Back in December 2007, I bought a Mac Mini as an experiment. It was cheap enough that if I really didn’t get on with it, I wouldn’t have lost that much (and I could always have sold it). But within a short space of time, it became my main computer, with my trusty old Dell being shut down and neglected. And it’s carried on in that role ever since, though some of my email reading and web browsing has been delegated to my really quite spiffy MacBook. But it’s a bit limited – it’s already at its maximum of 2GB of RAM, and with the number of things I tend to run at the same time, it was struggling a bit – having Lightroom, VMWare Fusion, Firefox, Mail, NetNewsWire and either iTunes or Spotify providing some music was a bit much to ask, I suppose. It ran them all decently enough, but switching between tasks could be a wee bit slow.
So, having committed myself to using Macs, I started thinking, planning and muttering to myself. My original thought when I got the Mini was that I’d get one of the nifty tower Mac Pro beasts, but being quite honest with myself, that kind of expansion and power is massive overkill for what I need, so I looked again at the iMac range. Now the original iMac was something that reinforced the dislike I had for Apple products at the time. I hated the shape, and those garish colours didn’t help much, either. And I wasn’t really taken with the one that looked like the offspring of an illicit relationship between an Anglepoise lamp and a TV. But the later models looked more like it. And the current aluminium iMacs have a certain something – a minimalist design that stands out.
Now I’ve always been reluctant to go for “all-in-one” machines – it does mean that if, for instance, the display breaks, you’ve got an unusable computer. But kit is generally reliable these days, and with a suitable three year warranty, good backups and a spare computer or two in the house, it shouldn’t be a major problem.
So, having decided on an iMac, it came down to choosing a model. I’d already decided on the 24″ screen – not that the 20″ one I’ve had for a few years has been limiting me, but I thought if I was going to upgrade the hardware, I might as well do it properly. And although I could probably have got along fine with one of the lower end models, I eventually decided that I might as well go for the whizziest one I could, and here it is:
It’s got the standard 4GB of RAM, which can be upgraded to 8GB, but I won’t be doing that until memory prices come down a wee bit, a quite large 1TB hard drive, the usual DVD-writing SuperDrive, a quite powerful video card, and that 3.06GHz processor. It came with the new small-format keyboard Apple are supplying now, which I tried for about a day before swapping for the full-sized one I had on the Mini – this worked out well, as the Mini is still running, and the small keyboard means it takes up even less space. I’m giving the Mighty Mouse a try – it seems OK so far…
Setting the beast up was as simple as you might expect – unpack, plug the mains lead in to the back of the iMac, connect the keyboard to one of the four rear-mounted USB ports and the mouse to the keyboard, and an ethernet cable to the router. It then goes through the friendly start up, and offers you the chance to copy your stuff from another Mac. Well, I could have done that, but as the Mini has had loads of stuff installed, used once and forgotten, I decided to make a clean start. It’s a bit more work this way, but it means I can set things up better this time. When I started with the Mini, I used my old Windows habit of putting things in folders where I wanted to rather than where the OS told me I should put them – that was partly because I had to put some things, like my photos and music library on an external hard drive, and partly just me being awkward. This time, I’m keeping it simple.
Talking of simple, I haven’t bothered installing the software for either of my cameras. I’ve connected a card reader and Lightroom happily imports my pictures from there. It does the same for the iPhone, which means I can keep all my pictures nicely organised.
So, what’s it like, this shiny new computer? Well, it’s fast. Programs load faster, switching tasks is as near to instant as makes no difference, and the big screen is as bright and sharp as a very bright and sharp thing that’s just been sharpened and polished. I know a lot of people don’t like reflective screens, but it works for me.
Another thing that’s nice is that the built-in speakers are actually not at all bad. Not serious hi-fi good, but more than adequate for listening to music while I work, so I’ve removed my Logitech speakers.
And one thing I haven’t actually tried yet, but should work, is using the Dell 20″ LCD as a secondary display – I’ve got the adaptor ready, and I’ll give it a try at some point.
As to the poor old Mini, I haven’t retired it – I’ve just moved it out of the way and left it running the Tiggercam and VMWare Fusion. That’s quite nice – I can leave the virtual machine running all the time without slowing down my main computer, and I connect to it from the iMac using the Microsoft RDP Client, which is nicely quick for that kind of thing.
More details as I think of them…
 I have a virtual Windows XP machine for the sole purpose of running Microsoft Money, which is still better than any currently available personal finance package on the Mac. The second I find one that works as well, I’ll drop the VM…
 It’s nice, keeping what I do at work and my home computing completely different
 Go into any shop selling computers and watch the non-computer people gravitate to the pretty computer
 8GB would have cost me at least an extra £500
 I’ll talk about that later