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My Next Mac Mini (rustyshelf.org)
426 points by ingve on Jan 28, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 346 comments

Someone here needs to explain it to me because I just don't understand.

We have the largest computer company in the world, a shit load of people work there, supposedly smart people. Yet they can't put together a refresh of many of their desktop machines. Why the fuck not? What do all those people getting paid all that money do all day? I can only imagine the conversations, "it takes years it has to be super innovative". No it fucking doesn't not on the PC, just put the latest processors and tech in it. You don't have to innovate every fucking time, not on the desktop PC. We see this all the time with Apple devices and I can't understand it.

I mean I don't understand what do they do all day every day for 800 days that they can't refresh this simple Machine. Maybe I'm being nieve here or I'm missing something.

As an apple alumnus, I believe it has to do with a culture of "laser focus" There is an internal course called "what makes apple apple" that you can take, but it's not necessary to pick up one of the key pieces of culture: the importance of saying No to most things.

Apple has built their reputation on high quality. To continue to deliver takes immense effort, even for incremental programs, and often almost if the talent internally shifts to whatever is new or deemed important, at the expense of everything else. So it's not that they don't know, it's not that they don't care. It's that they believe in sacrificing opportunities elsewhere so that they can focus on what is truly important.

Another shift that happens internally is executive focus. Executives at apple are extremely hands on with products. They don't micromanage, but instead constantly judge whether a product is on course and has taste. We use to prepare monthly keynotes that went all the way to the top, hitting each executive along the way, who was interested in taking the pulse of every project underneath them. This approach does not scale to more than a handful of product lines per executive.

There is a lot of risk inherent in this approach, because if they line up a home run with half the company over a few years and then you whiff, you could be in a tough spot. By that's exactly what apple does. And one of the advantages is that people are rarely worried about whether apple is committed to an entirely new product, because they go all in each time they move. For example, apple is absolutely committed to making the watch dominate the smartwatch market. It isn't a hobby for them.

The solution the internal apple devoutiees would see to this problem is to cut the Mac mini entirely if it stopped selling, rather than refresh it. It is believed to not be worth splitting the companies attention.

Edit: as other commenters have mentioned, apple is also not the largest maker of these products, just the one with the largest valuation. They have less, more focused talent, and larger margins.

Edit edit: I just remembered the giant picture of Steve jobs in Infinite loop I used to walk past to lunch all the time that said "I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what's next." pretty much sums this up.

Total laser focus on one thing seems like a great mantra for building a company (or turning around a failing one). But for sustaining a company that's already successful, I'm not so sure. If you really believe there's a Next Big Thing that you can bet the company on and win, like the iPhone, then maybe it makes sense to let other product lines languish. But, now that most of the world's population carry a computer in their pocket at all times, what if there is nothing else that big that remains to be done?

There's still lots of room for Apple to grow their existing Mac business. They've started to make inroads into the enterprise market, traditionally dominated by Windows. They could really press that. They could stay competitive in more markets than just the thin-and-light laptop market -- the Mini is one example, the high-end laptop market is another, and the workstation market is a third.

Instead, they're apparently conceding these battles, and turning their massive resources toward finding another Next Big Thing, which may not even exist.

I agree. Is the Mac Mini so special it can't be updated by a small team periodically? Nope. It is in fact a quite mainstream machine, nothing too special about it.

The uniqueness in the Mac Mini lies in Mac OS. No laser sharp focus is needed for incremental hardware updates.

The Mac Pro has unique hardware, but between major redesigns it does not need any incredibly hard work. Just incremental improvements.

I find it absurd too that a company with so much cash in the bank cannot keep a few people performing incremental improvements on their product lines. The Mac Pro for example, is hopelessly outdated now.

I think they underestimate the compound effect of an ecosystem. Several little products, even if they don't bring in insane revenues such as iOS, can help attracting key users which are those that drive innovation. It also contributes to the overall experience of regular folks. For example, by discontinuing screens or routers, things are not as seamless as they once were.

"It is in fact a quite mainstream machine, nothing too special about it." The mini introduced a form factor that has since been emulated so often that it seems less special than it was at first, but it was something new. Small computers extant back then were larger than the mini. Most were based on the Mini ITX motherboard design, introduced in 2001, and all of them looked like boxen (ugly). The mini's dimensions gave it a non-computer look. It might seem plain now, a very simple form, but that was the genius of it. To allege that it's mainstream and not special, something to be incremented, is to cast it as just another box, a mere container. To Apple, it's an optimum solution to both engineering and aesthetic challenges. Maybe they resist the idea that it is just a box, and that is why they don't just increment the internals.

The Mac Mini was special over a decade ago. It's now just commodity hardware in an aluminium unibody. There are a multitude of competing machines from Intel, Gigabyte, Asus, Zotac and others. There is absolutely no reason why Apple couldn't redesign the Mac Mini chassis to take an industry-standard NUC motherboard and offer a refresh every 12 months.

I won't buy Apple hardware any more because I don't want to be locked into their ecosystem. I don't want to be subject to the whims of a "tastemaker" who decides that I don't need PCIe or USB or a headphone jack. I don't trust Apple not to neglect a key platform for years.

Apple can afford to lose me, because iPhone sales are equivalent to the GDP of some countries. If at some point that golden goose starts looking unhealthy, they might regret pissing off their most loyal customers. They might suddenly realise that the creative professionals who were a cornerstone of their brand have abandoned them.

As of today, the Mac Pro has gone 1137 days without an update. Three years is an eternity for a music producer or a video editor to go without fresh hardware. The introduction of 4K video has only exacerbated the issue, as has the fiasco of FCPX.

A lot of people feel deeply betrayed by Apple. People who would happily give Apple $10,000 every couple of years for a fully loaded Mac Pro. People who have bought every Apple desktop since the Macintosh. People who are role models in their fields. People whose choices define the term "industry standard". Can Apple afford to alienate those people?

This, which was posted a short time ago, seems relevant to this comment.


Neither Apple nor Google seem to be applying many of the principles outlined in that article.

To me this is just a sign of broken management. Apple has a minimal product line. Not being able to refresh products regularly is unacceptable. Furthermore, they don't have a complete ecosystem anymore which has an impact on the whole experience.

Google is also broken, but in a different way. They are stuck in a perpetual cycle of release-abandon products, with some insane duplicities. For example, Hangouts/Allo/Duo.

Google has discontinued the much praised Google Reader, plus replaced open Google Talk by closed Hangouts. Also released Allo & Duo, confusing everyone. A royal mess.

Apple is unwilling to update Mac Pro & Mini frequently. They have also discontinued their screens (and third party USB C ones are not working well) and also discontinued all their routers.

I actually feel the same way. I wanted to buy a Mini in 2014, to upgrade from a 2012 model, but the new one was no better than the one I had, at least not in the ways that were important to me. My comment was about the psychology of Apple. I do wonder if their engineers don't see Apple computers as containers, as boxes. They abandoned the cheese grater Mac Pros, the most box-like in design (and best for users). Maybe Jonny Ive et al resist the slippery slope of their computers being seen as commodities. There could be wisdom in that. The Apple brand relies on the perception of design virtuosity. But I agree, they should have had more in the pipeline. Let's hope they get back to the drawing board and make up for their neglect.

Maybe, but that is what makes apple apple. They could also focus on pushing their mac line and lose all their top talent who want to work on something inspiring, and become the next Hp, a respectable hardware company that no one cares about the future of. Already they hemorrhage talent to sexier projects like tesla.

Also, I don't think they will change for anyone or anything. Many of the executives have witnessed firsthand the death and resurrection of apple by Steve Jobs and seen the formula work again and again, from the iMac to the iPhone. They truely believe that they are either going to make products that makes a dent in the universe or go bankrupt trying.

"I believe it has to do with a culture of "laser focus" "

The problem with this ^focused^ (linear) thinking is the real value of apple in the past has been from ^diffuse^ (intuitive, unconscious wondering connections, slightly riskier) thinking. I know this is simplistic but the successful apple will be using both modes.

I don't think that was meant by laser focus. I think it meant to really hone in on a few things that will have large impact, at the expense of linear improvements.

Apple is in love with the big, sexy revolutionary unveiling and that thrill and opportunity is what they are laser focused on. If it doesn't get them to that point, they say No to it.

That thing might require linear or divergent thinking to make work. But it's all this fixation on that end goal, that flash of excitement and freshness that they, their shareholders, the press and the majority of their users are all hooked on.

"Apple is in love with the big, sexy revolutionary unveiling and that thrill and opportunity is what they are laser focused on."

Fair point. Direction at apple doesn't have Jobs for aesthetics. apple has long forgotten the brilliance of Woz and open access to hardware. We'll see how this plays out (as I type out on mbp kb).

So we forego any updates on the Mac Pro for 3 years so that Apple can dominate the smartwatch market?

/me shakes head in dismay

I see what you are saying but you'd think you could update some of the chips in the mini without needing much company attention?

