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The Mac Mini as the beginning of the end?
January 14, 2005 8:55 AM   Subscribe

Why the Mac Mini may signal the end of Apple as a traditional computer company. Jobs might well be looking beyond Apple's role as a niche computer maker with this new product.
posted by clevershark (101 comments total)

 
The Mac has always been a consumer electronics product stuck in a market of hobbyists and vocational users. The "computer as appliance" talk just shows that the mainstream has finally caught up.
posted by effwerd at 9:00 AM on January 14, 2005


when was Apple traditional?
posted by tsarfan at 9:02 AM on January 14, 2005


Steve Jobs realizes that the days of Apple as a computer company are numbered

I keep hearing/reading this, but it's never backed up with an explanation. Was there some memo that I missed?
posted by papercake at 9:08 AM on January 14, 2005


I keep hearing/reading this, but it's never backed up with an explanation. Was there some memo that I missed?

Because Apple only controls about 2% of the personal computer market. With Linux getting easier and easier to use for your average user, it's going to get harder to convince people to pay a premium for OSX or Windows.
posted by SweetJesus at 9:13 AM on January 14, 2005


Also, if you look at their quarterly results, they're selling fewer and fewer of the most profitable high-end machines, and more and more of the low-end machines. Their units are basically constant from the same quarter last year, but those units are cheaper, lower-margin units. In other words, they're starting to get squeezed on margin and cannibalizing their own sales. That can't go on forever. Steve is moving the company in a consumer electronics direction and the Mac Mini has to play into that somehow -- it can't be just a cheap Macintosh.

I half expect that within the next few years, Apple will make Mac OS X run on IBM's POWER architecture (the chip from which PowerPC was derived) and abandon the high end. IBM already offers four different OSs on their workstations and servers; what's one more?
posted by kindall at 9:23 AM on January 14, 2005


Many moons ago, Jobs said something along the lines of Apple becoming more like Sony. And so it appears that is the way things are going. Bravo! That doesn't mean they'll stop making Macs, they'll just make other stuff too. Why do you think he changed the name of the company from 'Apple Computer, Inc.' to just plain 'Apple'?
posted by spilon at 9:23 AM on January 14, 2005


Actually, my thought about the new iMac (it will be interesting to see if the eMac and older iMac continue to be sold) is that Jobs and Apple have concluded that flat scree monitors are now or are soon to be commodity items, and that there's not enough profit in them to keep them grafted onto iMacs (also, I suspect flat screen monitors last longer, so less incentive to replace them when replacing a computer).
posted by ParisParamus at 9:25 AM on January 14, 2005


With Linux getting easier and easier to use for your average user, it's going to get harder to convince people to pay a premium for OSX or Windows.

Huh? Is this some kind of strange prediction? So, 5-10 years from now, Windows and the Mac OS will be dead and everybody will be using the Linux OS? Does it have a GUI? I can't get my parents to switch to the Mac, but Linux is going to come along and sweep them off their feet?
posted by boymilo at 9:29 AM on January 14, 2005


The mini is a way for Apple to expand its marketshare (some analysts suggest that they could get between 3-5% of their iPod users to pick one up at the very minimum) and introduce people to the "Macintosh Way" who otherwise would not consider Macs.

The mini is also the basis for a future platform, just as iPod is. I think we'll see future versions of the product that will find its way into the living room and such.

I would expect Apple to introduce some new components to OS X that takes some of the features from OS X Server and 'dummies it down' for home users who want to create a home server (since the number of homes with multiple computers is exploding at the moment) for video, audio and data storage.

I would hope that Apple ditches the 2.5" notebook harddrive in favor of a more robust and speedier 3.5" IDE drive in the near future. I would gladly accept a slightly larger form factor if we can get a TV tuner, 3.5" fast HD and gigabit ethernet in that puppy.

But for the moment, the current mini is a trial balloon just as the original iPod was a trial balloon of sorts. This puppy has a lot of potential in it if Apple updates it, enhances it and keeps competitive with it.
posted by tgrundke at 9:30 AM on January 14, 2005


Huh? Is this some kind of strange prediction? So, 5-10 years from now, Windows and the Mac OS will be dead and everybody will be using the Linux OS? Does it have a GUI?

While I agree with your central contention (implied) that Linux will not be taking over the consumer marketplace, I feel compelled to point out that...yeah, Linux has a GUI. Has for a long time. Two main ones, actually, user selectable at startup.
posted by Bugbread at 9:40 AM on January 14, 2005


With Linux getting easier and easier to use for your average user, it's going to get harder to convince people to pay a premium for OSX or Windows.

This has been the knock against Apple forever, the premium price but they continue to survive and thrive.

I'll keep buying Apple products until there's something I like better. I haven't played around with Linux enough to care about it one way or the other. And I dislike Windows.

I think Apple made a good move with the Mini and I think they'll sell several boatloads of them and that will help to build their marketshare.

And there will likely always be a small market for Apple's high end machines, graphics houses, movie editing and the like. They should keep Apple making the speed machines.
posted by fenriq at 9:41 AM on January 14, 2005


boymilo: Of course Linux has a GUI. I dunno if it'll sweep anyone off their feet, but ten years is a long time. Ten years ago today you'd be running Windows 3.1, and OS/2 still had a chance.

And, well, yeah, things in the future tense that start with "In n years' time" are typically predictions.
posted by mendel at 9:43 AM on January 14, 2005


This from Classic Restorations might be an unexpected part of the Mac mini platform, though I wonder how useful it might be. I guess if there's an aftermarket for PC installations, the Mac could work too.
c/o MacDailyNews

For some reason, there's also a protective travel case for the Mac mini, too. Odd that it's size is somehow being seen as promoting mobility.

Either way, it's only been a few days and already an iPod-like aftermarket is developing.
posted by effwerd at 9:46 AM on January 14, 2005


Their units are basically constant from the same quarter last year, but those units are cheaper, lower-margin units.

Naw man, that's bullshit.

CPU Unit sales for Q105 are up 26.2% from Q104, and revenue from CPU sales are up 26.5%. kindall is an idiot.
posted by rajbot at 9:47 AM on January 14, 2005


Apple's Tipping Point

Why Apple's market share doesn't matter
posted by gwint at 9:48 AM on January 14, 2005


Linux has a GUI.

The things it doesn't have, however, are numerous: support for recent cards (unless the vendor has released Linux drivers—not the case for my onboard video and sound cards, so I have a silent Linux box that can't do 3-D graphics in hardware), complete compatibility with Microsoft Office...

The big thing Linux lacks is accountability. If you install Debian, because you didn't pay anything for it, you're not going to be able to get help when something breaks. For me, this generally works fine, but if you think that my grandmother would put up with not being able to use her printer without going through some horribly complicated setup process, and without anyone to call who will support her operating system, you clearly don't understand why Linux isn't going to get much penetration in the home-user market very soon.
posted by oaf at 10:00 AM on January 14, 2005


effwerd, the iPod-like market was probably developed along with the Mac Mini just like the iPod accessory market was developed alongside the iPod. There are a few companies in the Apple accessory market that are in a vaulted position. When something new comes out they're given a heads up. Jobs pretty clearly saw this as an opportunity to take advantage of the success of the iPod and gain some non-traditional marketshare. He and the accessory makers also so a great opportunity for existing Apple owners to put these in their living rooms. Just this week there have been product announcements for video in and out solutions, 5.1 surround sound, remotes etc.

When I get to see one I'll buy one if it's utterly silent. It'd be a nice digital vcr, entertainment system for my tv and with it's size it'd also be great for when I have to cart out the dog and pony show for small groups.
posted by substrate at 10:07 AM on January 14, 2005


Linux has more than a few GUI's, and with companies like Lindows (or whatever it changed it's name to after Microsoft sued them) going after the consumer OS market, its only a matter of time before Linux is used on everyday desktops.

