time, Apple created a Mac Mini around 2007.  It was the entry level model with 1.83 GHz Core 2 Duo processor and 2 GB of RAM.  At this time, this wasn't the best specs but it wasn't bad either.

Well, someone decided to purchase this Mac Mini but for whatever reason, they decided to return the Mac Mini.  I'd like to think it was so they could purchase a more expensive Mac.

Apple accepted the return and inspected the Mac Mini, corrected any issues, and decided it was still in great condition.  They wanted to sell it again but they couldn't sell it as new because it no longer was.  Apple decided to label it "Refurbished" and sell it for a lower price.  The refurbished Mac Mini was now for sell.

Around this time, I was researching Apple computers but I didn't want to  spend a lot of money to get a Mac.  I wasn't completely sold on the idea, thinking all computers are the same.  Around this time my coworkers and I were discussing ways to create media center PC's.  One coworker thought a Unix computer was the way to go while another thought a Windows computer was the best choice.  I wasn't so sure.  I had my eye on an Apple computer running OSX, but I wasn't sure about my software options.

Since I was thinking about a media center computer, I thought most Mac computers were too expensive and large for my purpose.  I wanted a computer that could easily sit in my entertainment center that wasn't  loud and looked like it belonged there.  Searching through the Apple site, I found the Mac Mini and instantly liked how Apple had built a computer in such a clean, compact package.  But even the entry model was a bit more than I was willing to pay, just slightly.  Somehow I found Apple's refurbished computer section.  Unfortunately, they didn't have any refurbished Mac Minis.  I kept revisiting Apple's refurbished section week after week until one day, I saw the refurbished Mac Mini.  

The refurbished Mac Mini was the entry model but was about $100 cheaper than normal.  I had started researching and found a company that specialized in Mac upgrades.  At this time, I could upgrade to 4 GB of RAM for about $100.  I liked that idea so much that I purchased the refurbished Mac Mini saving $100 and then used the savings to purchase the RAM for upgrade.  I purchased my first Mac!

Continue to The Refurbished Mac Mini Story Part 2: The Software!!!!