A 2012 Mac Mini "Project"

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A few weeks ago, I bought a couple of Mac Minis just because they were cheap and local and I had some ideas for them. I'm ultimately looking for a quad core 2011 Mini(best version that will run Snow Leopard for some specific applications I have and don't have room for a Mac Pro now) but thought I could put these to use. There were two 2012s and one 2014. All of these are base model units-the 2014 is 4gb/a mechanical drive and the 2012s are basically the 13" MBP stuffed into a Mac Mini case(oversimplification, but same CPU and other major chipsets). The 2012s came to me SSD upgraded and with 8gb RAM.

I miss having two big monitors, which is something my M1 MBP can't do when docked. Consequently, I figured I'd give one of the 2012s a spin as a desktop.

As of now, I'm waiting on 16gb RAM for it to be delivered from Amazon, but it's doing okay(could be better) on 8gb. I have it running 10.14(Mojave) as that is the newest OS that supports some of my older 32 bit software.

Now that my school is going back to fully virtual for a few weeks at least, I'm glad to have this set up, and hopefully the 16gb RAM will really help it.

In any case, I love Thunderbolt, and here's how I have it set up:

1. The Mini is plugged into an Apple Thunderbolt display. This is a 2650x1440 display that with a single TB cable breaks out to 3x USB ports, a Firewire 800 port, ethernet, and also has built in speakers, a microphone, and a 720p webcam. A lot of the ports are redundant on the Mini as it has Firewire and Ethernet, but more USB ports never hurt anyone.

2. Daisy-chained to the display is an OWC Thunderbolt 3 PD dock. I bought this to dock my M1, but it works just fine with this also. This offers another pile of USB 3.0 ports, a USB-C port, ethernet, audio out, an SD card reader, and mini-DP out. I have the Mini connected to the "Back end" of the TB display, and consequently can easily connect my M1 to this dock as well and get all the benefits plus use the TB display(and also get the sometimes-useful Firewire port)

3. Off the mini-DP on the dock, I have an Apple 27" Cinema display. This has the same 2560x1440 panel and also has a lot of the same features, although only USB ports on the back, a lower resolution webcam, and so forth.

4. Semi-permanently attached to this "docking set-up" is an Apple USB superdrive(which will also work with my M1) for optical media, a graphics tablet I use for online teaching, and a Unicomp Spacesaver M keyboard(an absolutely wonderful buckling spring keyboard made in Lexington KY from the original IBM Model M tooling).

I also typically have lighting, micro-USB-C, and an old 30 pin iPod/iPhone connector hanging off all of this, and sometimes have left an external drive plugged in that I use as backup for a lot of other things.

This has proven to be a very useful set up and I'm looking forward to using it for the upcoming semester. This nearly 10 year old computer still has a lot of useful life in it.

IMG_1366 2.jpeg
 
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My only experience with using Macs was old black and white Mac laptops I had at school in the mid 90's. No idea what model they were, but it was fun at the time to try something different than the Win 3.1 desktops I'd always used. My oldest daughter (early teens) has had a Macbook on her wishlist for some time. Now that most everything is platform-neutral, I just might give it a go, if for no other reason that I can play with it too.

Personal computers (can't use the PC acronym to also describe macs?) just aren't aging like they used to. Most people throw them away for software issues (malware, virus, too much garbage, etc) because they can buy a shiny new one for less than the old one cost (usually.) Most issues can be fixed with an OS wipe/reinstall and/or inexpensive SSD upgrade. I see this more in the PC realm, but it's not absent with Macs either.

I still use a 2010-era HP workstation (that cost all of $200 when I bought it 3-4 years ago) for my teenage son's "gaming" computer. Still has 12GB ram, older 6-core Xeon processor. New graphics card (back when they were reasonable) and SSD later, it can play any modern title out there.