For your average user who doesn't want to deal with Microsoft's shoddy software, or pay for Apple's high-end hardware, Linux will deliver the ease of use they're looking for and run on any hardware.

And this isn't some pipedream either. Wal-Mart is selling computers that run Linux as we speak...

complete compatibility with Microsoft Office...

From what I understand, OpenOffice works pretty well with Office 2003.

The big thing Linux lacks is accountability. If you install Debian, because you didn't pay anything for it, you're not going to be able to get help when something breaks.

Are you insane? Debian isn't designed to be used by your average Windows/OSX user, its far too complex. Why not just install Slackware? I'm talking about companies like Linspire which provides telephone support for their users, and is aimed at the Windows market. It's not perfect, but give it two to five years, and you'll see Linux everywhere.
posted by SweetJesus at 10:12 AM on January 14, 2005


I think the Minimac intended audience is clear. It's home and corporate users who can drop $500 - $700 and use their windows components to complete a Mac OSX trial. That's all it is. I certainly don't expect EyeGato or Apple to bundle PVR software on Apple hardware, especially hardware with presumably small margins. That's not Apple's way.

Additionally, Apple has tried TV integration before and the results bombed. Buying a Mac formatted video card whether for video games or simple TV playback isn't cheap or easy either. How is the Minimac with its non-upgradeable video card and relatively small hard drive going to work as a living room A/V applicance? I just don't see it.

As for Quicktime, its technology that is always ahead of the curve, but it never seems to catch on in the wider marketplace. As much as I dislike MS' A/V codecs I have to give them credit for going after the consumer electronics manufacturers to put their formats in DVD and CD players.
posted by infowar at 10:20 AM on January 14, 2005


oaf, and that is why distributions like Xandros, Linspire or Libranet exist. For that matter, even SuSE or Mandrake would do these days. I don't think even Debian would say their distribution is suitable for the average grandmother.

I've never owned a Mac. Prices have always been too steep in the UK. I am sorely tempted by one of these Minis though. These days I do my gaming on Xbox, and the Mini would easily handle all my other computing needs.
posted by salmacis at 10:24 AM on January 14, 2005


When I get to see one I'll buy one if it's utterly silent. It'd be a nice digital vcr, entertainment system for my tv and with it's size it'd also be great for when I have to cart out the dog and pony show for small groups.

But isn't there no room for cards to be installed? (empty slots)

Does it come with an outlet for our cable tv to plug into? Why isn't it already set up with those things? The more i learn about the mini the more half-assed it seems. I'd love a combined vcr/computer, but this ain't it i don't think.
posted by amberglow at 10:24 AM on January 14, 2005


amberglow, it has two USB 2.0 ports and one Firewire 400 port. All video capture doesn't have to be done with a PCI card.

Additionally, you can buy a S-Video/Composite video out adapter for $20 more, as detailed on the MacMini graphics page. See the right sidebar.

As for why this stuff isn't included - if everyone isn't going to use it for those features, why clog it up with more hardware and have to jack up the price off the $499 "sweet spot"? It's not *supposed* to be a TiVo, but it can easily turn into one.
posted by Remy at 10:32 AM on January 14, 2005


For those pushing Linux on the desktop, I'm curious: Do any of your parents or other non-technical friends and relatives use it? And have their experiences been generally positive?
posted by gwint at 10:37 AM on January 14, 2005


substrate, I agree that Apple definitely gave advanced notice to some accessory manufacturers but I don't know about the two I linked to. The MDN article mentioned that Classic Restorations developed their idea on the rumor. And I don't know if Apple was thinking of a carrying case for the mini.

And Remy has the right idea; this mini is stripped down. I think it's primary prupose is what infowar was saying, but it could easily be accessorized into a media hub.
posted by effwerd at 10:39 AM on January 14, 2005


I posted my Linux GUI question out of ignorance, cause, well, I didn't know. I went to the link provided by mendel, and it says KDE is a desktop environment for Unix. What's the difference between Unix and Linux? And isn't the Macintosh OS X GUI just a desktop environment for Unix? If Linux is better, what's to stop Apple from basing OS XI on Linux?
posted by boymilo at 10:47 AM on January 14, 2005


Do any of your parents or other non-technical friends and relatives use it?

I have a non-technical friend/acquaintance with Linux (gentoo) on her laptop "as a matter of principle". I don't know how often she uses it but it was booted to it last time I was at her place. I assume it was installed by one of her roommates, who's a CS student, but I may not be giving her enough credit.
posted by kenko at 10:49 AM on January 14, 2005


For those pushing Linux on the desktop, I'm curious: Do any of your parents or other non-technical friends and relatives use it? And have their experiences been generally positive?

Yeah, it has kept my non-tech parents safe from Windows spyware hell. Set up right, it's pretty foolproof. The downside is that it doesn't have the friendly photo album capabilities of a regular computer, for example (gthumb is not exactly iPhoto), and they don't quite understand the file system.

For browsing and word processing it has worked fine, though.
posted by inksyndicate at 11:04 AM on January 14, 2005


I posted my Linux GUI question out of ignorance, cause, well, I didn't know. I went to the link provided by mendel, and it says KDE is a desktop environment for Unix. What's the difference between Unix and Linux? And isn't the Macintosh OS X GUI just a desktop environment for Unix? If Linux is better, what's to stop Apple from basing OS XI on Linux?

Linux is based off Unix, and collectively they're interchangeable, which is why they are sometimes referred to as *nix. Both Linux and Unix use whats called X11 for windowing systems, and KDE is just an API for X11 programming.

OSX uses Unix (I think) for it's file system, and for some lower level stuff, but OSX is not a GUI for Unix.
posted by SweetJesus at 11:07 AM on January 14, 2005


amberglow, it has two USB 2.0 ports and one Firewire 400 port. All video capture doesn't have to be done with a PCI card.
That's my point tho...that thing's something else you have to buy to use it, along with the keyboard/mouse/etc. If this is supposed to be for home entertainment and supposed to sit in a living room by the tv, it should be built in. I should be able to plug my cable directly into it. Especially if it's for switchers and basic consumers and the mass market.
posted by amberglow at 11:11 AM on January 14, 2005


If this is supposed to be for home entertainment and supposed to sit in a living room by the tv, it should be built in.

True, but remember that the idea that it's supposed to be for home entertainment and sit by the TV is the supposition of the blog poster linked above, and not what Apple is saying.
posted by Bugbread at 11:16 AM on January 14, 2005


Odd that it's size is somehow being seen as promoting mobility.

like a laptop? ;)

i'm not sure i get it. too small for portable storage (my mp3 player has 20GB); no screen, no keyboard (a given but...); hard to tell if DVD-R is included?, but i guess it's good for burning.

i can't think of many reasons to get one. if it had 100GB disk space or something, that would make more sense to me.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:17 AM on January 14, 2005


What's the difference between Unix and Linux? And isn't the Macintosh OS X GUI just a desktop environment for Unix? If Linux is better, what's to stop Apple from basing OS XI on Linux?

Unix is an operating system standard. Linux is an implementation of it. Max OS X is actually based on BSD, another Unix implementation. They could use Linux, but the licensing terms would have forced them to open source most of their OS code then. BSD doesn't have any such restrictions.

On preview: SweetJesus - X11 isn't a required Unix standard that I know of. So yes, OSX is a GUI for Unix, because it runs on Unix. If Apple chose to open the source or distribute it for Linux/BSD, they could without a huge effort. Of course they would never want to.
posted by chundo at 11:18 AM on January 14, 2005


What's the difference between Unix and Linux?