Apple doesn't just update chips and throw it over the wall. It is, for better or for worse, always a large scale qa, supply chain and engineering effort.

Still, I don't have the impression this was happening under Jobs. He would still had 2 guys in there, updating the chip in the Mini right now.

Total neglect of 60% of their products (Mac pro, Mac Mini), and ditching complete other productlines (Cinema displays, Routers) at the same time, is unprecedented...

I really think Cook is messing it up. Especially not even having the option of a regular keyboard on a 15" MBP, is almost insulting.

I am still using a Macbook Pro laptop from 2010, running Snow Leopard, because it does what I need and I haven't felt the need to upgrade it, other than install an SSD. I like Apple's stuff, though I'd never buy another Mac Mini: they're too damn hard to upgrade (disk). It's like doing microsurgery, and I'm no surgeon.

Apple may be neglecting 60% of their products (not sure if that's accurate...), but if 60% of their products are generating 1% of their revenue, it seems like a good idea to neglect them.

I think Apple has gone way beyond the days where "power graphics/media users" are important or even relevant to them. Every kid I know has an iPhone, wants to upgrade their iPhone, or "drops" their iPhone on purpose every 2 years, crushing the screen, so they "have" to get a new one using Mommy & Daddy's phone upgrade. One $10K PowerMac == 20 $500 iPhones.

If it were your business, what would you focus on? Not saying I like it, because I still have a slide phone and don't give a shit about Apple's consumer products, and wish they still cared about a great developer machine. But I understand why they don't.

>I'd never buy another Mac Mini: they're too damn hard to upgrade (disk). It's like doing microsurgery, and I'm no surgeon.

I had no problem replacing the hard drive in my 2011 Mac mini, and it was only the second time I'd ever worked with laptop-type components. And the first time I gave up shortly after opening up the case (of a machine that had been given to me in non-working condition).

They did with the MacBook Air for years. 1440x900 TN panel over 6 refreshes from 2010-2015 and still on sale today.


Apple is not above doing side projects if they integrate existing components. The early Apple TV and iPod Touch come to mind.

IMO the bigger issue with the Mac Mini is that it used to be designed with very similar internals to the plastic/polycarbonate MacBook.

When they discontinued those machines in favour of laptops with integrated RAM and storage, my suspicion is the design path became less clear and required more engineers.

So why isn't there somebody with total laser focus on the Mac Mini? The Mac Pro? iOS for the iPad? Seems to me that these are some of the functions that the supposedly functional Apple organizational structure is neglecting.

You're saying that Apple is focused on providing the best quality possible.

How is a 3-year-old PC good quality?

It was when they cared. The point is that they are utterly blind to anything beyond the release of the next big thing.

It's like they are chasing exploding fountains of gold, with tunnel vision and no rear view mirrors.

> It isn't a hobby for them.

Can you explain what exactly was meant (in an internal-politics sense) back when the Apple TV was referred to in each keynote that mentioned it as a "hobby project"?

It's waaaay more profitable to sell the same device for three years without updates: it costs nothing in r&d. This wholy explains the mind boggling profit margins doesn't it?

No, because while those ancient computers probably do have amazing margins at this point, they don't sell in sufficient quantities to make a big impact on quarterly earnings. Those mind boggling margins and profits really do come from mostly new devices. It really is just a matter of either poor multitasking by the organization, a very depressing long-term strategy, or both.

It's weird- the practice of never talking about product roadmaps started in an era when whatever customer angst and uncertainty it generated was vastly outweighed by customer and media delight when the next step in that roadmap was finally revealed, which at the time happened like clockwork at 6-month intervals. Now people want them to talk about product roadmaps not because they're excited to know when/what the next great Mac is going to be, but because they're worried that there won't BE any Macs anymore (at least not any that they would want to buy). :(

Sounds short-sighted. You assume they continue to sell the same number of devices per quarter. I argue the quarterly number declines with outdated specs. Taken to the extreme, 40% profit margin on 1k sold units is nothing compared to 30% of a million sold units. Also, how hard can it be to put new CPUs and more RAM in? You don’t need a design team for that.

Exactly. Which saying what about this company?

I ask myself the same questions. It seems that Apple is lost in internal politics.

It was right decision at the time to build the new OS only for mobile devices. But now laptops and desktops have also touch screens. It was easy to foresee this. So Microsoft decision to build touch OS for laptops and desktops payed off. But who at Apple will take the blame for the decision made 5 years ago to still have two separate OSes? I guess it is safer to continue Steve Jobs vision, even knowing that Steve often changed his mind.

That lack of Mac Mini internals upgrade is really insane. It seems that no exec wants to be associated with that simple project. In most innovative and valuable company everyone has to work on something revolutionary, otherwise someone will be not considered as the right person for Apple.

I guess that "laser focus" and "saying no" are now mostly used in internal office fights.

I think they are folding their desktop and laptop stuff into the IOS stuff, planning on a singularity in the next couple years.

The iPhone will be able to carry their business over the hill of user discontent in the meantime.

That's exactly what they're not doing, and I dunno why everyone thinks they will.. maybe because that's what msft is doing?

Apple repeatedly said their laptop/desktop/macos variants will remain for hardcore users who need that freedom, while ios is for users who want simplicity.

The same hardcore users who dislike the new Macbook Pros?

How many of those do you ?

How many of those hardcore users actually do like the new MBP and do not bother talking about it ?

I would honestly appreciate to see a bit more fact & figures instead of anecdotal evidence.

I'd love to see that too. Sales seems to be high for the MBP so maybe there's more quiet supporters than loud detractors. However the very existence of loud detractors about a product line, which historically has had far more fervent defenders than critics, indicates the hardcore users are unhappy overall.

Apple, more than any other tech company, usually attracts the "can do no wrong" type of fans. They're still around for this product lineup but much quieter than usual. That should be worrying for Apple, assuming they still care about Macs.

At any given time, some (heavy) users were critical about new Apple products and Apple decisions, lamenting that they forget about their most valuable and vocal fans. Apple killed the floppy drive, multiple connectors, "great" products (clickwheel iPod, anyone), resetted software products (FCP, Pages), killed services and so on. Heck, they even killed the Apple ][. And some users cried foul on each of these decisions.

Just now, the internet and clickbait journalism give these voices much more weight. Apple isn't the underdog anymore and Apple bashing produces page views.

That said, of course Apple products aren't perfect. But they never were. But even 10 or 15 years ago, a lot of Apple supporters didn't buy 1.0 releases of new products, didn't install OS/X x.0 releases and so on.

How reasonable are these critics? E.g.: How many users do really need 32GB RAM on their MBP, an option not available before, but now a big failure if you read comments, blogs and articles about Apple. I bet its a tiny minority that is truly limited by this constraint. But still, everyone is complaining.

In my mind it is not even so much that I need 32gb now, but as apps get more bloated it may be useful in the future, and seeing how the RAM is pretty much impossible to upgrade it seems very short sited to not have any more RAM than I've had for the past 5 years.

I doubt that this is happening at the same pace as say last decade though.

Yes - I know a bunch of software developers who excitedly bought one of the new MacBook pros on launch day. And Apple has said that by volume it was one of their best laptop launches ever. I think regarding the new mbps the internet echo chamber doesn't mirror reality.

> by volume it was one of their best laptop launches ever

I argue: One reason is that it took Apple one and a half years to refresh the MacBook Pro, leading to pent up demand. Previous models were refreshed after max. 0.8 years, from 2015 to 2016 it took 1.7 years.

And this "it took Apple one and a half years to refresh" hasn't anything to do with Intels lackluster product cycles and product refreshes?

Why update products if the update is only marginally faster/better/newer than the current model?

Really, I can buy a new Acer or Lenovo notebook with a shiny new model number and a lot of "enhanced", "new" and "better" features every two months. It is more difficult to buy the old, trusted models of Lenovo notebooks than fresh models - that all are only better according to marketing, but somehow not faster or better and often somehow crippled in real world use. Do you want that from Apple?

> I dunno why everyone thinks they will

Probably because we constantly hear stories that they have combined their OS teams. The recent problems with PDF Kit seem to confirm that there is a convergence and quality / features of the macOS side of the house are not a priority.

Largest? You mean employing the most people or having the largest area?

As for the employees, Apple has about 115 thousands, IBM has about 379 thousands, Samsung has 319 thousands, HP has 289 thousands (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_largest_informatio...).

You probably meant the most valuable (stock number * stock price).

He probably just meant "having the most resources" in some very general sense. But it's true, in terms of # of employees it's nowhere near the largest. In fact the vast majority of those 115000 people are retail employees. I would estimate that in terms of engineers, it's more like 20k or less.

If that figure includes Apple Store employees, the number of engineers and product people is even lower.

Cook has said multiple times that their biggest challenge is acquisition and retention of talent.

Maybe they could give market rate offers (ie facebook or google rates) to sr engineers then.

You have to work there for 2 to 3 years before you start matching FB or Google.

