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Free Software on a Cheap Computer

Zonk posted about 9 years ago | from the tiny-penguin-coop dept.

Apple 625

Shell writes "Is this the solution to free software on a cheap computer? NetBSD and Yellow Dog Linux have both begun to support the Mac Mini. This article from IBM looks at open source operating system options on this new contender in the embedded PowerPC platform space." From the article: "This article looks at the current state of Linux and NetBSD support on the Mini. If you need all the hardware and options fully supported, these open source options won't do it for you ... yet. But, if all you need is a stable kernel, a C compiler, and network support, the code is high-quality and the price is unbeatable." This is part two in the series. Part One was covered a while back.

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OS included? (5, Insightful)

WilyCoder (736280) | about 9 years ago | (#12194376)

Is it possible to get a mini without the apple OS?

If you can't, then whats the point? You've already paid for an OS....

Re:OS included? (4, Interesting)

ciroknight (601098) | about 9 years ago | (#12194399)

The computer's so cheap, Apple's pretty much undercutting themselves in the OS's cost. Those machines probably cost every bit of 2-300$ to build, which would pretty much say the entire profit margin goes to selling their operating system. Apple is a software company, that just so happens to expect the best when it comes to hardware and peripherials.

Re:OS included? (3, Informative)

AaronBrethorst (860210) | about 9 years ago | (#12194436)

Bullshit. Apple is a hardware company that happens to need to make software in order to move their pretty plastic boxes (and I am typing this on my iBook G4, FWIW).

Re:OS included? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194519)

and might i call BS again? apple is both. they were the pioneers of many software innovations, and they make some of the most stable, brilliantly designed hardware systems on the market today. they don't just make Mac OS X, iLife, Final Cut Pro, DVD Studio Pro, Logic, Motion, etc. so their boxes would sell. they could sell those machines (with x86 processors) with windows on them and still make a killing. but they are hardware AND software innovators, and make quite a bit of money doing both. last time i checked, they were billions out of the hole, and had $5.2 billion in cash alone, no debt. thats more than can be said about a lot of PC-based companies.

Re:OS included? (5, Funny)

jericho4.0 (565125) | about 9 years ago | (#12194573)

I call BS on all three of you. Apple is a magical place, staffed by gnomes, that sells hardware, software, and drugs to children.

Re:OS included? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194606)

I call BS on all you four. An apple is a piece of fruit.

Re:OS included? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194634)

Thanks for the laugh. :)

Re:OS included? (5, Insightful)

ciroknight (601098) | about 9 years ago | (#12194540)

Odd, you know what motivated me to buy one of their pretty plastic boxes (iBook G4 as well)? iTunes.

I was so impressed on how well iTunes worked for me, though not being perfect, it seemlessly worked with my iPod and my crappy Riothingy I had at the time. When time came to buy a laptop for college, I looked at my options and saw OS X. Now, I'd seen OS X before; 10.0 disks came with my teacher's G4 desktop (our school's video editing machine), but it wasn't quite the beast I was looking at on Apple's website. I thought, "an entire operating system, as seemless as iTunes, as crashproof as OS X, and good battery life on their laptops." I was sold.

I would have NEVER considered an Apple product had it not been for OS X 10.3. 10.0 was fine and dandy, but it seemed sluggish, nothing seemed to work quite the way it should have, and required expensive hardware to run on. OS X 10.3, however, was stylish, integrated, things Just Work(tm)ed and on top of it all, it was a HELL of a lot cheaper than the Wintel laptop I considered (1300 w/ educational deal, plus 69 for another iPod, vs 2100 for the Dell I would have otherwise got [centrino]).

Re:OS included? (1)

jacksonj04 (800021) | about 9 years ago | (#12194642)

I'm with you on this, I'm currently looking at getting a Mac simply because iTunes and iPod are so slick at working together, and given Apple's reputation for keeping on at something until they get it right (along with a quick prod at OS X) I think it's safe to assume everything is just seamless.