In the usual usage of the term, Linux is one type of "Unix". In an older and somewhat still-current sense, Linux is not UNIX, but is approximately compatible with it. KDE runs on several kinds of UNIX.

OS X is a GUI for UNIX too, but only for one particular type of UNIX.

The things it doesn't have, however, are numerous: support for [some] recent [high-end video] cards [...etc]

Odd that you should complain about Linux lack of support for particular hardware in a thread about Apple. Linux works with more different kinds of hardware than just about anything else, certainly more than Windows or MacOS X. Granted, lack of support for the small-but-important set of hardware that's currently Windows-only is one big reason why Linux won't be taking over the world for a few more years yet.

Linux probably would be more of a threat to Apple than to Microsoft at this point, if Apple's customers weren't even more devoted to the brand than Microsoft's. Ah well, give it ten years.

Ten years ago today you'd be running Windows 3.1, and OS/2 still had a chance.

Microsoft won the home computer market because they came along at just the right time. When they were getting started, nobody had a computer. Now everyone does. Since the size of the market has stopped expanding so rapidly, changes in mass-market OS dominance will be much slower than they were in the past. Microsoft sometimes appears bent on self-destruction, but even so I'd bet on them still being dominant ten years from now, though probably no longer such a monopoly. Apple and Linux both will continue to eat away at opposite ends of the market. (Apple being the expensive shiny toy, Linux being the Wal-Mart-style best-value-for-the-money choice, in the eyes of the mythical "consumer".)
posted by sfenders at 11:18 AM on January 14, 2005


The problem with mainstream adoption of Linux is the same problem that Apple has: it requires a wholesale purchase of new software and learning a new architecutre.

When, for better or worse, the aggregate market establishes a "standard" (ie, Windows) it becomes immensely difficult to get people to move to something that is non-compliant, especially if it requires an outlay of cash.

The biggest advantage Apple has is that they control the whole experience from the bottom-up and can tailor suit it for ease of use and a relatively high level of compatibility. Since Linux is such a relatively fragmented market with no one central player to put all of the pieces into a nice, neat consumer package that can grab peoples' attention it will remain a niche product, just as Macintoshes have.

It's like those people who feel it is foolish to buy a computer from Dell or HP or Gateway when they can configure and build one themselves for half the price. Reality check: last year that enthusiast market only comprised something like 7 million units. Dell sold 35+ million PCs last year and HP sold something like 29 million.
posted by tgrundke at 11:18 AM on January 14, 2005


Linux will deliver the ease of use they're looking for and run on any hardware.

Only after hours of configuration and testing, unless you don't care that your sound card and USB printer don't work.

Linux is still not to the point that an average home user is capable of setting it up and adding pretty much any peripheral by himself.

From what I understand, OpenOffice works pretty well with Office 2003.

And Microsoft Office works better with itself than with OpenOffice. And Microsoft doesn't make Office for Linux.

It seems to me that a lot of people have no idea that Linux isn't ready for John Q. McHomeUser for some of the same reasons that a lot of MetaFilter can't understand how it's not John Kerry that will be putting his hand on the Bible next week.

Just because you and I get Linux doesn't mean that everyone else does.

on preview: Odd that you should complain about Linux lack of support for particular hardware in a thread about Apple.

Not really. With Apple's products, it's pretty likely that you'll plug something in and it will just work. With Linux, it's unlikely that anything will work without you configuring it first.
posted by oaf at 11:24 AM on January 14, 2005


Huh? Is this some kind of strange prediction? So, 5-10 years from now, Windows and the Mac OS will be dead and everybody will be using the Linux OS? Does it have a GUI?.

Of course not, Linux works over a serial cable, which you plug directly into your brain.

As far as the price-point on these things, I could see myself getting one and using it as a headless email/webserver that's easier to use.
posted by delmoi at 11:32 AM on January 14, 2005


Only after hours of configuration and testing, unless you don't care that your sound card and USB printer don't work.

Leaving aside for the moment the fact that my sound card and USB peripherals (including a USB cable modem) worked flawlessly with Red Hat 8 and 9 out of the box, and that Windows, on the same box, does not support my Intel onboard sound card without lots of work, I think what the Linux partisans here are trying to say is that Linux on a closed system (like the Mac) with a customized GUI (like the Mac) could succeed. Linspire isn't the best example; but Sharp has been selling Linux-based PDAs for some time now with no problems.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 11:40 AM on January 14, 2005


With Linux, it's unlikely that anything will work without you configuring it first.

If that were coming from someone who sounded like he knew the first thing about it, I might give it a considered response; there is after all, at least a little bit of truth in it. Compared to Apple's stuff, yeah, the odds of new hardware being difficult to configure in Linux are an order of magnitude or two greater. The same is true of Microsoft, and they seem to be doing okay.

But when someone claims with a straight face that Linux "lacks accountability", I'm suspecting it would be wrong to take anything else they say seriously. My cranial RS-232 has been getting parity errors recently though, so if you're not actually stupid or trolling, forgive me for thinking it.

I think Apple is already very much like Sony.
posted by sfenders at 11:47 AM on January 14, 2005


As for Quicktime, its technology that is always ahead of the curve, but it never seems to catch on in the wider marketplace.

Actually, thanks to the iPod (QuickTime is installed when you install iTunes) QuickTime's market share has rebounded quite nicely
posted by Scoo at 12:08 PM on January 14, 2005


Linux is still not to the point that an average home user is capable of setting it up and adding pretty much any peripheral by himself.

News flash: Neither is windows and I offer the fact I make bank all the time installing this stuff as proof. I'd bet anyone who even appears windows savvy has been asked by a lot of of people in thier friends and family group to install hardware and configure software. A quick browse thru AskMeta will confirm.

I think the Mini is going to be a run away success for Apple if they don't run into either a supply problem or some nit picky cosmetic flaw the pundits can trumpet (like the cracks in the cube).

If a group can come up with a Tivo-Workalike and appropriate hardware bunble at a good price they'll make some good money too.
posted by Mitheral at 12:13 PM on January 14, 2005


I half expect that within the next few years, Apple will make Mac OS X run on IBM's POWER architecture (the chip from which PowerPC was derived)

They're way ahead of you. The G3, G4, and G5 are all PowerPC processors.
posted by jeffj at 12:55 PM on January 14, 2005


The Mac has always been a consumer electronics product stuck in a market of hobbyists and vocational users.

So very true. I think this is something computer people don't get about the Mac love. To you, it is overpriced hardware. To me it is a not-ugly line of products that all match each other, look nice in my room, and do what I want. The extra money for prettiness is--for many people--worth it. But that's what I don't get about the Mini. Unless you shell out for the Apple screen, keyboard, etc., it's gonna be sitting next to some ugly PC thing. And I don't know why anyone would pay for that.
posted by dame at 1:03 PM on January 14, 2005


I don't see why most people don't run Linux. Courtesy of sweet, hot dong.
posted by eyeballkid at 1:07 PM on January 14, 2005


Unless you shell out for the Apple screen, keyboard, etc., it's gonna be sitting next to some ugly PC thing. And I don't know why anyone would pay for that.

In the keynote, Jobs emphasized this with the on screen graphic. It starts off showing the mini with a 20" Cinema display and Apple wireless keyboard and mouse. He points out that you can use it with any industry standard device and the next slide is a scraggly hand drawing of a PC CRT and a MS-like keyboard and mouse. It's obvious Apple would not mind at all if everyone just shopped their products when buying a mini. It's an understandable position. With their retail outlets, they will certainly have the upper hand in the consumer's decision making process. They bring them in with the cheap core, then upsell them on the peripherals.