Per product, they probably have most employees, both overall and if you count R&D

I think what you're missing is that Apple pursues high-margin endeavors, and competing with a $300 NUC isn't going to be a high-margin business. Some easy money for Apple would be to sell OS licenses for Intel NUCs.

Apple could sell a $300 NUC for $600 and people would still buy it. The issue is that Apple doesn't sell anything decent in this form factor that runs macOS.

I agree that they could and should - I'm just speculating as to why they don't. As they probably could make their desired margins, it must be they would consider it a "distraction" from future endeavors (VR, cars, etc.)

The NUC in question, the NUC7i5BNK, is $620. That is without RAM or storage, so add another $50 for 8GB RAM, $80 for a 128GB M.2 SSD, and $100 for a Windows license. Total price is $850. This guy isn't cheaping out, he just wants more hardware for his money.

$700 at Apple gets you a much slower 3 generation old i5 with a 1TB hard drive. But, with MacOS.

It's one thing for Apple to charge a premium for better hardware. But that is NOT what they're doing. They're charging the same amount for ancient, inferior hardware.

Never pay MSRP, the NUC7i7BNK is going for $500 ish on preorder. The NUC7i5BNK is going for $400. The i3 version for $300, and the celeron or whatever is below the i3 is going for $200 ish.

However the nuc generation7 i5 is the lowest model with the iris graphics.

There are some little things a Mac Mini has that you can't get by just (essentially) Hackintoshing a NUC.

For example, Apple's custom UEFI, plus a Bluetooth controller that boots in HID mode and loads configured pairings from NVRAM, allows you to "hold down [key combination] at boot" on your Mac Mini's Bluetooth keyboard.

Or the fact that all the desktop Mac models have internal speakers (and not just the motherboard PC speaker kind) and internal microphones, so OSX can guarantee it always has those devices available to use to play system event notification sounds, or for Siri, or for FaceTime, or for visual-impairment accessibility tooling, etc.

Or the fact that you can still plug FireWire or DisplayPort devices into a Mac Mini through its Thunderbolt port (with a passive adapter to map the pins) and the motherboard will happily accept the device; whereas no PC would have any idea what to do with those wire protocols, even if you plugged them into the port of an explicit Thunderbolt PCIe card you bought.

If you could get these things from a NUC, then sure, there'd be no point in the Mac Mini.

It's a reality of the accounting, financial reporting, and executive incentives that in any large publicly-traded company today, product lines that bring in a small percentage of revenue are going to not get the chance they deserve.

I guess they've painted themselves into a bit of a corner with the way they do their pricing, and product announcements with a lot of hype.

If they were to do the kind of update you suggest, there would be a lot of bad press stating the obvious ("It's just the same as before, but faster and more RAM. No new alloys or anything!"), and it would drive down prices for inventory of the old model.

Apple has stated they think the iPad Pro is the next computer for everyone. I would bet Apple is quite far along making tools for the iPad Pro that let you create apps for the iPad Pro and iPhone. They released a first foray into this kind of tool last year with their Swift Playgrounds, a language they designed to replace old things, using all-new APIs like Metal. The computers we like all stem from what we call Apple's history and legacy!

Allow a mouse to connect to it and as a developer I would agree with you...

I kind of expect they'll only enable iOS development on iPad Pros, leaving them unable to create apps for platforms with mice.

This makes a lot of sense when you wonder why they aren't putting a touch screen on the Macs. Microsoft took a desktop OS and bolted a touch screen onto it. Apple will take a tablet OS and bolt a keyboard onto it.

[edit] Makes even more sense when you consider who has what apps. Microsoft had a huge lead in Windows apps, so of course you want to bolt your touchscreen onto that. Apple has the huge lead in iOS apps, so better to bolt a keyboard onto that than a touch screen onto the Mac.

They've done plenty of speed bumps in the past, where the device is unchanged and they just upgrade the CPU to whatever is the latest.

Indeed, there is no announcement either. The price/spec just changes on the Apple Store. Most of the time, the reaction is positive - people just like to see that Apple care.

Keeping the same price for a machine over 3 years and not even going through the motion of offering spec bump is no very considerate. That really looks like Apple keep the line just for that sucker that is born every minute.

roughly 12% ($5.7 billion/$46.9 billion) of Apple's revenue comes from Mac sales, so they don't emphasize Mac development, i guess.


My guess is they're mostly working on the "next big releases", so between iphone, ipad, and previously the touchbar mac and watch.

They are trying to figure out how to make them thinner. Apple is very weight-conscious.

I think this post itself a pretty good explainer as to why.

Customers aren't even aware of the lack of competitiveness.

It's the management, not the product managers, designers or engineers.

With the management led by a logistics/operations man, you end up with products that are UNinspired.

It's a pity Mr. Jobs picked Mr. Cooks to be the successor.

If the share holders didn't like it could they vote him out of that position?

Of course, but Apple is enormously profitable. That's what shareholders care about, so why would they?

Because it's short-sighted. If you let your products stagnate, the current profits are higher because people who are tied into your ecosystems still have to buy something, so they buy the low-cost obsolete product for the high price, and you are very profitable right now.

But doing that burns goodwill with your customers.

Nowadays, I kind of enjoy seeing posts about people abandoning Apple ecosystem. Although it's painful, I myself have been yet another avid fan of pretty much Apple offered, it feels like this is not going to last forever.

When they do the math, iPhone might seem the most lucrative (they seem not to care about anything else) but since they are killing the ecosystem with no Mac Pro, no Mac Mini and with so called pro MacBooks, developers will abandon Apple eventually. Even if iPhone becomes/remains the most technologically advanced smart phone on the market, it would be like a distant paradise island with no airports. Airplanes (developers and subsequently the end users) will be landing on alternative airports on emerging islands, letting them prosper. Consequently, Apple island will be deserted.

I had whatever the latest iPhone was for the past 8 years. But at some point I realized a whole Huawei/HTC/LG/whatever Android phone could be purchased for the price of an iPhone screen repair and it's pretty much adequate for what I want to do.

So now I'm using a Nexus 5X. It's okayish, but costs 1/3 the price of the iPhone 7 that would also be relatively ok. Phones are just phones these days.

The awkward part is that if you've ever played audio or video on an iOS device, you've executed some of my code.

> Phones are just phones these days.

I disagree with this. Most Android phones have a bad track record of getting OS updates (which may not be extremely important with Play Services not being part of the OS) and security updates. Depending on what one buys, it may be a phone with an outdated OS and no security updates or something that gets by for two to three years (on average). Apple provides updates for four years or longer (this has been the minimum for the past several years).

Combine the above with more malware spreading through APKs from random sites and "friends", I'd say Android is still stuck in the DOS era of PCs.

Of course, I realize this is a very harsh comparison that doesn't touch upon the flexibility that some users love, but in my opinion, non-tech-savvy people shouldn't be using anything but the best flagship phones if they choose Android and stay away from getting APKs from different sources. Any cost advantage with respect to an iPhone then disappears.

I'm tech savvy, but I can have 3 very decent non-flagship Android phones (eg Oppo F1S) for the price of a similar sized iPhone.

That's a massive deal breaker.

Non-tech-savvy users still have to disable the option to disable third-party APK's in order to be at risk in that area.

If they aren't tech savvy, they're dependent on tech savvy people to show them this option and educate them. Even then, they may ignore it. I've seen many people using Android where they just get APK files from somewhere and pass it on tho "friends" (in quotes because this is indeed a large circle of acquaintances and several degrees of separation). It's probably luck that more Android users aren't being hit with malware around the world.

The digital divide between those who can afford an iPhone and those who cannot is glaring on the security front. One of the ways this could get better is for Apple to introduce truly low priced phones (no, the iPhone SE is still quite expensive in developing countries). That's probably as much a pipe dream as getting Android manufacturers to care for their customers.

I had an iPhone for several years as well. On my first attempt to switch to Android, I went swimming with my new phone in my pocket a few weeks after I got it. Very frustrating.

I finally switched permanently last year, and man has it been worth it. I can actually browse my own files on my own phone, and it does virtual reality better than any current Apple product! I grew up with Apple around me and I used to love them, but they have fallen behind and made terrible choices and I won't feel bad for them if they fail.

Funny. I recently got a new position and I couldn't find the terminal on the company mac - and a fellow came by and said "you obviously aren't an Apple person". I didn't tell him that I was a Mach kernel engineer at NeXT and that I'd worked on code that is probably still in the OS - or that I've been in way too many meetings with Steve Jobs. Instead, I just quietly nodded and agreed with him.

My beard's not quite as grey but about a month ago I was asked in an interview to "design a garbage collector".

Motherfucker. I BROKE Objective-C 2.0 and its GC in order to meet the soft real-time constraints of video rendering, I made all video related objects reference counted.

Now there's ARC, but back then I took so much flack just to make video work appropriately.

Anyways the guy 10 years my junior didn't know anything other than the Java GC so explaining myself was futile.

