Last week, the old gaming laptop that my wife and I had repurposed for a media center PC decided to overheat and fry. I chose to replace it with a late 2012-edition Mac mini server I bought last week from Apple. I had highlighted the Mac mini in my recent gift guide and it does have a heck of a lot of bang for both the buck and space.
In a future article, I’ll talk more about my reasoning for the choice and steps to set the system up. For now, though, I want to share with you my first impressions (and some questions) after spending the weekend installing Windows 8 and migrating or reinstalling all my applications.
How the machine is used
Because we work from home, the PC we use in the media center is as much conference and collaboration system as it is a media center. We use it as a whiteboard when we have planning sessions, I often do my morning reading on it (sitting on the couch, while drinking my first cup of coffee). And I write a lot of articles on it, including this one.
It is not (much) used as a gaming PC, because we have Xboxen and a PS3 that do a great job. I might want to play some World of Warcraft on it (if I ever get back into the game), but that’s the extent of the gaming needs. However, we do watch a lot of video on this, especially YouTube videos (I watch a lot of technical videos and conferences), and so video performance is important.
Of particular note is that this PC supports two keyboards and two mice. My wife and I long ago figured that coordinating who had the keyboard was a royal pain, so we each keep our own personal keyboard and mouse on our own side of the couch. This also works well, because she likes different sized keyboards and mice than I do, and – apparently – there’s also “boy crud” from time-to-time on my gear.
Mac as BIOS
I’m still trying to get a handle on the relationship of the Mac environment and its Bootcamp Windows loader. I bought the Mac mini server, which comes with two drives and configured the machine to dual-boot.
I left Mac OS X Mountain Lion on one drive and dedicated the second drive to Windows 8. After installing, I set (from the Mac OS X side) the machine to use the Windows drive for startup, and so the machine boots directly into Windows on power-up.
During initial setup, I bound theBluetooth keyboard to OS X and when I installed Windows, I didn’t set up Bluetooth, but I still had access to the keyboard. This gave me the impression the keyboard (and probably a lot of what we would have once-called BIOS-level components) was being driven by either Mac OS X, or at least from the Mac’s firmware.
However, once I finished setting everything up, and I put the machine in the rack by our big screen TV, I ran into some problems. I added my wife’s keyboard and mouse, and suddenly the original keyboard wouldn’t work when I booted Windows.