"You want an iPod shuffle with that?"
posted by effwerd at 1:17 PM on January 14, 2005


rajbot: kindall may not have reviewed the most recent results from apple before posting, but I'm quite sure that he's not an idiot.

One of the intersting things in this whole hoo-hah is just how strongly speculation and desire have combined to positrion the mini as a media center. It's sure what I see when I look at it.

I think this has to do with my considering various cockamamie schemes over the years to repurpose old hardware, and always deciding against it.

amberglow: fight the good fight! I hear your arguments, but I think you're mis-defining the potential market. This is a second computer, thus no peripherals, as I know you've heard argued.

As a multiple-computer user I don't care about cards and drives anymore. In fact, the less additional crap I have to store or buy, the better; the empty slots in my extant machines never met any actual needs of mine, they only sang to my consumerist impulses.

I can imagine owning a tower, ready for upgrades, again. But it will be long after my current sculpture garden of toxic boat anchors has been disposed of.
posted by mwhybark at 1:45 PM on January 14, 2005


I half expect that within the next few years, Apple will make Mac OS X run on IBM's POWER architecture (the chip from which PowerPC was derived)

They're way ahead of you. The G3, G4, and G5 are all PowerPC processors.

Well, yes. That's why it would be fairly easy to make Mac OS X run on POWER as well.

CPU Unit sales for Q105 are up 26.2% from Q104, and revenue from CPU sales are up 26.5%. kindall is an idiot.

You may find, if you try, that it is possible to correct someone without using the most dire insult imaginable. I made a simple mistake: I was looking at the previous quarter rather than the previous year. Total units sold were in fact more or less constant from the previous quarter, which is what I was thinking. However, if you look at the breakdown by unit sales from the previous year, units of the tower Macs are up modestly (despite there being a new improved model), PowerBook units are way down (and they didn't introduce anything that could change that situation), and iBook and especially iMac units are way up.

Revenues are not profits. IIRC Apple doesn't release information on their margins, as this is competitive information. While revenue on iMacs is way up, for example, the consumer machines inevitably have lower margins. Apple makes money on these machines, sure, but it probably has to sell two or more to make as much as it would make on one G5 tower. As their business shifts more in this direction, they're going to become subject to price competition if they want to keep increasing their units. Clearly their average margin is going to go nowhere but down over the next several years. I don't see overall marketshare increasing much.

Linux has a GUI. Has for a long time. Two main ones, actually, user selectable at startup.

Which is the same as saying it doesn't have a GUI, because what if you choose the wrong one? A neophyte can't make that choice. Linux needs one GUI, and that GUI needs to be called "Linux."
posted by kindall at 2:08 PM on January 14, 2005


Which is the same as saying it doesn't have a GUI, because what if you choose the wrong one? A neophyte can't make that choice. Linux needs one GUI, and that GUI needs to be called "Linux."

What? That makes no sense at all. Apple names their GUI technologies all sorts of crazy crap (Cocoa, Aqua, etc) Just because on SOME systems you can choose between KDE and Gnome (not to mention Enlightenment, and a few other lesser used ones) doesn't mean Linux doesn't have a GUI.

There is no "wrong" choice. They both work fine.
posted by SweetJesus at 2:29 PM on January 14, 2005


Well, IMO, the computer market is heading in two directions: bigger and smaller. On the one side, there is still a segment of the market that is demanding the latest and greatest functionality, the folks wanting a workstation.

On the other side, most basic needs can be satisfied with a system that would have been the latest and greatest 5 years ago. You don't need 2.4 GHz to surf the web and write a paper for school. These are people who want an appliance that just works. They don't want something that sounds like a vacum cleaner next to their desk. At the same time, they want the big monitor, and the nice big ergonomic keyboard to go with it. So this is where I see the iMac and the mini mac on one side and the Shuttle SFF on the other side.

This is something that might bump me into switching. I've liked the Mac for a while, but have not been willing to spend $1,500 on one. My biggest concern is if there is an adapter that will allow me to plug in my $200 ergonomic PS/2 keyboard?

kendall: Which is the same as saying it doesn't have a GUI, because what if you choose the wrong one? A neophyte can't make that choice. Linux needs one GUI, and that GUI needs to be called "Linux."

Well, I think that would be missing the point since a strong part of what Linux is about is choice, including your choice of GUI.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:31 PM on January 14, 2005


It's obvious Apple would not mind at all if everyone just shopped their products when buying a mini. It's an understandable position. With their retail outlets . . .

But effwerd, once you add all that, an iBook is cheaper and actually portable. That's where I get confused.
posted by dame at 2:35 PM on January 14, 2005


You may find, if you try, that it is possible to correct someone without using the most dire insult imaginable.

Yeah I know, and I'm sorry! I was going to make some snarky comment instead.. something to do with beleaguered or my 8600/300 w/64 Megs of RAM, but being snarky is so frowned upon these days...

I was all upset from having to look stuff up and use a calculator. Apolgies from me!
posted by rajbot at 2:44 PM on January 14, 2005


Heh. I agree but Apple would be just as happy to sell you one of those instead. The $499 price tag is to get you in. The campaign is to get a PC user to think they can just swap out the computer box so they go to an Apple store then get enamored with every thing else. If it leads to a sale, Apple still wins. Of course under scrutiny a lot more options may seem more reasonable, but I don't think that's what generally happens when one is right there in the store having set out to buy a computer. Apple has a good retail system, they're playing the numbers well, I think.
posted by effwerd at 2:50 PM on January 14, 2005


dame: But effwerd, once you add all that, an iBook is cheaper and actually portable. That's where I get confused.

Because laptop egronomics suck. Honestly, the first question I was asked when I was diagnosed with RSI was, "do you use a laptop?" When I said "no" the doctor said, "don't get one."

I'd love to switch, but I don't feel like replacing my existing stuff to do it. (Not with a $300 keyboard with a few years left.) My monitor has an ugly hum that I'd rather put up with for the current time.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:01 PM on January 14, 2005


kindall: "Also, if you look at their quarterly results, they're selling fewer and fewer of the most profitable high-end machines, and more and more of the low-end machines." (Refuted by rajbot)

fenriq: "And there will likely always be a small market for Apple's high end machines, graphics houses, movie editing and the like. They should keep Apple making the speed machines."

I agree, fenriq, and these are the same people who have always bought the high-powered Macs. For almost everyone else, this kind of power is unnecessary; your average person uses their PC for email, web browsing, and storing their digital photos. You don't need a dual-2GHz G5 with 8 gigs of RAM and a terabyte RAID array to do that (uh... pardon me while I drool a bit tho...).

I can offer myself as a case in point. Up to the time I bought my latest Mac - a dual 1GHz G4 with 1.5GB RAM and an 80GB HD - I was basically buying the biggest, fastest Mac available about every 3 1/2 years. I would be blown away by its speed and coolness every time; when I bought my G3 266 (768MB RAM) back in '98, I was amazed that for the first time I had a machine where I could work at my personal maximum speed in Photoshop, and I didn't have to wait for the computer anymore; no progress bar, no lag time. When I bought the G4, the same thing happened with Illustrator - I can draw, ink, work in Illustrator as fast as I can tablet and keyboard-shortcut, and it just cranks.

So with my G4, I now have a tool with which I can work as fast as I possibly can, and no longer have to think about (or compensate for) the machine's inherent capabilities/drawbacks. It's really wonderful, actually.

Now I look at G5s, and I drool... but I realize I don't need one. It's entirely possible that I will be able to go 3 or 4 more years without buying a new "work Mac" to do my artwork on, because I don't need to improve on the one I have to get my work done at this point.

