http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=theespsho-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=B0013FTCPU&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrDesktop computers are cheap nowadays, you can get one for a couple hundred bucks. The biggest drawback is that they are bulky, ugly and run Windows, which I loathe.
I decided to replace my huge desktop I had built with a Mac Mini, but I knew I wanted the server version for the power and hard drive capacity. I had no experience with Snow Leopard Server really so I didn’t know what to expect out of it. I gotta say, yet again Apple astounds me.
Not only is the little Mac Mini small and it only takes up a small corner of my desk, but it is gorgeous, powerful and simple to use. I’ll never understand why some folks prefer Windows over Mac, but this little thing is the showpiece for why folks should use a Mac.
The server version runs over $1000 usually, but I got mine on eBay for $800. The basic version is $600 and it has everything the average user needs. Mine has two drives at 500mb each, but I have two external enclosures hooked up to it with 2 1TB drives. I have the HDMI out going into a Samsung 32″ 720P TV and everything else links up with the Mini via Bluetooth or wireless.
The server version doesn’t have a DVD drive by design, so if I have a problem and need to reinstall, I would need to buy one. I have moved away from physical media like CD, DVD and Blu-Ray and I do everything digitally, so unless I have a major problem, I don’t plan on purchasing the DVD drive. It would be nice though if Apple would manufacture a USB drive restore like they did for the MacBook Air for the Mac Mini Server and just omit the discs that come with the device. It kinda seems silly to include discs in a device that has no reader.
Snow Leopard Server has a set of tools that are specific to it to configure the server, most of these are in the server folder in the dock. I have used some of them to configure the FTP Server, File Sharing and Web server. The server can also server as a Time Machine as well to backup other computers on your network, but it isn’t very practical since you have a 500GB ceiling of you are using the 1TB model. The other drive has to be dedicated to the OS. I currently have it set it to backup from one drive to the other with Time Machine. If something happens to one drive, I can get the other replaced and just do a restore, although, I am dubious in how this process would work. I would have to ship to Apple and trust that they would not touch the backup. At least I have some piece of mind though that I could restore individual files when I need to. I backup my MacBooks to a Time Machine on my network anyway.
I have had the Mini for a week so far and I am impressed with the power and speed. Mac OS X multitasks way better than Windows due to the Unix subsystem anyway, I never have problems with peripheral and device integrations and things just work when I want them to.
I am doing my mobile development for iOS between the Mini and my MacBook Pro. The Mini is a real inexpensive way to break into iOS development for iPhone and iPad for those of you out there wanting to get started. Just get the standard version of the mini. I promise that once you go Mac, you will never go back.