Category: "Mac stuff"

Mac instead of PC for PHP/Web development?

I have recently put together a new Core 2 duo PC for doing my web development. And I have been asked why I didn't get a Core 2 duo Mac instead...

The question definitely makes sense. You can now get essentially the same components into a PC or a Mac. So the choice would boil down to:

  • Design
  • OS
  • Software


Well, the Macs look better, definitely.


If you choose your hardware carefully, you can get a pretty decent looking PC. Check out these Antec enclosures (they have a nice quality feeling by the way) or these Sony displays.

And also, if you actually want to connect 3 screens to a Mac, you'll definitely need one of those bigger Mac Pros where you can put in a PC video card. And those sort of lose their coolness factor over the iMacs. But to be fair, I guess you could get away with a 24" iMac ;)

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If you crash your mac: AppleJack!

And even if you don't crash your Mac bad, you want AppleJack. Everytime you hard reset/reboot your mac you add a few errors on your hard drive structure. And as time goes by, you get more and more of those turning pizzas/beach balls and you just don"t know why...

Run Apple Jack and your Mac will feel all clean and new again! ;)

Apple Mighty Mouse goes wireless... but how far away?

Wireless Mighty Mouse
Wireless Mighty Mouse

Until now, Apple had a cool mouse called the Mighty Mouse with all the advanced features you'd expect from a mouse (right click, scroll weel... even better: multidirectional scrolling ball)... it just wasn't wireless.

Apple also had a Wireless mouse... but it had only one button! :(

Today, you can finally get the best of both worlds! The mighty mouse with all it's buttons becomes wireless! Apple has even improved the pointing technology which is now a laser instead of an LED. This should allow for smoother movement on more surfaces...

...except this one little detail: the problem with the Apple wireless mice is not the pointing technology... it is the bluetooth technology! Apple bluetooth is just not reliable any more if you get more than 2 meters away from your Mac. (Home entertainement use... Of course you have less issues on a desktop... but do you really need a wireless mouse on a desktop?)

It seems that the mouse can operate on either one or two batteries. So you might expect it to have more power and greater operating range when you insert a second battery. Unfortunately, I seriously doubt that will be the case. The "old" wireless mouse had 2 batteries already... :-/

Ironically... I think I'll buy it anyway... yeah, even at 69 €... I just want that thing in my living room! :P

About Apple Bluetooth

One of my biggest frustrations with the Mac Mini has been using the mouse... the Bluetooth Wireless Mouse actually...

The pointer movement just wasn't smooth enough... just not as responsive as it is on Windows...

I first blamed it on using PowerPC applications with Rosetta being so processor intensive that the mouse driver had problems actually tracking the mouse movement. But no, that's an explanation I have to keep for poor video playback on exotic formats. Mouse movement also skips when the Mac is idle.

I also blamed it on some background task like a file indexing daemon. But again, that's a poor explanation. (I still have to figure out how to ps -aux on the Mac though ;))

I finally blamed it on the Bluetooth... and I wonder why it took me so long to fgure that out. When the mouse starts skipping, all I have to do is get closer to the Mac and the mouse will instantly work smoothly again.

The sad thing here is that I'm not so far away with my mouse! I'm only using it from accross my living room... which means 2-3 meters away from the Mac. With a straight line of sight!

I thought Bluetooth was supposed to have a 10 meter operating range! Well it seems the Apple Mouse only has a 2 meters operating range. Such a shame!

I occasionally get Bluetooth disconnects of the wireless keyboard also, but those have never bothered me that much. Maybe I just don't realize each keypress has to be retransmitted 4 or 5 times! ?

Now I have 2 options: either I move the couch closer to the TV (should have bought a smaller one! :-/) or I find a way to improve the Bluetooth... I wonder if you can boost it someway! Sure you can't connect an external Bluetooth antenna to the Mac Mini... but I wonder if putting some metallic object at a very specific spot on the Mini could actually act as an amplifying antenna... :roll:

Two weeks of facts about the Intel Mac Mini

The 10 feet interface

Okay, well, one of the reasons I've been quiet for the last two weeks is because I got myself one of those intel Mac Minis...

The bottom line is: I love that thing!

But here's a little more details... including answers I coouldn't find anywhere on the net before (so I just had to buy it to check it out by myself). (My configuration is a Duo Core with 512 MB of RAM and 100 GB of hard disk. Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. DVI to PAL adapter for TV.)