I was just starting to think about replacing my Dell P3/800 with a new, cheap $500 PC unit (I have Macs and PCs networked, I use both), but now I'm thinking maybe I'll get a Mini to replace the PC's functionality (and clear out a crapload of workstation space!!), and move the PC into my recording studio just to run FruityLoops on it (cleaning everything else off it).

This Mini-Mac is great for the everyday, simple tasks that most people do, and for use as the core a home A/V center. Plus there's the "cool factor" that has worked so well for the iPod.

oaf: "With Apple's products, it's pretty likely that you'll plug something in and it will just work."

That's been my experience for many, many years. Real "plug and play," with everything from cheap printers to high-end audio I/O interfaces to Wacom tablets and even to networking Win PCs. I just built a recording studio using an older G4 that I "inherited," and the setup was completely flawless. It even automatically configured its Internet access, reading the DHCP server in my router when I plugged in the network cable.

If this little Mini box looks cool and hooks up by just plugging it into things, it's going to do very well indeed. And if it is indeed being positioned as an A/V Appliance Core, then I think it will do even better.

On preview:

KJS: "My biggest concern is if there is an adapter that will allow me to plug in my $200 ergonomic PS/2 keyboard?"


Your concern is hereby allayed.

Join us, KJS!! :D
posted by zoogleplex at 3:19 PM on January 14, 2005


Yeah, I've also found a plethora of PS/2 -> USB KVM switches out there as well. (Since I'd probably still keep the FreeBSD server as well.)
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:25 PM on January 14, 2005


Linux needs one GUI, and that GUI needs to be called "Linux."

I don't think that's a problem. Many of the available distributions pick one for you by default, with no thought required of the user. One does have to pick a distro, though. "Linux" doesn't mean Red Hat any more. They've half abandoned the home market, leaving it to Linspire, Mandrake, etc. to pick up whatever market share they can find in that benighted realm.

In a comparison with Mac OS though, it's more appropriate to talk about a particular distribution based on Linux, rather than "linux". There are many to choose from. I don't think that's much of a barrier to marketing; there are other, much larger, reasons why none of them have captured any really big share of the home computer market. When one does, we'll all happily call it "Linux", unless they come up with a better name.

One of those other large obvious things standing in the way of mass home-computer Linux adoption is called Apple. Both are competing for the relatively small, but steadily growing stream of refugees from the Windows world. Both Linux and the MacOS have rapidly been geting better lately. Linux has the advantage of running on common PC hardware, but it also has the disadvantage of running on common PC hardware. Apple has the glitzy "everything we do is front-page news (on metafilter, anyway)" marketing power.

The Mini, I think, is just the same thing as the iMac, only smaller. Same basic marketing premise, made considerably more flexible by leaving out the monitor.
posted by sfenders at 3:27 PM on January 14, 2005


Because laptop egronomics suck.

You can plug a keyboard into a laptop when at home, and still have something that's portable. In fact, many people do. Really, unless you need the power of tower, desktops just seem useless.
posted by dame at 3:28 PM on January 14, 2005


There is no "wrong" choice. They both work fine.

Well, surely there are apps that work with one but not the other. I doubt that all Linux GUIs are 100% compatible at the API level.
posted by kindall at 3:45 PM on January 14, 2005


One thing that struck me about the mini is that there are only two USB ports. I have a camera that uses a USB cable, so I would have to unplug my keyboard to upload pictures. That would be annoying.
posted by Monday at 3:58 PM on January 14, 2005


dame: You can plug a keyboard into a laptop when at home, and still have something that's portable. In fact, many people do. Really, unless you need the power of tower, desktops just seem useless.

I'm laptop challenged. I don't see the appeal of taking your work with you to the coffee shop or library, when the coffee shop and library are the places I go in order to escape work. That's just my lifestyle.

Which just goes to show that different people have different needs and desires. I don't want a laptop, what I do want is a quiet small form factor device that I can stack on my other SFF home server, plug into a KVM switch and work away.

kendall: Well, surely there are apps that work with one but not the other. I doubt that all Linux GUIs are 100% compatible at the API level.

Actually, you can. Assuming you have all of the necessary libraries installed, there is no reason why you can't run Gnome applications under KDE, or KDE applications under Gnome. You can also run many of them under Macintosh BTW. The major problem is that they don't share look and feel preferences. There is a movement afoot to increase interoperability between these two desktop environments.

For that matter, not everyone developing under Windows uses the Windows graphical widgits.

Monday: One thing that struck me about the mini is that there are only two USB ports. I have a camera that uses a USB cable, so I would have to unplug my keyboard to upload pictures. That would be annoying.

USB is designed to work through hubs. But yes, I think that a hub would be my first purchase if I get one of these things.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:04 PM on January 14, 2005


From where I'm standing, the Mac mini, while definitely being designed for switchers and while definitely hinting at media-center-like capabilities, is there as well to answer another need, which is simply for a low-end way to buy a desktop Mac with a separate monitor. If I'm going to drop four figures on an LCD display, I'd prefer to have an upgradable CPU component, which isn't available in the iMac. In the competition between a $1,500 iMac and a mini plus a $1,000 screen, I can see the mini filling a real gap in the Apple product line. Integration of consumer-grade hardware with high-quality displays in one single, inseperable box is great for some people, but not for others. I'm sure plenty of people will build a system with a Mac mini and an Apple display fully intending to upgrade it every two years. That's how people buy computers in the PC market.

As for Linux becoming a serious consumer force, I don't see how anyone can say that with a straight face. All you hear about nowadays is the Apple Marketing Juggernaut. Apple's marketing is great, it's offering compelling, high-quality products--but Apple is still unable to convert Windows users in any significant numbers. The efforts Apple is making to get people to switch are Herculean. Millions of dollars in marketing and product design are behind it. There are TV commercials, ads on buses and in magazines, product placements in films, and great 'halo' products like the iPod backing up Apple in their (so far unsuccessful) bid for switchers.

Apple isn't succeeding--and Red Hat and Linspire are supposed to succeed in only a couple of years? This seems completely unbelievable to me. Winning users requires a lot more than just a good product at a good price. No Linux vendor is even in a position to compete with Apple for mind- and market-share--much less with Microsoft.

It's hard for Apple to win switchers because, very simply, most people could care less about their computer. In order to make a positive decision like "I'm going to switch to the Mac!" or "I'm switching to Linux!" you have to be excited about it. Apple is trying very hard to generate excitement about their OS, using the iPod, iLife, and excellent industrial design. Why in the world would anyone without a techie in the family or without a computer hobby be excited to switch to Linux? Apple is spending untold sums to create motivation for Mac OS, and even then they are not making a dent.

Windows will (obviously, unfortunately) continue to be the dominant platform for the forseeable future. It will be at least a decade before even Apple will be able to make a dent in the Microsoft user base. If you're imagining Linux 'taking over the world" then you are imagining that the world is a very different place than it is.
posted by josh at 4:06 PM on January 14, 2005


I have been a Linux fiend for years. I have installed it on Powerbooks and iPaqs and do not in fact have anything but Linux at home.

However, as I get older, I'm getting to the point where I can't be arsed shagging around with things to make them work. My laptop runs Ubuntu, and I'm pretty happy with that, I just punted the iPaq for a Palm (which Just Works), and some time soon, the main (debian) PC will be replaced by a Mac running OS X, in all likelihood a mini. I'll wait for the first purchasers to identify the problems, and then I'm in.

kindall, I think you have misunderstood. The X11 API is used by all Linux GUI toolkits. At worst, applications that rely on the Gnome or KDE session managers to store session data may not "remember" your settings when you relaunch them, but that's about it.