Re:OS included? (3, Interesting)

cowscows (103644) | about 9 years ago | (#12194406)

That's what I was thinking. Anyone who's got needs so specific that, as the article write up says, they don't include the full functionality of the hardware; well, if that's you, you're probably capable of building your own systems for a even cheaper.

The mac mini is cool and all, but it's not the first solution to cheap machine with free software. Maybe the first powerPC machine, maybe the first that has a the fancy case design, but that's about it. This is not going to be the piece of hardware that finally brings linux to the third world masses. You'd have to bring the price down quite a bit more for that.

Re:OS included? (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194515)

Dude, just because Debian id my favorite OS and just because I know how to build a computer doesn't mean I can't afford paying someone else to do the dirty work. Stop stereotyping.

Re:OS included? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194432)

I'm with you on that. This is a solution in search of a problem.

Re:OS included? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194452)

i agree, whats the point, unless a PPC can be bought without going thru Apple...

Re:OS included? (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194455)

It's for people like me who like Apple HW, but think that OS/X sucks. If you don't like it, don't use it and STFU.

cheap $500 ? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194651)

$500 is not cheap for a mac mini CPU box.

$200 would be cheap and about the right price point for a mac mini type box.

Sunk cost (5, Insightful)

omnirealm (244599) | about 9 years ago | (#12194697)

If you can't, then whats the point? You've already paid for an OS

When making decisions about your future actions, you should not take into consideration what you have already spent. That's a sunk cost [wikipedia.org], and it can only serve to bias your decision. Rather, you should be considering, from where you stand right now, what your best options are for the future. This is why companies will spend millions on building a new facility, only to abandon it one month before completion. They do this because they figure that they will wind up losing more by continuing to dump time and effort into the facility, so what's the point?

If you get more usability, security, performance, or what have you, out of Linux than you do out of MacOS X, then it does not matter whether or not you have already paid for MacOS X. That has nothing to do with what operating system you should be using from this point forward.

Unbeatable? (5, Insightful)

gellenburg (61212) | about 9 years ago | (#12194379)

But, if all you need is a stable kernel, a C compiler, and network support, the code is high-quality and the price is unbeatable.

Especially when all of these things ... as well as full hardware support comes with the f*cking computer!.

Ever hear of installing the Developer Tools on your Installation CD?

No offense, I'm a big *BSD supporter, but this article's summary is rediculous.

Re:Unbeatable? (4, Insightful)

Visaris (553352) | about 9 years ago | (#12194416)

Mod parent up. This article is a waste of time. I know people like to put linux and *BSD on everything, but talking about this as a price/feature advantage is just crazy. When the mini comes with OS X, which supports gcc, gdb, X windows, (almost all gnu software) as well as all the Mac software, why the hell would throwing out all that support somehow become "cost savings" ?

Re:Unbeatable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194430)

It's "ridiculous", not "rediculous" you retarded smacktard.

Re:Unbeatable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194459)

It's ridiculous!

Re:Unbeatable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194619)

Take it easy, rediculus [slashdot.org] beats it.

created by ACPosterChild (719409), which somehow fits here :)

Re:Unbeatable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194633)

Ooops, it was rediculos.

Re:Unbeatable? (4, Insightful)

ciroknight (601098) | about 9 years ago | (#12194462)

Everyon'es got an agenda to push. It just so happens this article's trying to push the free software agenda. Sadly, I don't think they do so effectively; the Mini Mac is virtually a perfect desktop computer, it comes with a great, fully functioning and partially Windows/Linux compatible operating system, great hardware support, a decent hard drive for the home user (though lacking for the mid-upper range users we are), and Wifi (if you want it) to integrate seamlessly into your home's wireless network.

I just don't understand the need for better software on the machine, even if it is lacking in the USB/Firewire (read: hardware) department.

Re:Unbeatable? (1)

Eternally optimistic (822953) | about 9 years ago | (#12194550)

Suppose I develop software for linux, and I want to run it on PPC machines as well. Then the Mac Mini seems like an ok machine, I don't have to buy it in parts. And I don't get any money back if I use the OS that it comes with. Plus, it's such a pretty box.