  • The mac mini is insanely easy to install...
  • ...but it would have been even easier if Apple didn't state in the manual that "if you have bluetooth devices refer to the device doc" which in turn says "install the OS update disc" except you can't because you haven't booted the mac yet. All crap. All you need to do is put the batteries into the keyboard and the mouse, plug the power into the Mini and boot up. Everything gets detected nicely.
  • The Mini IS quiet! Even with a double core! Even when moving videos all around while watching one. I was really surprised by how quiet it is. It is the most quiet fan equipped appliance I have ever seen (I cannot even say "I heard").
  • The Mac Mini Core Duo boots up in 22 seconds. It goes to sleep in 2 seconds. It wakes up in 1 second! Niiiice!
  • The Rosetta Power PC emulation stuff is... errr... working as long as you don't intend to use it seriously. Firefox is a nightmare to emulate with Rosetta. Make sure your apps are released in "Universal" (Intel compiled) format or you're screwed. (Note: FireFox should be released shortly in Universal format.
  • Even if you can't fill a 60 GB iPod, you'll fill up a 100 GB Mac Mini in no time. Get a bigger drive!
  • The iLife'06 suite of applications is a treat! You'll never want to manage you music, photos or videos on a PC again!
  • The Front Row 10 feet interface with the remote is fun too... but mostly for showing it off! It doesn't cut it on day to day use. You can't sort your podcasts. You can't organize your content as you wish. You have to listen to playslists in random order. Fast forwarding or rewinding is a nightmare! The only way you'll be able to bear the clogged remote operation is if you've hurt yourself trying to remote control an iPod before. In that respect, it's good. Otherwise, I can only hope Apple will improve the system in the future.
  • For day to day use, the bluetooth keyboard (which can emulate the remote) and the bluettoth mouse will work better.
  • The mouse however sucks big time! It will move erratically. I haven't figured out yet if it's because of bluettoth interference with the keyboard, because of a bad optical sensor, because of a lousy driver or something else. Btw, you should know that the bluetooth mouse from Apple has only one button with no hidden right click like the Mighty Mouse and worse: the mouse driver had absolutely NO PROVISION for adjusting acceleration. This is to me the biggest concern for a Windows user like me. The mouse doesn't move as I expect it to (even with my PC USB mouse) and I constantly over or under shoot the target. It makes me want to tear my eyes off... and there's just nothing you can do! ... So, well, mouse operation sucks, but since remote control operation sucks too, I maintain that the bluettoth solution is better for everyday use, even from the couch! :P
  • Video output: The driver has an "optimize for video" setting which seems to do just nothing. Otherwise than that, when using the DVI/PAL adapter the image was not centered on my screen. There is an "overscan" checkbox which when used will: a) fill the TV screen nicely, b) hide the menu bar and the dock and make the mac mini useless if not used with the remote (good luck for setting it back) and c) make any DVD play in a corner of the screen instead of full screen. Totally ridiculous. Make sure you can adjust screen size and position on your TV like you can on a monitor... or you're screwed. Well, of course if you connect to a flat panel via DVI (or HDMI) you have no problem. For the rest of us... hunt the "Service Menu" on your TV!
  • Digital audio output: The mini can connect to a Digital Amplifier in order to render full 5.1 surround sound. I connected it to my Denon AVR, then tried a couple of DVDs and all I could get was stereo sound. The AVR was only receiving a stereo digital stream. I called up Apple Care and they made me go through half a dozen setup screen (nice tour of the Mac Utilities folder) and finally came to the conclusion that my Mac was not able to output 5.1 sound. Excuse me? Was Steve jobs lying during the keynote? ... Well I later found how to enable it: remove any DVD from the drive, then launch the DVD player app (not Front Row), then go to Settings, then tell it to output the DVD sound directly to the digital output instead of using the Mac Mini sound processing system... which actually turns out to be only stereo. So you can watch DVDs in 5.1, but if you try to rip a DVD to a 5.1 DivX, I fear you're screwed. Bleh!
  • Finally, when using the digital out the Mac doesn't control the volume any more. You have to use the AVR remote. Those nice volume keys on the keybord, as well as 2 of the 6 remote buttons are useless...

Conclusion: there are a lot of details that certainly itch the geek inside of me, but at the end of the day I always enjoy to wake up the mini and watch a couple of video podcasts it will download automagically. I admit I even use the remote for that :) (Well, I programmed my AVR remote to mimic the Apple remote ;))

Also, the whole user experience (except that thing with the mouse) is so much smoother than on Windows. The apps are pre-installed and nicely integrated with one another. And most of all: most of it "just works as expected". (Except the mouse, did I mention that before?)

Finally, on week-ends it takes no longer than 2 minutes to move the Mini to the desk and connect it to a real monitor for a little iLife experience. I gotta come back on this later.

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