Man I like those minis though. I don't play harcore games or run big simulations or do video editing, so I don't need the grunt, and I yearn for computing appliances that just work.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 4:08 PM on January 14, 2005


The only thing Linux needs a non-included driver for on my box is my el-cheapo 56k modem (that I hardly use), and that's on the installation CD that came with it with downloadable updates.

Oh. I'm pretty pleased to find I "outrank" an "average home user" though: I have added a few peripherals myself, and I'm sure I could add any peripheral anybody'd want to mail me for free. Some take a few minutes of reading and configuration, but just a few.
posted by davy at 4:12 PM on January 14, 2005


Couple things about Linux:

What if you choose the "wrong" GUI? Ummm, you log out and pick another one. This isn't a great existential leap of faith here. There's also no real reason why GUI and OS need to be synonymous. Linux's strength is not in being a cheap knock-off of Windows. One of it's strengths is choice, in making it practical to go about tasks in all different ways.

Any non-techies use it? Yes, my boyfriend's dad. Was confused compared to Mac but it was comparable to Windows.
posted by dagnyscott at 4:19 PM on January 14, 2005


"Pretty soon you’ll be using the Mac full-time, with that PC relegated to the testbed."

Heavy stuff, this. Everything Apple does seems like a clever ploy to get you to buy more Apple stuff. And it is tempting. If it weren't for Linux, I'd be sucked right in by that cute little aqua monster.

If you're imagining Linux 'taking over the world" then you are imagining that the world is a very different place than it is.

Which is always fun to do. After all, about the only thing we can say with some certainty about the world thirty years from now is that it will be a very different place than the world today. Linux has a (small) chance, simply because it is well-positioned to be a persistent force for that length of time. It's hard to imagine it taking over the world, but it's equally hard to imagine anything that could kill it.
posted by sfenders at 4:27 PM on January 14, 2005


One thing that struck me about the mini is that there are only two USB ports.

I can see how the designers missed this; Apple has never shipped a USB keyboard that didn't have a built-in USB hub to connect the mouse to.

According to the Apple worldview, a machine should be tucked away out of sight, with a single cable running to the display that carries DVI, USB and firewire. Any devices that you interact with should then be connected to the USB or firewire ports built into the display.
posted by rajbot at 4:30 PM on January 14, 2005


"One thing that struck me about the mini is that there are only two USB ports. I have a camera that uses a USB cable, so I would have to unplug my keyboard to upload pictures. That would be annoying."

But surely you could use one of those apple keyboards with the passthrough USB on the keyboard for the mouse?

(assuming that's where your other USB would be used, and you refuse to get a hub)

I think this mini is great for apple.
I'd like to see Apple reach more like 10% of the market.

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this thing to people wanting a basic PC. (of course, I'm biased by being the 'go to guy' for my friends with computer questions...and I couldn't help at all with a mac-)

it's not for me, but why not for many?
posted by Busithoth at 4:34 PM on January 14, 2005


I don't know--call me shallow, but i just can't see people hooking up their gray or black pc monitor, keyboard, and mouse to this shiny white box, and being thrilled. Nor do i see them shelling out for any of the cinema displays, which are incredibly expensive. I do see them being disappointed that this is the first computer they've ever bought that's not plug and play out of the box (and in the box). For decades now, macs have been selling themselves as easier--this is the first time consumers will have to cobble together a system themselves. If an Emac can be had for 799 with built-in monitor and keyboard and mouse, this should have at least a keyboard and mouse that matches (and this doesn't match anyone's livingroom or existing media equipment--there aren't any white dvd players, etc.) For a company that pushes the design so much, i see disappoint ahead. (and i've been a mac person since my IIci ages ago)
posted by amberglow at 5:28 PM on January 14, 2005


make that "disappointment"
posted by amberglow at 5:29 PM on January 14, 2005


Well, I agree, the logic in this position is sound, it's really old-hat, even. I've been hip to this idea for a long time. But Apple's been here before. And they've screwed it up, before.

I still believe that Jobs, at some level, doesn't really want Apple to be successful. And I wouldn't be surprised if it particularly galled him that iTunes were responsible. After all, it wasn't his idea (well, of course, none o f it's really is idea, he just passes it off that way). In fact, the idea didn't even come from within Apple -- it was brought to them by an outsider.

Even with the Life Of Its Own that is engendered by success on the order of iTunes', I keep thinking, "That's not the Apple Way." The Apple Way is to keep things small and insular. It's a prestige brand; it always has been. They don't know how to sell it any other way. When prestige brands break big, they get a grace period where it's still cool, hip and countercultural to sport them, even when everybody's sporting them. I hypothesize that in technology, that period can last a little longer. Eventually they'd run past the territory they understand, and lose their way. And since Jobs doesn't really trust anybody but Jobs, and won't be willing to take help from someone who actually does know that territory, there's a good chance they'll lose a lot of altitude about two years down the line.

But maybe not. And they'll still have a much larger market share and a fabulous pot of gold.

That said, I think it would be hard for Jobs to sabotage this one. As the user-base expands, the old Reality Distortion Field is liable to tail off. The board, even, deep within its strongest vortices as they are, are probably beginning to grasp the significance of the "mini platform."

Truth is, there's nothing revolutionary or even very difficult going on here. If Sony could pry their heads out of their asses for five minutes, they could put a competetive platform in the field in nothing flat. (FWIW, I think Microsoft would have not a single prayer in hell of pulling somethng like iTunes+iPod+Mini off, but that's another rant for another time.) And I'd bet money that within six months time, there will be a reference platform and a suite of open specs and standards for an "open source" competitor to the "mini platform".

So, yeah, short version: I think it's a big deal. Maybe not so much for Apple, but a big deal, nonetheless. It's about time somebody started synergizing this shit.
posted by lodurr at 6:44 PM on January 14, 2005


I know the mini is crammed to the gills with electronics, but I would have seriously considered a box with a small angled slot in one side that would hold an iPod. The whole iPod wouldn't go IN the machine, it would just slip in enough so that the thing holds it up while charging. You design the box so that for people who HAVE an iPod, the slot becomes the front of the box. No iPod, and another panel becomes the front.

Point being: as it is, if you have an iPod, you still have to run a cord (and an optional base holder) to this thing. Doing it my way, one less cord for sure, and no need for an external holder. (With external speakers attached to the mini, you could even charge and play-through while charging or updating music.)

I realize that one panel is dedicated for various external connectors. But with a device this small - WHY? Put little rubber feet on it and let the cords come in from the BOTTOM. Just PICK IT UP when you want to get at the connections. When the cords are connected, there's a simple device to gather them together at the back. Or the front. (or some cords can be gathered and some not.) Result: built-in cable clutter simplification.

What do you think?
posted by humannature at 6:50 PM on January 14, 2005


As for Linux becoming a serious consumer force, I don't see how anyone can say that with a straight face.

<koff!> <koff!> TiVo! <koff!>

Got news for you: Linux already is a consumer force, and it's not going to do anything but get bigger.

Thing is, you're not going to see things branded with Linux. That's what people don't get: Linux isn't a brand, it's a platform. SuSE is a brand. Linux is a platform.

Linux is the Great Commodifier. That's why Microsoft, Sun, and yes, even Apple, fear it. That's also why IBM, Novell, CA, and the bulk of third-world governments love it. If Microsoft were really really smart, they'd figure out a way to run Windows on top of Linux, to commodify their OS core. It would save them tons of money, and they could still have a largely incompatible top layer to drive de facto lockin (as Apple does).
posted by lodurr at 6:53 PM on January 14, 2005


Humannature, that's contrary to the most deeply held tenets of Mac design. Ever since the original SCSI-equipped Macs (the Plus?), the concept has been that you have discrete physical units connected by interfaces. The idea is that it's simpler. I think that's probably largely right.