Moral of the story: Don't work for Hudson River Trading.

Corollary: Don't be old.

Age discrimination is hardcore in tech! Especially programming. I get it, when I was 23 and people told me they were 40 I was like, "damn that's my mom's age. This guy is old." I was really stupid.


I'm curious to hear what your setup for the intervening 20 years has looked like. Did it involve moving to GNUstep when NeXTSTEP was no longer viable, or is it something like, you came to NeXT by way of e.g. Sun (or something) and never had any particular affinity for the NeXT environment and so your setup has always been Linux/BSD/Solaris...?

My skills have always centered around OS and Database. I've mostly worked on UNIX then Linux at command line. Lots of vi and compiling over the years. I'll use whatever desktop is around...and, practically speaking, that has usually been Windows at the Fortune 50.

Sounds like you are a NeXT person and not an Apple person, so wasn't he right? No snark intended.

Yeah. I guess I still think of Apple's OS as being essentially NeXTStep. Hard for me not to feel like I'm still looking at the same software - just with some superficial evolution.

I've been in situations like this as well. It's crazy to sit across from someone in an interview and think to yourself, "This person has no idea and I'm not going to let them in on it."

That's awesome lol. Gives a cookie

I chuckled at this because I have a 5X too and I like it but my wife's Moto G4 Plus is amazing and cost something like half of what I paid for my Nexus, so I feel like I paid more than I needed to for a solid phone.

I think the 5X gets security updates until September 2018. Meanwhile, my Moto X Style, which was top of the line not too long ago, got the September 2016 rollup... in January 2017. Nougat was rumoured but I'm not betting on it.

I haven't installed Cyanowhatever it is now - mainly because the IR sensors and gestures are really handy.

> Cyanowhatever

Sadly it's too late for Cyanogenmod. http://lifehacker.com/cyanogenmod-is-dead-and-its-successor-...

It's now continued as LineageOS with the same core developers. http://lineageos.org/ and the builds are at https://download.lineageos.org/bullhead

I'm still disappointed by no Cinema Display and Apple leaving the display business.

I'm baffled by this. Touchbar is innovative to some degree, but I usually connect my Macbook Pro to a bigger display and close it—making touchbar useless. So disappointed by Apple lately...

I hear you, but it's been so long since Apple made a decent Cinema Display, and we're so rich with better alternatives, that I don't really miss it. On the cheaper end, the Dell Ultrasharp is a fine replacement at a great price. For more premium needs, you can get something like an Eizo ColorEdge, which leaves the Cinema Display in the dust. And there are all sorts of other options in between.

The Cinema Display is not so much different from the Mac Mini in that sense. You feel bad that you don't have a new one, until you realize just how much better the alternatives have become.

It's useless even with the display open.

I bet most people don't ever use it after the first week.

hahah this might be true.

For me, constantly looking down at the keyboard somehow doesn't feel natural. I prefer to keep my eyes on the screen.

The touchbar also increases security so it's not useless even if you close the laptop.

You mean the way my VPN software needs to have a backdoor in it just so that the touchbar keeps working while I'm connected? ;-)

Can you explain?

The tool bar is modeled as a separate computer, that talks to the laptop not over USB, but a network interface.

That actually opens up a huge can of worms, as networking as a host of security issues. One example is with a VPN connection. For obvious security reasons, when a lot of VPNs are active, they force all networking to flow through them. That is problematic, because the remote side has no way to route the toolbar traffic back to it.

So, VPN software is now busily building out exceptions to their routing rules. Don't worry, I'm sure this won't lead to bugs or future security holes...

How's that?

The touchbar is similar to an iOS device so it is a separate computing device that has a small attack surface so it is difficult to hack.

It for instance controls the camera, so without hacking the touchbar it is impossible to use the camera without the light turning on.

It also controls the fingerprint reader in a way that makes it hard to get the secrets that are protected by the fingerprint without actually providing the fingerprint.

I assume the fingerprint reader?

I don't buy this argument. Developers will work on platforms that have users with money to spend, even if the development hardware is poor value. In this sense, Apple has us hostage!

I have no data, but I'd wager that iOS developers who sell directly to end users are rare nowadays. Most of us are paid good money to build apps for bigger companies that make their money outside of the App Store. Often we don't even use our own Mac for that, so as a first step, we might use a Mac at work and Windows/Linux at home.

If we left the ecosystem, the cost of native iOS development would increase, and companies would build portable (and/or crappy) apps instead. macOS indie apps would also lose some customers, and IMHO these apps are what makes the Apple world worthwhile in the first place.

Paid apps are essentially dead on iOS and Android, thanks to both of their terrible policies. Both search algorithms for each platform place way to much weight on volume (downloads, ratings, reviews) over other attributes which they could track (like user retention.)

This means a well polished, but expensive app can be easily ousted out of a top search result spot by a rushed clone at a lower price point, even if people end up deleting the crappy one after a day or two anyways. Basically both modern app stores place a ton of value on "new" things but don't care about software built to last. So as a dev you are incentivized to abandon your old projects and just stick out new ones every few months. And on iOS it gets even worse with paid search ads which can be targeted at competitor app names.

Couple that with a 30% revenue cut, no access to your users (So you have no ability to refund them or discount future purchases), and the stores having the ability to oust you at any time and it becomes obvious that the only sustainable business is continuous crap-ware or SaaS with your main business outside the App Store. Just look at the Top Grossing chart, there isn't a single paid app till around 80 and even then the app is Minecraft.

App stores are just a digital version of any physical store.

Honestly when I go any store, I sometimes wonder how all those companies with products on the shelves, manage to sell enough goods to keep the engines running.

Yes, as long as iOS stays a solid market, iOS developers are going to own one Mac at least. But when the Mac platform itself stops being attractive to developers and they are only using it because they "have to", it is going to have an impact onto iOS as well. Innovations go, where the developers like to be.

I wouldn't be so sure. Old platforms suffer from diminishing returns and developers get bored easily. If a platform is no longer exciting and dominant players are lame or annoying, then developers and entrepreneurs will look for alternatives in completely different directions deliberately avoiding the old incumbants.

Amazon.com wasn't a Windows desktop app even though most customers would have used Windows to buy from Amazon. You could say that shifts like the Web are inevitable and nothing Apple could do will change that. That's probably right, but the way in which it happens and the role old incumbants play in the new world does depend on whether or not they are hated and actively avoided by the new elites.

I believe that Apple is making the upcoming decline steeper and deeper right now.

The problem is our small shop, revenues are something like 600% iOS/Android. We make hardly anything on the Play Store because (and you can call this classist if you want, but it's what my data tells me) Android users don't spend money. Now that could be because they don't have it, because they don't see value in software, whatever but the point is if you're an app developer and you want to make money, you go to Apple. And because of their ecosystem, you must develop on a Mac.

Now, as they make the Mac worse and worse to have, who knows, maybe people will finally be motivated enough to build an Xcode that runs on Windows or Unix. But you'd still have to have at least one Mac to do your publishing.

Nothing wrong with that. I'm sure there are many other companies like yours. I doubt that many profitable companies will abandon iOS development just because Mac hardware is a bit dusted or a bit overpriced at this point.

But where is the excitement? Where are the growth opportunities? Where's the space for experimentation? Where are things moving?

Once all the wealthy people on this planet have their iPhones and their six favorite apps in their six home screen rows, all extremely vetted by Apple, the market is saturated and stagnant.

You can't skate where the puck is going to be because the puck has come to a complete stop and all players are sitting on top of it.

I'm a Mac, iPhone and iPad user. But would I ever build a _new_ company on that platform. No. Definitely not.

I mean, depends on the company. I get what you're saying but for a smaller company looking for exposure to a wide audience with spending money, the data tells us iOS is pretty much the best balance of relatively low introductory cost versus return on that investment. Android has a lower cost still but also a much lower return as I said, even though we have more users, our revenue stream is 6-7 fold on iOS.

Maybe iOS isn't the new platform, but it's certainly a good place to start. Still miles ahead of the next few options.

I build iOS apps but I avoid giving Apple any money wherever I can.

I buy all of my Apple hardware used from third parties. I don't buy any apps, music or books from Apple. I only use free apps.

The only time Apple gets a cent from me is when I pay for my developer license.

At a guess, developing for their platform is the most valuable thing for Apple.

Certainly not. I build private/enterprise apps for Android and iOS using Ionic/Cordova. I don't use Apple's app store at all.

When I show my customers what a giant PITA it is to work with Apple and iOS, many of them start planning a switch to Android or Windows.

I've been single-handedly responsible for moving entire companies away from iOS in one way or another.

Developers will target platforms that have users with money to spend. I can have a team developing on a non apple platform, and then share one mac mini for final builds.

I could by an argument it may cause the Apple ecosystem to have mostly "ports" and few original/exclusive apps.

Would that turn into a downward spiral? Don't know.

