Although Apple does not capitalize the model name “mini,” the smallest Macintosh has still earned a reputation as “the little Mac that could.” Although it is always a generation behind in the CPU department, both G4 and Intel minis are popping up in some interesting places. Here are the top five creative uses for the Mac mini.
1). Network storage – Soon, every office (and home) will need a central hub for storage, so Network Attached Storage (NAS) is going to proliferate. A new iMac would be overkill, but the Mac mini is ideal, with both wireless remote access and Gigabit Ethernet for heavy transfers. Post-production pros require our Xserve RAID with its swift 2Gb Fibre Channel interface, but small-to-medium sized businesses can do well with the mini.
2). Videoconferencing – With a little effort, you can connect an iSight camera and a DVI-to-S-Video adapter to the mini and use a TV set for videoconferencing. You can use it for business, or set it up with a wireless ADSL router and Apple Remote Desktop and run it remotely for less-techie colleagues. You could also insert an iPad rental into the mix as a remote control with the right apps.
3). Office automation – For post-production, you need a potent Mac Pro. But even the “lowly” mini makes a great office automation server. One of the first (and best) basic automation programs is Indigo, and the new version supports both Insteon and X10 devices.
4). Media hub – You can configure the mini as a media server, connecting it to something like our LCD touchscreen monitor rental. Add the Mac’s “cover flow” interface for instant access to music and movies, then enjoy! You can set custom schedules for different playlists based on time of day, weather, etc.
5). Conversion strategy – After upgrading to a new Mac, some mini owners have given their little Macs to parents, siblings or friends to replace Windows PCs. Once they use a Mac, many “PC forever” folks make the change (yes, it’s a two-way street). Minis of any vintage are capable computers if you know their limits (forget gaming and complex 3D work, for instance).
• You can attach a Firewire drive to a mini and use it as a file server for storage/streaming of HD video. Even an old G4 won’t break a sweat.
• Presenters can use minis for Power Point presentations, and by attaching a digitizer tablet they can demonstrate solutions right inside Power Point. Great idea!