And even if it weren't, Apple is very, very, very resistent to change on anything they see as a "branding attribute." Case in point: The top-of-screen menu, which had outlived its usefulness as soon as displays passed 13 inches.

Anyway, if they did what you suggest, they wouldn't be able to sell you cool iPod base station peripherals that integrate via AirPort Extreme....
posted by lodurr at 6:59 PM on January 14, 2005


Whoa, lodurr! The top of screen menu is one the greatest usability assets of the Mac OS. With Windows apps, you have to slow down and target your file, edit and other menus, as they are attached to windows themselves. With a Mac you just flick the mouse to the top of the screen and you are there, you can't overshoot the menu items. How is this bad? Can you suggest a better method?
posted by Scoo at 7:10 PM on January 14, 2005


Scoo, I read some papers back when I was in school. The top menu is a major headache from a usability standpoint, but like a lot of usability issues, people don't see it. You have to actually watch what they do -- look at their extra motions, get the users to give you a narrative. Then you learn that they're confused by the whole "gray desktop" paradigm (you know, where all your app windows go transparenty), and you start to see them selecting an option from the IE menu that's still anchored at teh top of the screen, even though the last IE browser window was closed five minutes ago.

And I haven't even addressed the fact that on a large screen, I always have to track the pointer all the way up to the top of the screen and CHANGE STATE every time I want to click on the menu for a different application. Right now, I've got menus visible for for Thunderbird and Firefox, and could go to any of their main menus just by moving my pointer and selecting them. On a Mac, I'd have to change state to that app, then select. (Which leads me now to think that the old non-pre-emptive MacOS itself may have been one reason they hung on to the top menu for so long....)

It adds overhead, and whether you're even aware of it or not, it adds confusion.

BTW, I don't just know this from reading academic papers or sitting here wanking at it in my head. I've used Macs off and on for work since 1987. I even supported them and taught Mac applications for two extended periods of time. So I do know a bit about their usability attributes, as compared to other GUI environments.

The top menu was designed for small screens. As a hard and fast UI rule, it made sense, there. It does NOT make sense on a large screen. Why do you think NO OTHER GUI uses that interaction modality? The answer is that they've all thought of it and found it wanting.
posted by lodurr at 7:23 PM on January 14, 2005


lodurr, I'm sure that Linux will find itself embedded in a ton of consumer devices. But being embedded in a device is quite different, obviously, from working as a consumer desktop OS. Tivo is pretty great, but it is hardly a proof-of-concept for taking significant market share away from Microsoft.
posted by josh at 8:07 PM on January 14, 2005


The top menu was designed for small screens.
I wish we could move it around like with the dock.
posted by amberglow at 8:15 PM on January 14, 2005


That would be awesome!
posted by josh at 8:18 PM on January 14, 2005


Hmm, what I had heard was that Apple actually had a patent on the top menu bar. I must confess, for all my raving about how great the top menu bar is, I have a utility called Dragthing running on my PowerBook. When I want to change apps, I flick the mouse to the top left corner, which brings a process dock showing all running apps right in the top left corner. Clicking on that app's tile brings it to the front and you are on your way. I've been working this way for 8 or 9 years, and find it pretty easy sledding. I'm finding Expose in Panther a revelation though, it's really changing my workflow. A flick to the top right corner makes all the windows shrink and tile, very handy.

I am having a much harder time with Apple's ever increasing (and inconsistently applied) window stylings; first there was Brushed Metal (introduced with QuickTime 4 on Mac OS 8.x IIRC) then Aqua, Platinum in Classic mode, the awful wood grain of Garage Band, the Slate Gray of their Pro apps, and with the soon to be released Tiger update, the glass baubles of Dashboard. I still blame Kai Krause and his damned marble collection that was the Kai's Power Tools GUI for this trend.

While I regard Windows as a path to squirming Lovecraftian madness, let me give the devil his due; at least you have the option in XP to Turn All That Crap Off. If only Apple would let me do the same, or at least offer the ability to pick from among these themes to present a consistent look and feel to all applications.
posted by Scoo at 8:36 PM on January 14, 2005


First thing I do when I'm configuring a new desktop is "turn all that crap off." Then I get rid of any color gradients in the title bar and move the taskbar to the left side of the screen. (A habit I developed on my PictureBook, which has a 1024x640 screen -- side to side real estate is cheap, top and bottom is expensive.) Then I reset my startup sound to the "scary choir" from 2001 and my shutdown to "I'm afraid, Dave....I'm afraid...." Then I feel like I can really get started...

I also like to set the active window border color to yellow; it's a nice, subtle clue to help you visually apprehend the active menu.

So you're telling me that you can't clean up the presentation on OS X? Damn, that's harsh -- I hate that brushed aluminum crap. Aren't there add-ons or hacks you can do? Seriously, I'm having my first serious buyers remorse as I think about having to look at QuickTime-style windows all day long...
posted by lodurr at 8:57 PM on January 14, 2005


I've always (well, since the Mac II era, anyway) admired Apple's design and UI chops, even though I've never actually bought one of their products. And I do find the Mac Mini to be pretty drool-worthy. Thing is, though, I really don't want to see *any* single company with end-to-end control of digital media sales/formats/players. I can't see that as anything but a gigantic loss for the consumer, competition-wise. "Rip, Mix, Burn" seemed at the time to be a giant shining sign that Apple Gets It, but I'm still not convinced that's a core philosophy rather than a marketing pose to pull in the post-Napster masses.

If Apple does make a play for a QuickTime/iTunes-based, DRM-loaded media center box, do you really trust them in the long term to not fuck with yer fair use rights?
posted by arto at 9:03 PM on January 14, 2005


Tivo is pretty great, but it is hardly a proof-of-concept for taking significant market share away from Microsoft.

Actually, I think it's a great proof of concept. After all, Microsoft wants to own the embedded consumer device market. And there are a lot of Windows Media Center devices out there, it's true; but there are just as many look-alike devices baked up on top of Linux foundations.

Linux desktops have a lot of disadvatages going up against MS, it's true, but consider that Gnome will now be getting dedicated resources funded by Novell. And as many interaction warts as there still are on KDE, it's kind of amazing how far it's come. Preconfig'd Linux boxes are already at a Win XP level of usability in many regards.

Will it take the desktop, I don't know; but it could. One should never say never about things like this. Oddly enough, I think the price and size shakeout that the Mini will spur will play a role in that. All the pieces are there. They just need to be put together into the right package. (Which is probably not Linspire....."come on baby run Linspire....you know you want to run Lin....SPIIIIIIIIIRRRRREEEEE......" Sorry, flashing back to a bad Friday Flash Fun... )
posted by lodurr at 9:05 PM on January 14, 2005


Actually, I think that the Macintosh with its BSD userland under the hood is a good proof that free and open source operating systems can have an impact on the desktop.

In the long run however, it should be noted that once upon a time, Microsoft didn't really care that much about the home computer market. Microsoft built its market from the office out. I think that Linux may follow a similar pattern through corporate adoptions, perhaps more so in Europe where there seems to be a lot more skepticism of Microsoft's claim to be an accidental monopoly. This is a big reason why Microsoft's anti-Linux campaign is directed at the people who control adoption of corporate IT rather than hobbyists or switchers.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:03 PM on January 14, 2005


As a PC user who needs to have a Mac for occasional jobs, a standard hard drive stackable size unit would be handy.