OsX has always been the alt-users paradise. As a sysadmin and developer I've disliked it from the start. Windows I could use for gaming and when I had to. Linux and FreeBSD are fine for every conceivable use I have d2d.

Just like the PS4 & Xbox?

>Well, perfect except that six years in this machine is very creaky. It needs a reboot every week or so (otherwise it will refuse to launch anything).

That sounds totally unrelated to the age of the machine, and totally related to what's installed, the mini running out of disk, etc.

Maybe do a clean install of the OS?

Aside from the mechanical parts (CD ROMS, Hard Disks, etc), the "digital" parts of a PC do not age and their age does not affect program execution speed (all other things being equal).

Either they work, or they don't (well, corrupted memory can cause crashes when accessed, but it wont slow down programs).

There is one factor that heavily affects performance that you haven't addressed though: Software demands on hardware increase over time. MacOS today is more demanding than the MacOS of six years ago. Even if the hardware is in perfect condition, you can't run all six-year-old software, so it's going to be slower.

Differences in hardware matter in subtle ways too with new versions of MacOS. For example, AirDrop or Handoff work seamlessly on the latest hardware, but frustratingly work one day then not the next at random on older hardware. The difference is Bluetooth versions 2.0 compared to 4 or 4.2, but one wouldn't likely even realize what version of Bluetooth a computer has.

The NUC he describes sounds perfect for what he wants. Kaby Lake might not have many noticeable improvements over Skylake for most uses, but the integrated graphics for streaming high resolution content are significantly better. Furthermore I don't think there is any Mac that has HDMI 2.0 necessary for sending 4k video to a regular television at greater than 30Hz.

> Furthermore I don't think there is any Mac that has HDMI 2.0 ...

  MacBook (Retina, 12-inch,
  Early 2016) and 
  MacBook Pro models 
  support 60Hz refresh 
  rates over HDMI when 
  used with a supported 
  HDMI 2.0 display, an
  HDMI Premium Certified
  cable, and a supported 
  USB-C to HDMI 2.0 
Source: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT206587

I see that active adapters that support HDMI 2.0 are about $25 now. Apple's $50 multiport adapter is only HDMI 1.4b, I suppose because it only handles the built in USB-C alternate mode.

Yep! That's exactly why. USB-C alternate mode only supports DisplayPort 1.3 and HDMI 1.4b. You'll need an active adapter like you mentioned. Not surprisingly, Apple doesn't sell them, that would be to useful.

For future readers, here's one as an example: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01FIVSC6Y/

Note that one actually says it is not compatible with the new 2016 MacBook Pro.

Odd, works for me. Hmm

I think the keyword is "when used with a supported display" here. I have yet to find a 4K display for my mac pro that actually works at 60hz.

Unless it's a typo in your reply and you meant MBP, Mac Pro isn't listed above. They explicitly call out machines that support USB-C, which the Mac Pro is not.

You can turn on airdrop to advertise over a wired network connection and then that will go away mostly if your on the same network.

That Mac Mini would run fast again with Windows 10 on it though.

This tiny little Zotac ZBOX that I got for $150 off Amazon has a less powerful CPU than the 2010 Mac Mini from the article and Windows 10 flies on it.


Honestly, I can't fathom why anybody would have chosen a Mac for an HTPC within the last decade to begin. I can see why people would buy an Apple TV, but if you want the "full" OS because you want to do more stuff - you can't beat Windows.

If you have content from iTunes, iTunes on Windows is a hot mess. Scratch that -- to compare iTunes to a hot mess is unfair to the hot mess.

>There is one factor that heavily affects performance that you haven't addressed though: Software demands on hardware increase over time.

I've covered that in: "all other things being equal".

Counterfactuals aren't very useful though. All other things aren't equal, specifically, you aren't going to be running all six-year-old versions of software on the device. So my point stands.

?? My 2011 17" MBP, which I still use all the time, has no problem at all with Sierra. I think you're quite mistaken. Battery runtime is actually better than it used to be.

My mini was basically unusable due to the hard disk. Switched it out recently for an SSD and it is a decent machine now.

I have the same problem with my iMac (the last couple of revisions of MacOS seem to be unusable on hard disk), but it's bit more difficult to swap in an SSD on the iMac.

There's one mechanical part which affects the execution speed: the fans. When they fail (or when the heatsink gets completely filled with compact dust), the CPU can overheat and throttle its speed.

I haven't looked at the mini line in a long time, but the whole point used to be that it was passively cooled so your media box didn't generate fan noise while you were watching TV.

Most / all Mac Minis have fans. They're usually off and thus silent, but they're in there. And if you kick off a long running high CPU job, they can be very loud.

I've had a few versions of a mac mini over the last 6 years or so…they've all had fans, although the fans only kicked in when it was under load. For most routine stuff, it's pretty quiet.

In that case, replace the fan, put in a SSD and you're good to go!

Yeah what the hell, how can you write a tech blog complaining about a product if you don't perform even the most basic of system maintenance. Or, if you are doing maintenance, why not explain what you are doing?

Also, can't a Mac Mini that old be upgraded with a 2.5" SSD and more RAM?

It would be a fair criticism if cards were not so obviously stacked against me, the end user and maintainer. New versions of software are written for new and more powerful hardware. I don't know about Mac mini specifically, but it is incredibly hard or even impossible to upgrade Apple products with new hardware.

The 2010 Mini is quite easy to upgrade, the HDD and RAM at least. An SSD alone is enough of an upgrade to keep it running smoothly even with current software for the stated needs.

Only the "current" Mac Mini has upgrade restrictions. But the prior model has almost identical specs and can be upgraded.

Yes, the quad cores sold prior to Oct 2014 can be found in craigslist/ebay etc for US$700-1100 tho i think they're limited to 16Gb RAM


If you can make a Mac Mini into an HTPC, you can follow some Youtube videos to replace a Hard Disk and RAM. It's just a few screws and a single cable.

I just refreshed my memory by looking at the iFixit guide for the 2010 mini, and it is the same cast-iron PITA that any late model mini is. I had to buy special tools and a cable and it took 2 or 3 tries to get it right. The whole time I was nervous that I was going to miss disconnecting some cable and ruin the thing.

Can't pin point the problem, but I experienced pretty much the same with my old mac mini. It's probably a combination of factors: HDD gets fragmented over the time, new software and versions of OS are more demanding, drivers not optimized for old hardware, etc. Some of this can be solved by upgrading to SSD or clean OS reinstall, but not all.

> the "digital" parts of a PC do not age and their age does not affect program execution speed (all other things being equal)

Maybe not in six years. But I've been shopping for 25-year-old music synthesizers and the field is filled with discussions about how to replace bad capacitors, broken power supplies, and (most interestingly) failing chips.

I had the same experience as the OP. My Mac Mini was getting old, and the fan was making a worrisome noise. I wasn't going to buy the "latest" Mini, since it is very stale, hard to upgrade and expensive for what it is. Funnily enough I was already running Windows on that Mini anyway, so my next computer didn't have to be a Mac. But I did enjoy the small footprint, and I have to say that the Mac is probably the easiest hardware to run Windows on. The drivers have been tested and everything just works.

I ended up with the latest "Skull Canyon" NUC as well. Even though it is thinner than my old Mini, its footprint on my desk is about the same, it's just less square. I'm not a fan of the color or the design; it seems marketed at teenage gamerzzz, not at the boring middle aged guy who prefers a minimalist Scandinavian style. But that's not very important. I did have to buy the SSD and the RAM separately, I had to install Windows myself (so that's no better than buying a Mini to run Windows on), and I did have to hunt for a couple of drivers. I don't know why they don't sell a fully configured machine.

Its fan is not as quiet as the Mini, and it has some weird transient behavior when it wakes up from hibernation. It didn't come cheap (I maxed pretty much every spec though). It is very fast, it does the job competently, but I don't Love it like I Loved the Mini. Sad that Apple has abandoned this cute nifty little machine.

There are brands that build absolutely awesome fanless cases on top of Intel NUC boards. I recommend those:



Intel is a bit lazy. Many manufacturers are selling cheap fanless devices for a lot less money. Their Core m3 is a fanless CPU. They should release a fanless NUC themselves.

I love NUCs because their hardware just works on Linux and they are relatively affordable. Fanless cooling would make them perfect.

Last year I got a fanless box from Atlast to use as a headless Linux server running Plex Media Server. Really excellent little box.

Quad-core i5, 120GB SSD, 8GB RAM, Ubuntu preinstalled. $600 plus $50 shipping to the US (they're in the UK): http://www.atlastsolutions.com/fanless-mini-itx

They Atlast guys are also very friendly, and they know Linux.

Cool. Seems they are using Akasa cases?

I believe so. There's no logo or any markings on the case, however.

I believe NUCs are targeted towards businesses to be honest. I have a couple of them, and they are very boring, but high quality. Plenty of different configurations, but Intel isnt really trying to sell pre-built windows boxes (unless you buy a bunch of them consistently)

Actually, that's exactly what Intel is doing with the NUC.


