Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Turning to the Dark Side - Ben's Buys His First Mac

It finally dawned it was time to have a Mac in the house office to do some proper testing with. I really think this whole Apple thing might be around for the long haul.

After getting over the sticker shock, I decided that a Mac Mini would fit the bill nicely. I don't need yet another laptop, just a box I can boot up and use for testing as needed. And if it gets me hooked on the whole OS-X thing, so be it.

Because I'm using this box for testing, I figured I could save a few bucks and buy used. Once again, I took to craigslist to find a deal. And within a couple days I had a winner: a Mac Mini with 4GB of RAM in good condition for $400. About half the price of a new one.

I picked up the device, expecting to use my current hardware (keyboard, mouse and monitor) with it in the short term. As I glanced at the back of the cute little device, I realized I had a problem: there was no obvious place to plug in a VGA cable. The seller explained I needed a mini-HDMI adapter. OK, I thought, surely they must have those at Best Buy.

So, off to best buy, where the salesman talked me out of mini-HDMI and explained all I needed was a regular HDMI cable. Which, I bought.

Christian Cantrell, I realized I needed a Mini Display to to HDMI adapter. At $12.00 on Amazon, it was a steal.

I think it's worth pausing for a moment here: imagine me, a professional programmer and computer user for the last 22 years, being completely baffled about how to plug a computer in. I couldn't even begin to imagine what all the dots and squiggles meant on the back of the device. Macs can be humbling.

With the Mac Mini in hand, and the HDMI cable on the way, I was trying to think about the best setup for our newest computer family member. I could plug it into my main monitor, and toggle between it and my Windows laptops. Or, I could re-purpose another monitor and replace the laptop downstairs in the library with a Mac desktop setup.

And then it hit me: you know what has HDMI? My 42" television. How cool would it be to plug the Mac Mini into that sucker?!

The cable showed up, I snapped everything together, booted up the device, switched over the TV input to HDMI 1 and what do you know? It worked! Behold, the following photos are of my 42" TV (with absolutely zero configuration or tweaking):

For many a techie out there, this setup is far from anything new. But for someone who's used to middle of the range PC hardware, this sort of thing isn't to be expected. Sure, you could buy adapters and high end hardware to get this sort of thing going. But, with the Mac Mini, it all came built in.

I've got to admit - the Mac hardware isn't just expensive because it looks good. It's expensive because it's high quality stuff.

My setup isn't quite complete. I've got a wireless keyboard (with built in trackball) on the way. When that arrives, the fun can really begin. I can't way to be hacking code while lazily sitting on the couch. Oh wait, I can already do that with a laptop. But now I'll be able to do it with a 42" screen. Whoo!

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