I have a HP Z600 workstation that I use as my media center, that cost all of $200 bare bones. I upgraded it to an RX480 graphics card, 48gb RAM, SSD, dual 6-core Xeon CPUs, USB 3.0 adapter card, so I might have $500 in it total. I don't plan on upgrading anytime soon, and even have Win11 running on it now.

Older computers (Mac & PC both) can last a LONG time now if you know what you're doing.
 
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My Mac Mini (2012) at work has been updated several times in the last 8/9 years, right now here is what I have running two monitors, 24 and 21.

2.5 GHz Intel Core i5
16 GB 1600 MHz DDR3
500 GB SSD

You will see a difference when you install more ram if you run any memory intense programs. Photoshop was running slow and crashing on me with 8 GB.

I would really hate to do my job with Windows.
 

bunnspecial

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My 16gb RAM from Amazon arrived today, and figured I'd try to put it in between meetings this morning.

Apple of course designed this beautifully, and it took me longer to open the package than put it in and be back up and going.

On older systems as much RAM as they will hold is always a good idea...
 

OVERKILL

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My 16gb RAM from Amazon arrived today, and figured I'd try to put it in between meetings this morning.

Apple of course designed this beautifully, and it took me longer to open the package than put it in and be back up and going.

On older systems as much RAM as they will hold is always a good idea...
This thread reminded me that one of the clinics I know has an old dual Mac mini server (they were a rack mount affair, had two mac minis in them) that has been offline for the last couple of years because they changed providers. I should find out what they are doing with it, might be a worthwhile project if the hardware isn't ancient. Both were running Ubuntu when in service.
 

bunnspecial

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This thread reminded me that one of the clinics I know has an old dual Mac mini server (they were a rack mount affair, had two mac minis in them) that has been offline for the last couple of years because they changed providers. I should find out what they are doing with it, might be a worthwhile project if the hardware isn't ancient. Both were running Ubuntu when in service.
The server versions are often nice because some of the older ones had dual HDD bays instead of an ODD and in many cases they had better CPUs than the non-server versions.

With that said, a few years ago I bought a super nice 2010 Mini server. The 2010 was the last Mini with a built-in ODD, and a friend of mine gave me a bunch of crap over buying the last Mini with a built in ODD and getting the version without one :) . It's not like you can install one either-the front is completely smooth like the later ones, it's just about twice as thick as the 2011 and later Minis.

The 2011s I'm mentioning(and if one of those you speak of is a 2011, PLEASE let me know :) ) the high end non-servers have a dGPU that, like the MBPs of the same age, is doomed to failure. The server version has the quad i7 of the 15/17" 2011 and not the dual core i5/i7 of the consumer oriented ones(and 13" MBPs of that age).
 

bunnspecial

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Here's something I love about this set-up:

I've moved to a new(old) desk and have spent some time mostly getting things set up the way I want

IMG_1393.jpeg


There's a lot here. Aside from the monitors, I have a fair few hard-wired peripherals. The graphics tablet(which I use for online teaching) and the keyboard(Unicomp Spacesaver M) are there. Poking out from under the edge are Lighting, micro-USB-3(plugs into my CF reader, camera, and a few other devices), a 30-pin cable for the iPod I still sometimes uses, and a FW cable just in case.

Buried back there is a Thunderbolt hub, which has an external drive permanently plugged into it plus a bunch of USB 3 ports and some other useful stuff.

This is the back of the computer-

IMG_1394.jpeg


It has exactly 2 cables plugged into it-the power cable and a Thunderbolt cable.

Why does this matter for a desktop?

This gives me a ton of flexibility. Also back there is a Magsafe charger(there's actually one built into each monitor) that I can use to power a laptop that could just as easily be plugged in to this single TB cable. There's also a Thunderbolt 3 cable that goes into the hub. I can plug my M1 Macbook Pro in and everything here would come alive just as it does on the Mini.

Thunderbolt still is the ultimate port, and I'd have never dreamed of being able to do all of this when I got my first MBP with Thunderbolt in 2012.
 
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