Doesn't Windows 10 installs all your drivers automatically?

The regular NUC has a much quieter fan than the more powerful "gamer" one you selected.

Often, bigger/faster is not better... :)

I had the same experience when I went to create a small recording studio for my wife. I figured I'd use garage band on a Mac Mini and connect the mixer to that. I changed my plans after going to Apple's website - I don't want to buy old tech and especially not at full price.

It's bizarre to see a company with the wealth and resources of Apple not even putting out spec upgrades for their machines. I could say the same about my old MacBook Air I've been wanting to upgrade. Just throw us a bone here Apple. Even a small bump in specs.

"It's bizarre to see a company with the wealth and resources of Apple not even putting out spec upgrades for their machines."

What's so bizarre is that the things that people want are actually the easiest and cheapest things for apple to do.

All anyone wants is a macbook air with a retina screen. Not a new 12" one, not a new form factor, not design and engineer some new razor thin design ... just take the same old cad drawings and put a nicer screen on it.

All anyone wants is a mac pro tower (not the wastebasket) with nicer internals and fast SATA/USB ports. That's it. Nothing new to design, no new manufacturing processes - you don't even need new press photos.

If you're going to relegate the product line(s) to second tier, why not just save a ton of money and give people exactly what they were all asking for ?

What Apple lacks is humility. Jobs even said people don't know what they want until "you showed it to them".

So, I highly doubt that Apple will listen to what people want. I mean, Apple would make a killing with a new Mac Mini with better spec, a Macbook Air with better screen res, couple of USB-C ports, a 24" iMac instead of 21, etc...

But Apple won't do it because that would be listening to people, and this is something they're too proud to do.

It's interesting... unless my memory is failing me, you never hear Apple say anything to the effect of, "We listened to our customers, so we decided to _____"

I mean, I agree with what Jobs said when he suggested that customers expect Apple to innovate and curate and make it's own decisions about what products it develops. But I think you can also take that too far, especially when your customers are screaming at you on certain topics.

Yep, even with stuff like the antennagate, they never truly recognized their mistake ("you're holding it wrong!"). Too proud. Same thing with the "touch disease" on the iPhone 6.

Apple's attitude to the Mac mini truly confuses me. Many years ago I was interested in getting one for eithet iPhone development or as a media pc but every time I looked they kept seeming to jack the price or downgrade the spec (relatively speaking).

> Apple's attitude to the Mac mini truly confuses me.

I'm probably speaking for thousands of people. It's been complete frustration to see what Apple hasn't been up to on the Mac front. Apart from not updating a few ranges for years (and introducing updates that reduce or remove the kind of expandability the core Apple customer base wants), not reducing the price of old systems is highly insensitive on the part of the company. It looks like in another one or two years macOS won't support some of the aged hardware that Apple sells. That may be the time it'd completely junk those ranges. It's sad to see this.

Though lacking in certain ways, the HP Z2 Mini seems like a decent alternative for people who can move out of macOS.

They definitely have unmet demand. They also just cut their CEOs pay for under performance. They could upgrade the whole line in one go and be right back to relevance.

> Though lacking in certain ways, the HP Z2 Mini seems like a decent alternative for people who can move out of macOS.

The Z2 Mini is a completely different class of hardware.

People who are looking for an alternative to the Mac Mini would be well served by an Intel NUC, Zotac ZBOX [0], or Gigabyte BRIX [1].

[0] https://www.zotac.com/product/mini_pcs/all

[1] http://www.gigabyte.us/products/list.aspx?s=47&ck=104

and yet, the HP Z2 Mini is the same price as the middle Mac Mini packing quite a bit more power and expandability.

TBH I've never understood what Apple gets out of selling the Mac Mini. It cannibalizes their own low-end laptops/desktops, and at the same time must be quite a marginal product mainly sold to a small number of hackers who probably put Linux on them.

Why would anyone buy a Mac Mini and put Linux on it?! There are a million other small PCs that are far better for that.

If I was going to buy a Mac Mini, it's to have an affordable Mac that I can stick somewhere in my house to run occasional OS X software. I already have a few other computers, plenty of them running Linux. A Mac Mini is a great way to get a cheap OS X setup going.

Also, it's not low margin, they charge $200-$400 for each upgrade you make. So if you only want a 1.8GHz box with 5400rpm spinning rust, then you're still paying $500 and Apple can't be out more than $300 in parts and costs. Especially given that they've been selling this model for 3 years, the cost of production is quite low.

Also, it's not low margin, they charge $200-$400 for each upgrade you make. So if you only want a 1.8GHz box with 5400rpm spinning rust, then you're still paying $500 and Apple can't be out more than $300 in parts and costs.

I still have a Late 2012 Mac Mini. The CPU is almost as fast as the 2014 and I put in 16 GB RAM when I bought it (you could just pop off the bottom without a screwdriver). Later I also added a 500GB SSD. It still runs great.

Still selling the 2014 Mini is even a bigger offense than if they'd sell the upgradable late 2012 flavor.

Back when I had a Mac Mini (10 years ago), you could pull them apart and upgrade the RAM and hard disk, which I did. Is that not still the case?

The last Mac mini "update" in 2014 soldered the RAM to the motherboard and sealed away access to the internals. [0][1]

[0]: https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/IMG_0...

[1]: https://arstechnica.com/apple/2014/11/not-the-upgrade-we-wer...

You can't upgrade the RAM anymore.

"Mac mini (Late 2014) does not have user-installable RAM."


I thought the author had an older Mac Mini that would be upgradeable, since they were looking at buying the 2014 model.

You still can, but they're a few hardware generations out of date. You'd have more fun with a raspi 3 or a less expensive mini-ITX build that you can upgrade with current gen components.

Ram is soldered so you cannot upgrade it. You can swap the HD with a SATA SSD, iFixit has an easy 35 step tutorial to do that (plus 35 steps back to reassemble it) that involves a custom made tool to remove the motherboard and a pretty rare anti-tamper Torx TR6 screwdriver.

(Once you get ahold of the screwdriver it's actually not as hard as it looks. You can DIY the motherboard removal tool from a wire coat hanger and in 40 minutes of focused work you'll be done.)

No you can't, the current Mac Mini has RAM soldered onto the board. I think the only machines Apple now sells with any internal expansion are the 27" iMac and the trashcan.

Quite a while ago (~2007) I bought a Mac Mini which I used as my main machine for quite some time (until 2011 or so, I think). I did a lot of programming on it. It was a very good machine and frankly, if Apple were to upgrade it to a decent spec (for 2017), I'd buy one on the spot.

I don't need a laptop and, consequently, I don't want to pay a single penny for portability.

My previous monitor was almost ten years old when I gave it away, and I'd have kept on using it if I hadn't had to buy a larger one (tl;dr small desk, got a big 1080p monitor and hung it on the wall behind the desk for extra space). Unless an iMac is going to last me 10-12 years, there's no point in paying a single penny for a monitor that I'm going to stop using when the computer it's glued to goes obsolete. Sexy design, stupid engineering.

That leaves me to choose between a Mac Mini and a Mac Pro. I don't need a Xeon machine, but a three year-old dual-core i5 machine with a crawling hard disk isn't quite on-par with what I need, either.

My current machine is a five year-old quad-core i7 that's running just fine. My only beef with it is that between 2012 and 2017, a bunch of things happened on Linux and now I'd really, really rather use OS X (hell, I'd rather use Windows if it didn't shove ads down my throat...).

An up-to-date Mac Mini would be exactly what I need -- small, runs OS X, doesn't come with a bunch of hardware that I don't need, can run Emacs, compile C programs, run Perl/Python/whatever scripts, plays music and ssh-es into other boxes (my current machine does all that, too, except its OS keeps breaking)

If you already have an expensive IPS monitor which Mac do you buy to do your design work? There's the old mini and then the really pricey trashcan Mac.

  the really pricey trashcan Mac
Whose last update was 10 months older than the mac mini's.

Headless systems, digital signage, PVR/HTPC, and testing farms are what we mainly use them for. They're crammed behind every conference TV and in every AV cabinet, but I doubt too many people use them as their primary device.

Wouldn't a NUC or Brix running Linux be a better choice for this?

Probably, but in an office with a couple hundred macs it may seem easier to keep everything playing nicely together.

I think so, and definitely for at home use, but outside of server the Linux team doesn't have much purchasing power.

I've been to countless offices that use Mac Minis for dashboards and CI monitors.

I set one up at work for this purpose, but using an old, unused Mac Mini.

If I'd needed something new for refreshing a couple of web pages, I'd have bought a Raspberry Pi or similar. Would anyone really buy a Mac Mini, new, to do this?

Well it depends. If it was just me I'd buy a raspberry pi. If it was a single or small number of machines for work I might buy a Mac mini, just because I know for certain that it will work and know exactly how much labor will go into it. The labor and risk easily can outweigh the lower price of acquisition.