Re:Unbeatable? (1)

ciroknight (601098) | about 9 years ago | (#12194590)

Can't help you in the pretty box department, because that it most definitely is. If you develop for linux, and you want to run on PPC as well, you're MUCH better off buying an old Whitebox G3 or G4 for $100, than the whole kittenkaboodle of the Mini Mac. If you have a need for speed, throw an accellerator card in it for another 50-100, depending on how drastic that need for speed it... That way you save a good 200$ on money that would have went to pay for the operating system. And if you're having problems locating a box, head to any K-12 school, they should be able to help you out.

Re:Unbeatable? (1)

gellenburg (61212) | about 9 years ago | (#12194599)

Then provide the souce code and Makefile and your Mac users can compile it themselves.

In all seriousness, there is not //one// Linux-created piece of software (that I wanted to run) which I couldn't compile for myself under Mac OS X. With or without Fink.

Re:Unbeatable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194523)

If all you need is a stable kernel, a C compiler, and network support, then MacOS X is bloated. With NetBSD or Yellow Dog Linux, you're trading bloat for more RAM and free disk space that can be dedicated to number crunching. How hard is this to understand?

Re:Unbeatable? (1)

gellenburg (61212) | about 9 years ago | (#12194574)

Then set your Mac to start up in text-mode only.

Run Darwin's version of X11 and KDE if you want to.

You still have access to GCC and the rest of the development environment (and hardware support) sans X-Code or any other Aqua development tool.

Then again, you wouldn't have access to those under YDL or NetBSD either.

Re:Unbeatable? (1)

Lussarn (105276) | about 9 years ago | (#12194605)

Can somebody intelligent explain to me why mac users take it personally offensive if someone like Linux more than OS X.

Another question. Why do mac users equal all *nixes? OS X may be a *nix but not my way of doing things so why must I run it? Is it that mac users don't know anything about unix and just use it as a sales-argument for us that do?

Re:Unbeatable? (1)

gellenburg (61212) | about 9 years ago | (#12194678)

Can somebody intelligent explain to me why mac users take it personally offensive if someone like Linux more than OS X.

No offense was inferred or taken by anybody choosing to run whatever they want to run on their hardware.

The offense was someone claiming that running YDL or NetBSD offered a cost benefit and savings.

Another question. Why do mac users equal all *nixes? OS X may be a *nix but not my way of doing things so why must I run it? Is it that mac users don't know anything about unix and just use it as a sales-argument for us that do?

Removes BoFH hat for a moment...

  • Mac OS X - Proprietary extensions to Darwin
  • Darwin - Apple's port of FreeBSD
  • FreeBSD - Rewrite of BSD 4.4 (UNIX)
  • BSD 4.4 - Berkeley extensions to AT&T System V Release 4 UNIX

AT&T System V Release 4 is UNIX.

BSD 4.4 is UNIX.

FreeBSD is UNIX.

Darwin is UNIX.

Mac OS X is UNIX.

What neither of them are is Linux, and for some that reason alone means they can't consider any other option, and I understand (but don't agree), and accept their reasoning.

Cheap? Hardly. (0, Troll)

mr.henry (618818) | about 9 years ago | (#12194380)

...the price is unbeatable.


$500 for a plain, low end box is not cheap. A Dell 2.8 GHz P4 with a 19" LCD, keyboard, and mouse for $529 [gotapex.com] is cheap.

True, Steve Jobs has not blessed it and you probably won't see it used by some trendy featherbrain on "Sex and the City," but it can crunch a lot of numbers for hundreds less than a similarly configured Mac.

Re:Cheap? Hardly. (-1, Troll)

stratjakt (596332) | about 9 years ago | (#12194438)

You can watch a movie or play a game full screen on that PC too.

Why can't OSX display anything fullscreen? Really, I want to know. What's the reason for this?

Please, zealots, don't reply telling me what an amazing "feature" this is. It's absolutely fucking retarded to pay 2 grand for one of those cinerama displays, and not be able to use it to watch a movie.