BTW, Apple blew their chance in the early 90's to take over the market. A small window when PC users actually considered moving to Macs for their advanced charting and presentation abilities. But Apple kept thinking they were selling hardware. No one buys a Mac for the pretty box, they buy it for the OS.
posted by HTuttle at 10:24 PM on January 14, 2005


scoo: I've graduated from DragThing to Quicksilver, and love it. You might want to check it out, too.
posted by mwhybark at 11:12 PM on January 14, 2005


I hate that brushed aluminum crap. Aren't there add-ons or hacks you can do?

Yes. See Metallifizer. It won't get rid of the brushed aluminum from iTunes, but it'll get rid of it from just about anything else. I had actually forgotten that Safari was metal until I visited Macworld.

You can also "skin" Mac OS X using ShapeShifter, but I recommend against it. I've never seen a theme that was actually an improvement on Apple's.
posted by kindall at 11:24 PM on January 14, 2005


I tried QuickSilver before when it was in beta, maybe I'll give it another try.

As for Metallifizer/Shapeshifter I don't know, my system is rock solid, haxies make me nervous. Have you found APE to be pretty stable?
posted by Scoo at 7:08 AM on January 15, 2005


amberglow and mwhybark - Tivo's Home Media Option is already compatible with OS X, and designed to put the Tivo box on the average wonk's existing LAN, with a combination of ethernet and USB cables, making things convenient if people wanted to burn their soap-operas of the fruits of their Digital Cable directly to DVD.

Tivo's goal was to re-invent their Series 2 box as a home-media server. With a Mac GUI on the front-end (and some extra Tivo drive-space - 120Gb IDEs avail. @ Costco, cheap), I can't see how this couldn't be a winner.

I'm sure that Stephen Spielberg unpacked his, sometime last week, if not earlier...

That Tivo-to-DVD 'feature' is something that I've been waiting years to get - unfortunately, my income isn't what it used to be, but I've still got some workarounds. These processes are slower and more labor-intensive than they would be if I had a big, honking wireless network, but I'm getting by with a few small personal projects.

Now if I had Michael Keaton's 'White Noise' set-up, I'd be sussed - (terrible movie, btw) - but I figure I'm just going to have to live with my videotape for another couple of years.
posted by vhsiv at 7:50 AM on January 15, 2005


^...soap operas of... =...soap operas 'or'...^

btw, Toshiba and Comcast IIRC already have DVRs with DVD-burn capability.
posted by vhsiv at 7:59 AM on January 15, 2005


haxies make me nervous

Some people consider them the scourge of Mac OS X, but I rarely have trouble with them. I don't run ShapeShifter but I run a wide variety of other add-ons, including some that aren't specifically "haxies" but practice code injection of one sort or another, and my system stays up fine. If you start having odd misbehavior in an application, it pays to disable your haxies and see if it's still there before contacting the developer, but in my experience this has been rare.
posted by kindall at 10:10 AM on January 15, 2005


No one buys a Mac for the pretty box, they buy it for the OS.

Untrue. I like the OS, but I pay extra for the box and consistently excellent design.

KJS: I see what you're saying, but even if you don't take it out much, being able to work, watch DVD's, etc. on the plane doesn't appeal at all? Or do you just never go far from a large house, where a big corner being dedicated to the puter doesn't matter?
posted by dame at 10:14 AM on January 15, 2005


TiVo has the Humanx-built/labelled box with DVD burner included.
posted by billsaysthis at 12:28 PM on January 15, 2005


dame: I see what you're saying, but even if you don't take it out much, being able to work, watch DVD's, etc. on the plane doesn't appeal at all? Or do you just never go far from a large house, where a big corner being dedicated to the puter doesn't matter?

There are a number of reasons why I don't use laptops, most of which have been described in previous posts, to the point where I don't think you see what I'm saying.

1: I have yet to see a laptop form factor that would be acceptable given my RSI. By the time I pack the countoured keyboard and speech recognition headset, I'm lugging around something that is no longer very portable.

2: I currently use a multi-computer setup with a KVM switch. I don't want a computer with a dedicated monitor. What I want is something like the mac mini, a small quiet computer that will integrate well into my existing setup without having to shell out 1,500 clams for more than I need.

3: In regards to plane travel, I spend too much time at a keyboard, and not enough time reading books and journals. I also do a heck of a lot of work using a pen and a notebook which are actually usable in coach, while a laptop may or may not be usable depending on the person in front of me.

Trust me, I've done the calculus several times. I don't want or need a laptop. I am however, a market segment that is very well served by SFF computer devices.

Another thought that pops into my mind as to where the mini would be a good idea is in demo stations for technology-enabled classrooms. A typical demo station (I used to maintain them) consists of one or two computers, and a DVD/VCR player wired through a controller to a digital projector. Something like the mac mini is more than enough computer for Prof. Knowitall to play his PowerPoint slides.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:16 PM on January 15, 2005


KJS, if you come back in, what do you think of beasts like the new Archos PMA400? (A handheld "multmedia player" tricked out with QTopia to the extent that it can check/send email, handle keyboard input as needed, etc.)

I know I want one, but that's just the lizard brain. Yet to become certain: Whether it would actually be useful....
posted by lodurr at 7:42 PM on January 15, 2005


D'OH. Link should have been this.
posted by lodurr at 7:43 PM on January 15, 2005


Ten years ago today you'd be running Windows 3.1, and OS/2 still had a chance.

Ten years ago I was running OS/2. That was a fun system. I always described it as "like a Mac, if the Mac had been created in Soviet Russia."

I am SO going to buy a Mac mini for my mom. It's a great mom-and-pop machine. Hook it up to the crappy monitor they got from Dell or whomever, and never have to do Windows tech support again!
posted by esperluette at 9:17 PM on January 15, 2005


Lodurr, that Archos PMA looks sch-weet! Any clue on the expected price? If it just had a cell phone built in to...
posted by billsaysthis at 9:34 PM on January 15, 2005


billsaysthis, per Gizmodo, it will be quite dear: $800 or so, if I remember correctly. I don't know how much RAM it's got, but having a hard drive eliminates one of the big weak spots of the Zaurus; I priced out the last generation American-released Zaurus, and it would have come to about that for a useful version, which would have had much less mass storage.

The thing I think is really intriguing about it is how it stacks up against a Simputer. It's basically what they were trying to achieve with that project, but motivated from an entirely different set of desires. The PMA400 is basically their AV400 with a little extra hardware and Linux+Qtopia; it was created as a video device, and some clever folks at Archos realized it wouldn't require extra horspower (just some extra interface hardware) to make it into a general purpose computer. Sales on that unit are nearly all gravy to them; they win even if they don't really win.

Put another way: It's got capability similar to the more sophsiticated full-windows minis, a la Antelope and OQO, at a much lower price-point; it's a great case study in appropriate technology. Now if only they'd lower the price....
posted by lodurr at 11:33 PM on January 15, 2005


lodurr: I don't know. I went through my Palm phase once upon a time and found it underwhelming. I'm pretty darn selective about the gadgets I buy, and this just doesn't seem to hit any of my priorities.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:48 AM on January 16, 2005


I've just spent the w/end with family & my 92-year-old granddad wants me to order a Mini and flat screen ASAP (he can use is old rev3 iMac peripherals) to be one step ahead of my Mum with her 4-month old eMac (!), my sis is looking at the Mini to replace the crappy HP tower in her system and her hubby, who thought the iPod is a bit over, the top is interested in the Shuffle.

Who cares what the nerds want? ;-)
posted by i_cola at 12:30 PM on January 16, 2005


Or where the commas should go?
posted by i_cola at 12:32 PM on January 16, 2005


Dammit, doesn't anyone care about the commas any more?!?!?!
posted by billsaysthis at 10:38 PM on January 16, 2005


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