I have one that I was using as a great home theater of to stream Netflix and other online services. I wish they would support it more because it was far more versital than the roku I use now and much simpler to use than a Linux or windows equivalent.

Android net/media boxes are becoming very popular, to the point you can grab them off of Amazon for very cheap.

I haven't jumped into that ecosystem yet so I'm not sure how great they are or what the best ones are. I've been thinking of buying a few of them to replace the Rokus around my house.

Google have really hamstrung the Android TV ones, but most of the media boxes you get off Amazon won't have that.

I have the Xiaomi MiBox 3 and it's a pain to put other apps on it. Anything that isn't explicitly Android TV compatible won't be installable from the Play Store, and even if you sideload it, it doesn't show up in the menu. Amusingly, this is the most useful that "OK Google" has ever been (Xiaomi's remote+voice control is excellent)

I will say it's worth reading up and buying based on chipset+firmware. You probably want Android 5+, something that runs Kodi well, Ethernet and HEVC decoding. I'd recommend the Mibox but Google and Xiaomi have really made a mess of it.

They make nice build/CI servers for iOS development.

I think it's sold mainly to companies that want a cheap machine for iOS development.

Hackers are more likely to build themselves a hackintosh and triple boot.

The NUC has full Linux support out of the box. You can configure them with 16GB of RAM and a 256GB-512GB SSD for $400-$500, especially if you go for the old model (Gen 6 Skylake instead of Gen 7 Kaby Lake, not much has changed)

I bought a Skylake NUC and I will buy more NUCs in the future but using them with Linux isn't all rosy:

- Getting the NUC to wake up after sleep is a hit or miss. Sometimes I can still SSH into it, but I never manage to get the display back on.

- One in every 200 boots the fan just doesn't start. Since the fan isn't very loud, some people might not notice this, which might or might not be a problem.

- One in every 1000 boots the fan seems to be the only thing that starts.

- Sometimes Wifi doesn't come up or goes down. Getting it back up is impossible.

- Getting into BIOS is annoyingly difficult.

I had some more problems but I think they were my monitors fault (looking at you, Dell). I've been using Linux since forever now and I never had so many problems with any machine.

Which model? I have NUC6i3SYH and NUC6i7KYK, neither exhibit any of the characteristics you've described. I've used Arch and Ubuntu Mate 16.04 on both as well as Windows 10 LTSB and Anniversary editions on the Skull Canyon. The latter is to run some graphics editing software (which is why I wanted dual M.2 slots so I could dedicate physical drives to each OS).

If it were really that bad I definitely wouldn't be able to use it as my daily driver. My Dell 5510 on the other hand is a PoS that I've had replaced 4 times now. I won't buy another Dell product because of that and their horrible support.

NUC6i5SYK and Ubuntu 15.10 and now 16.04 LTS. Since I got the NUC right after its release I was hoping for newer kernels to fix some of these problems, but they didn't.

Ditto on the Dell monitor issues. I had some of these inconsistencies with earlier firmware but updates seem to have helped. Also I've had these things just not start at all before. Completely taking the main board out and unplug/re-plug the CMOS battery has fixed it though.

And lack of H.264 encoding in Firefox / YouTube means no smooth HD YouTube playback

Decoding? Firefox supports h.264, and YouTube is mostly VP8/9, which Many Lake has accelerated decode for.

> which Many Lake has accelerated decode for

Only Kaby Lake has VP8/9 hardware acceleration. Skylake doesn't.

autocorrect, meant Kaby Lake

I have a NUC6i5SYK (Skylake) running Ubuntu 16.04 server, and I too had some serious problems initially. Installing to the SSD worked without issues, but then I got machine check panics during most boots. After a lot of troubleshooting I was finally able to make the system stable by adding these parameters to the kernel command line:

  intel_idle.max_cstate=1 i915.enable_rc6=0
After that it has been running without a glitch. I hope it will be as stable as the Mac Mini it replaced. That too had some initial problems however: the first one I bought in 2008 was DOA. Apple replaced it, and the replacement lasted four months before a thunderstorm zapped it. My insurance company replaced that one, and that Mac Mini then ran like a clockwork 24/7 for eight years.

Are you sure? I have one and the wifi definitely doesn't work out of the box and there are a couple other annoyances the worst being the machine locking up if you let it sit for too long. I haven't spent time to investigate but that isn't the definition of "works out of the box"

Since there are a number of iterations of NUC I suppose you could have one that doesn't. However most of the Intel wireless chipsets are some of best supported. I own two Intel NUC and two Gigabyte Brix machines - all of them were specifically selected to run Linux and all of them work flawlessly out of the box under any major distro.

One of my favorite desktop machines is the Intel Skull Canyon (NUC6i7KYK). It has an i7-6770HQ, supports 32GB of RAM (all of the newer, i.e. Skylake and greater do) and the real difference I wanted was the fact that it has two M.2 slots AND a true Thunderbolt 3 port (for support of the Razer Core external GPU enclosure).

Highly recommended if you want a performant machine in a small form factor with multi-monitor support and flexibility given it's size.

I only hope that Gigabyte continues to make the Brix line, especially when Ryzen drops from AMD. As much as I like the Skull Canyon I'd love to drop Intel from a pure privacy standpoint.

> I'd love to drop Intel from a pure privacy standpoint.

Are you referring to the Intel Management Engine? I was under the impression that AMD was as bad if not worse than Intel in that regard:


Or is Ryzen expected to be better in that regard?

TBH I hadn't looked at AMD in that regard for quite some time since they hadn't been on my short list. Thanks for pointing this out, likely doubtful Ryzen will be any different unfortunately. sigh

I feel like AMD is missing an opportunity here. They aren't able to compete completely with Intel on performance now, and probably won't ever. Ryzen should be better, but I doubt they'll achieve parity with Intel.

If AMD wanted to compete on something they could compete by being the chip provider that was security-friendly. The failed Talos secure workstation proved that at least some people are willing to spend lavishly on truly open, user-controlled hardware. My supposition is that there could be pretty solid demand if the price point weren't ~$10k.

I've been tinkering around with it since the last two iterations. The primary reason it might not have worked out of the box is probably due to the bios not being updated to the latest version. Otherwise, I've installed Ubuntu on over a dozen of these machines for a project without any trouble. If you try to swap the SSD from one NUC box to another, you might run into some trouble though... the bootloader needs to be repaired.

The Intel WiFi chips they use (I think it's 8260 on the Skylake models) is supported by recent kernels such as the one shipped with Ubuntu 16.04. They also list Linux support on their website.

We have a handful of Broadwell (5th gen) and Skylake (6th gen) NUCs running at work using Ubuntu 15.10 and 16.04. Everything works great including WiFi.

> the worst being the machine locking up if you let it sit for too long.

uhm... look into power settings? That's common for most os.

No it isn't, and you shouldn't accept that as a standard behavior.

I guess "locking up" is not intended to describe the kind of lockup you can fix by entering your login password.

The Skull Canynon has not yet an successor, it is still the most powerfull NUC and is still based on Skylake. No Kaby Lake has an Iris Pro yet.

Do you have any experience running Dolphin on these? I'm trying to replace my just-barely-too-old current system to run Gamecube games.

Also, Kodi runs great in Ubuntu.

I'm confused. That Mac Mini is still amazing. They didn't say anything about wiping the hard drive and reinstalling everything. Maybe there are some problems with the harddrive, so just replace it with a new SSD. Check the RAM and see if any needs replacing. You need to do all of that before you go out and buy a new computer.

I'm using a Lenovo Q190 [1] that runs lubuntu. It's a little slow to start, but everything runs fine. I run Plex Server, Plex Home Theater, Spotify, and RetroPie.

I would gladly trade it for a 2010 Mac Mini. That's crazy. Just reinstall everything and run a scan on your disk and RAM.

[1] http://shop.lenovo.com/us/en/desktops/lenovo/q-series/q190/#...

I would take a look at the Gigabyte Brix. The basic model is £119 [1] - considerably cheaper than the Intel NUC. I have a couple running a firewall and a little server, and they have trucked along for years without problems.

[1] For a more complete spec including the other parts you may need, see: https://rwmj.wordpress.com/2015/05/04/new-home-gateway-route...

I've been picking up Intel ComputeSticks: $99 gives you Win10, WiFi, 4GB RAM, HDMI & USB. I seem to remember I put a 32 GB SD card into my first one... I've been putting them behind our TVs, giving them web access.

All I put on them are Chrome and Mame.

The $99 ComputeSticks are just powerful enough to play standard def video from someone like NetFlix or Amazon. Higher bit rate streaming video is too much, and the'll stutter. But they have higher spec ComputeSticks I've not played with for $199, and $299. (Maybe I'm being grumpy, but most video content simply does not need to be 4K, or HD.)

They are great with 3D graphics, as far as rendering. I write 3D, and have been having a good time with their 3D performance, using WebGL.

