How I ended up ordering a Mac Mini

Okay, so I’ve been a Windows user for about 14 years or so.

Before my first PC I had various home computers, my first being a Sinclair ZX81 bought with savings from my paper round. I upgraded that for a Sinclair ZX Spectrum and that stayed with me until I bought my Amiga 500 in 1988.

It was while I was using my Amiga that I first went online. I started using FidoNet and the best client software I could find for using FidoNet ran on the PC. I had a software PC emulator that I used for a while, and then I bought a hardware add-on that gave me a 286 on a card. I split my Amiga’s hard disk 10MB for Amiga, 10MB for PC and I guess I used it this way for quite a while.

Eventually I decided that I really had to get a PC. It was the way everything was going. I got a 486 dx2 66Mhz based machine and from then until about 3 weeks ago I was running Windows.

This is not to say that I ever particularly got on well with Windows. When it worked it was okay, but I always seemed to spend more time sorting out problems that it created than actually using the darned thing. I was always looking for alternatives.

In 1994 I started using OS/2 Warp. I also started to play with various Linux distributions. I still remember the thrill of recompiling my kernel for the first time. But what it all boiled down to was software. The software I wanted to use ran on Windows and whilst both OS/2 and Linux permitted the use of some Windows applications with varying degrees of success, well, it just seemed like it wasn’t worth all the hacking about when I could just, well, run them under Windows.

I used to play games quite a lot, and I ended up getting interested in online gaming. First it was Doom and Quake and then I discovered the all absorbing worlds of MMORPGs. Ultima Online, Everquest, Nexus, FFXI, World of Warcraft… I used to spend far too much time playing those games. Again, these all ran nicely under Windows so I was happy.

Over the last couple of years or so my interest in games has dwindled. My creative side reawakened, largely thanks to purchasing my first DSRL camera, a Canon 20D. Now my killer application was no longer a game, but Photoshop. I bought Photoshop CS2 for the PC and happily set to learning how to use the beast.

But Windows frustrations continued. I was sick to death of having to run a whole suit of applications just to keep Windows ’secure’ - anti-virus, software firewall (I was already behind a hardware one), several anti-spyware programs. I had long ago ditched using Internet Explorer and never used Outlook for email - but the security threats were still there.

Even without those then Windows just seemed to get it’s knickers in a twist periodically and I would have to just resign myself to reinstalling the whole thing from scratch. Admittedly, the frequency with which I had to do this had subsided over the years. It was almost a standing joke with my friends that I re-installed Windows 95 every few weeks - and it was true - from floppy disk at that! Windows 2000 and Windows XP were certainly a lot more stable, but the malware threat seemed to just keep increasing.

I think that it reached a critical point last year. I was having to reinstall Windows XP yet again. I had my ‘re-install DVD’ handy, a disk I made up to have all the latest drivers and updates for software I used easily available for when I had to re-install Windows. I had recently changed my video card and I’d forgotten to put the latest version of the Omega Drivers on the disk. I just fired up IE, Googled for Omega Drivers and clicked on the link. As soon as the page fired up I knew I’d been had. I should have known better than to go online at all before I’d installed my anti-virus. I sighed to myself as my machine was riddled with various bits of malware as soon as the page opened. I could have tried to clean them all up of course, but seeing as how I had a clean install I just went back and did it again so that there was no nagging doubt about any of this crap being left behind on my system.

In my search for an alternative OS I had always overlooked OS X and the Mac because I just didn’t think I could afford one. The machines seemed very expensive for what you got, and that was the only way to run OS X. I loved the look of the OS and I loved the stability and security it offered. But there was no way I could justify the expense.

With Apple’s announcement of their plans to use Intel chips last year, my interest was rekindled. Maybe, just maybe they would produce a shrink wrapped version of OS X that would install on a standard PC? It seemed unlikely, after all, Apple primarily make their money from selling hardware.

I kept playing with Linux, but the inability to run Photoshop kept driving me away. Sure I could use The Gimp, but I’d made quite an investment in Photoshop and I wasn’t going to throw that down the drain.

My need to run Photoshop clarified the choices I had. Photoshop would run on two platforms, Windows or Mac. Did I want to carry on using Windows? I took a look at the Beta of Windows Vista and decided that I really didn’t like the look of what was coming down the line from Microsoft. 5 whole years since Windows XP had been introduced, and this is the best they can manage? OS X still seemed to be light years ahead.

And then at the end of February 2006, Apple announced the introduction of their Intel based Mac Mini. I’d looked at the Mac Mini before but had been put off, as ever, by thinking of all my investment in the Windows platform over the years. This time it felt different. If I was ever to make a break away from Windows then I would wave goodbye to most of that investment anyway. I could run Photoshop on a Mac and that seemed to be all that mattered.

I read up on OS X and drooled at the possibilities. It won me over. On Friday March 3rd 2006 I placed my order for my Mac Mini. It was to be the Core Duo, with 1GB of RAM and a 100GB hard disk. And most importantly, it would of course come pre-installed with OS X Tiger and iLife 06.

It seemed like a very long two weeks while I waited for my Mac Mini to be delivered.