Mac Mini Mothballed

July 25, 2015 - But for Apple, I would have kept it going much longer.

I have a stark comparison for you. Until this morning, my little Mac Mini sat on my desk next to a much more imposing Dell Vostro 220. Both PCs are of the same vintage. The Mac Mini is now in a storage box while the Dell remains on my desk and will for several more years.

I didn't buy the Mac with any intention of using it as a primary PC. I bought it so I could test the Web sites I build on the Mac using the Safari browser. I also wanted to become familiar with Mac and OS/X so I could speak more intelligently about it with family, friends, and clients.

I also used it as a cut out. If there was something that I thought might be dangerous but still wanted to explore (like a risky or unknown Web site), I'd switch to the Mac and experiment there. With no serious work on it, getting the Mac clobbered wouldn't affect my work.

In other words, shuttering the Mac doesn't affect my work at all. I don't need the Mac. But I confess that I liked having it there, liked being able to pop over to it once and a while for the minor purposes it served and to keep current on it.

That's where things have gone bad. From Apple's perspective, my Mini is a dead box because there are no OS/X updates for it and therefore, unfortunately, no Safari browser updates either. The truth is that if I could get a current version of OS/X, I would take the risk of upgrading RAM and installing a larger hard drive, maybe even an SSD. Instead, the Mini is in the box, never to be used again.

Oh, that comparison I was talking about. The Dell Vostro 220 is no barn burner. It's a basic, entry-level business computer from the Windows Vista era. I obtained it from a business no longer in business and at no cost (thanks, Sharon!). All I've done to it so far is upgrade it from Vista Business to Windows 7 Pro, a process that went as smooth as silk and resulted in a very clean, very peppy system. Not only that, it turns out that the system qualifies for Windows 10 and has adequate specifications to run it.

There is no question that this simple desktop will run for several more years. I plan to replace the hard drive (because of age, not infirmity) but I do not plan to accept the Windows 10 upgrade. I want a retro system, at least until the end of Windows 7 support (2020), by which time the PC will surely either die on its own or be less useful to me.

The 220 will replace the function formerly provided by the Mac Mini except, of course, for Web testing. Well, I say that, but being unable to get a Safari update, the Mini hasn't served that purpose in nearly two years.

The starkness of the comparison is simply stated. Apple treated my Mac as if it were an iPhone with an expected life of two years. After that, nothing. Meanwhile, this lowly Dell ran Microsoft's Windows Vista, now runs 7, will clearly run 8/8.1, and has been qualified by Microsoft for the free Windows 10 upgrade. Wait, there's more! The Mini cost $650 and provided me with adequate service for about 4 years, call it $170/year. The Vostro cost $550 (a price that included a display) and has already been in service for 7 years ($80/year).

Why on earth would anyone want a Mac?