Seems like the Nuc prices are just at that level that one could pick up a desktop with the necessary CPU, video card and RAM while being expandable to the future - where the Nuc is not...

> The $99 ComputeSticks are just powerful enough to play standard def video from someone like NetFlix or Amazon. Higher bit rate streaming video is too much, and the'll stutter. But they have higher spec ComputeSticks I've not played with for $199, and $299. (Maybe I'm being grumpy, but most video content simply does not need to be 4K, or HD.)

Even the slowest compute sticks had a BayTrail-T Atom in them which has support for hardware decoding of any 1080p content you're likely to come across and technically supports 4K 30FPS playback (though doesn't have the necessary DRM support to play any commercial 4K content). If your machine had trouble playing back any 1080p content you probably had something misconfigured in your player or video drivers so it was incorrectly using software decoding.

If your performance & storage needs are modest, the ASUS chromebox is just a little higher than that, but comes with 2GB RAM and a 16GB mSATA SSD. I believe the Brix comes with no ram, no hard drive.

It's very upgradable as well. It ships with one open DIMM slot, so upgrading to 4GB RAM is dirt cheap.

The Celeron 2955U isn't a speed demon, but it's good enough for a home machine.

And, you can get a ROM image that allows running an actual linux distribution instead of ChromeOS: https://johnlewis.ie/custom-chromebook-firmware/rom-download...

> I would take a look at the Gigabyte Brix. The basic model is £119 [1]

Has anyone here tried these devices with Ubuntu, or maybe a more cut down distro? Could you use one of these as an internet and word processing box, with a normal/decent experience?

They will run a full distro just fine, and any Linux distro since they are completely supported by free software. I'm using mine as servers, but they each have 4 GB of RAM and a large SSD [RAM and disk added myself] so I'm sure it could handle a GUI and a word processor without a problem. You're not going to be playing AAA games on one.

The CPU on mine (about 2 years old) is: https://ark.intel.com/products/81072/Intel-Celeron-Processor...

Also ASRock and Zotac make nice ones too. I think these three companies actually work with the NUC insides.

For on it seems to only have one HDMI and no minidisplays, most displays don't come with VGA anymore.

Speaking of NUCs, are there any that are

(a) quiet at load

(b) have the PSU integrated in the case?

Those are about the only redeeming qualities of a Mac Mini right now, and it pisses me off to no end that no one bothers with (b) on the Wintel side.

Edit: please don't explain to me how a power brick that's sometimes as large as the NUC doesn't bother you, it does bother me.

Unfortunately, your two desires are at cross purposes to each other. An external power brick helps keep a lot of heat out of the system, which allows you to run less cooling in the box, and thus be quieter.

Yeah, except Apple manages to come close so it's possible :)

Give credit where credit is due.

The mac mini is much larger than an Intel NUC.

There's two other factors that the Mac Mini doesn't do well on though: Performance (both per dollar and absolute), and size. Not having an external PSU is less important to me than both of those factors, and I'm sort of struggling to see how it could be considered more important.

The Gigabyte Brix [edit: the base model] is fanless, and if you use an SSD it's completely solid state. I have two next to me right now and they are completely silent as you would expect.

However it has a small external power brick. It's only about 1/4 the size of the machine (at least that's for the UK PSU).

Considering there are tens of options in the Brix lines the comment about them being fanless is untrue. Most are actively cooled machines. None of the Brix or NUC I have are particularly loud. If you're doing heavy lifting on a small form factor machine you have to expect a small fan to generate noise to dissipate heat, there's really no way around it.

I edited the comment to reflect the fact that the base model of the Gigabyte Brix -- which I have two of -- is fanless and passively cooled.

I've used a gigabyte Brix n2807 - it's slightly larger than other Brix models as it takes a 2.5" drive (using an old laptop drive to save costs). It's not powerful, but it runs Kodi and Windows 10 okay. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth don't work (or didn't when I first tried) with Linux out of the box. Up to 8gb LPDDR. No power brick. £80 on offer a couple of years ago.

Forgot to mention - fanless.

Well, I've checked the current offerings and I can't find any that doesn't have "19 V DC" as the power supply description. I guess I'm statistically irrelevant in their market.

Digging around behind the tv and it's a oversize plug and thin wire rather than a laptop style plug-cable-transformer-cable-computer set up. Not quite the mains-to-box set up you're after.


Getting further off topic, the only other piece of hardware I know of where they bother is the Playstation. The XBoxes use ugly power bricks, just like the Wintel boxes.

The Xbox One S has an integrated power supply fortunately

I have a Skull Canyon Nuc and a Zotac EN1070 mini PC. The Zotac is quieter while gaming compared to the NUC and that surprised me.

Fan diameter is inversely proportional to speed, for the same volume of air movement.

Large, slow fans are much quieter (and easier on bearings!) than high RPM fans.

There are great fanless systems. I use a HD-Plex case with a real i7 CPU (although a few generations old by now) as a workstation. It's dead silent and with an internal PSU. It's been very reliable so far.

I'm running a $65 FireTV with Kodi sideloaded that accomplishes everything I need. The device is silent and the remote is bluetooth and feels nice in the hand. (But to be fair, my router is used to download torrents and I don't ingest any Live TV.)

To be honest, I think the NUC or any other intel platform is overkill for TV these days.

Especially useful, "VESA mount bracket included in the box".

If you don't mind ~35mm more depth to your TV, you can mount the NUC on the back. Or, mount it to the back of a monitor, for an iMac replacement.

We just did a full lab (30 machines) of Intel NUCs (NUC6i7KYK) mounted on the back of LG 21x9 monitors. It is quite a nice setup. I dearly wish there had been an Apple Mac Mini update, but we can get by with Windows in that lab. Went with Samsung M.2 SSDs and 32 GB of memory.

Honest question : any good reasons to go with Windows rather than Linux?

A lot of it would depend on what your use case is. In this case the author needs an Elgato/Geniatech EyeTV stick and app for his purposes which isn't supported on Linux by the manufacturer. It might work, but it might also not be worth the hassle.

However, if you want something that plays media but doesn't (necessarily) also have to be able to receive regular terrestrial signal it shouldn't matter much beyond user preference and ease of installation/maintenance/debugging.

Those have been working for years very well under Linux, and see much use with MythTV etc. Vendor drivers are less likely to see long time support.

I bought one of those HDTV terrestrial sticks (RTL2832) for about $10. I use it for FM Radio, but I'd guess that would still work for TV on Linux?

Think Penguin sells a stick that's a bit pricier, but also presumably very easy to use with Linux: https://www.thinkpenguin.com/gnu-linux/usb-tv-tuner-w-suppor...

There's also the Linux TV site that discusses the software side of things: https://www.linuxtv.org/wiki/index.php/TV_Related_Software

it doesn't fit the original requirement as it is too large but when these discussions come up i feel obligated to mention silicon dust as well. http://www.silicondust.com/hdhomerun/

they make outboard tv tuners that will either do over-the-air or digital cable and stream wired or wirelessly. one model even transcodes to h.264 and they publish plugins for kodi and plex along with working with a variety of commercial and open source apps. it was my preferring tuning device with both myth tv on linux and Microsoft media center until i ditched cable entirely.

There may be streaming services that, for various DRM reasons, aren't supported in Linux. It sucks, but that's the lay of the land. Netflix is supported in Linux, but how about, say, the streaming season package for your favorite sports team? Who knows, but I'd wager a lot of them won't work.

Performance. For example: hardware acceleration of movie decoding is (was?) a bit of hit or miss with Linux, while it usually "just works" on Windows. Win is also faster that Mac OS in this regard: mainly due to certain APIs being not available for 3rd party software. The movie might be smooth in QuickTime, but VLC or Kodi will stutter.

At least that was a case few years ago, when I was checking how to play a full HD mkv file on my Mac Mini.

I use Linux on my media PC. I actually switched to Windows for a little while, because it was preinstalled. I only switched to Linux because I wanted to SSH into the machine, run OpenVPN, duckdns updater, home automation scripts, etc. I was just more comfortable in Linux.

I run Plex Server, Plex Home Theater, Spotify desktop app (in the background), and EmulationStation. I've been very happy with it so far.

It would be nice if I could get Netflix integrated, but I just use my phone and a Chromecast for that.

Windows is less maintenance (ie: just works)

Sometimes Linux might take more effort to set up (but in my experience it's quicker to install and set up [ed: than windows] on hardware that's a year or two old - since volunteers / third party developers usually do the work of supporting it, not the vendor). But once set up, Linux requires much less maintenance than windows. That's been true for years (and AFAIK that's also true for BSDs).

[ed: part of the reason setup and maintenance of Linux is easier is thanks to powerful, integrated package management systems, like apt]

I'm going to have to call that out...Windows 10 updates have bricked two different Dell laptops for me (Anniversary update did for the first, the second started throwing admin errors following an update then BSOD on reboot; neither case did roll back or restore points work - and that's in the last three months). I'm not saying Linux is painless, but neither is Windows.

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