Re:Cheap? Hardly. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194474)


Re:Cheap? Hardly. (1)

nat5an (558057) | about 9 years ago | (#12194495)

Someone should mod parent down as flamebait. I watch full-screen movies and play full-screen games on my 20" cinema display all the time. Parent post doesn't know what he's talking about.

Re:Cheap? Hardly. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194518)

Have you ever tried to display anything full screen in OS X? Apparently not, judging by your comment... as far as movies, DVD Player, QuickTime Player, Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, VLC, and mplayer all have full screen options right in their menu bars. And almost every game DEFAULTS to being full screen... to run it in a window, you have to go change the settings somewhere.

Perhaps you are referring to the difference between windows maximize window and OS X's zoom window functions. This is a matter of preference (one makes windows take up the whole screen, the other makes them fit their contents to save screen real estate). In general, which ever you are used to is the one you prefer (for example, Photoshop on Windows drives me nuts for this very reason).

Re:Cheap? Hardly. (1)

dark13star (91106) | about 9 years ago | (#12194569)

What are you talking about? I have a 30" Cinema Display and I can watch DVDs on it in full screen mode. I can also do full screen in Quicktime Player and MPlayer. Granted, most things look grainy in full screen, but that is just because there are so many pixels to fill and even HD video needs to be enlarged to do full screen on this size display. The capability is certainly there though.

Re:Cheap? Hardly. (5, Informative)

nunchux (869574) | about 9 years ago | (#12194475)

You fail to mention that this system is listed at nearly double that price, and the link shows you how to go through rebate hell to get a deal. And the deal expires tonight.

Re:Cheap? Hardly. (4, Informative)

bcrowell (177657) | about 9 years ago | (#12194684)

You fail to mention that this system is listed at nearly double that price, and the link shows you how to go through rebate hell to get a deal. And the deal expires tonight.
The grandparent's point is perfectly valid. Fry's sells Great Quality brand generic PCs for $180-250. I've bought several of them to run Linux on, and they've worked just fine. The price doesn't include a monitor, but that's not an issue if you already have one.

It boggles my mind that people are still referring to a $500 computer as cheap. That hasn't been a good price since at least five years ago.

Re:Cheap? Hardly. (5, Informative)

McDutchie (151611) | about 9 years ago | (#12194556)

$500 for a plain, low end box is not cheap. A Dell 2.8 GHz P4 with a 19" LCD, keyboard, and mouse for $529 [gotapex.com] is cheap.

No DVD player in the Dell, nor FireWire, nor a modem, nor a stack of bundled software, nor 90 days of free telephone support. Nor is it small, or silent. Laptop technology, which is what the Mini uses, is more expensive.

Just because the Dell costs less doesn't mean the Mac Mini isn't cheap, especially since the box contains more in less space.

Re:Cheap? Hardly. (1)

m50d (797211) | about 9 years ago | (#12194610)

I'm curious when you say dvd player. If it's got no drive you have a point, but they're pretty cheap, what $30 or something? If you dropped the processor a little I'm sure you could get one with DVD drive. If you mean the player then you can get them free all over the internet. The same for the software. Modems are hardly used anymore, although all the systems I see on sale tend to have one included, you normally get one with your isp connection. What do you want firewire for? I'll agree with you on the laptop technology, that's what you're paying for for the most part, but apple tends to have a bigger markup on this kind of thing because they're apple as well. If you don't need the silence, you're better off getting something else. Even if you do need it, you should certainly shop around.

Re:Cheap? Hardly. (2, Insightful)

bonch (38532) | about 9 years ago | (#12194561)

This argument was addressed countless times after the mini's release. You're comparing apples and oranges [macworld.com].

I can't tell my musician friend to go out and buy your Dell and expect to get a free music sequencer installed, along with the rest of the software. He won't even get a Firewire port to use his M-Audio Firewire 410 with. And he won't get OS X instead of Windows XP.

Re:Cheap? Hardly. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194637)

Screw the free sequencer ;P, the whole reason I bought a Mac was so I could run Logic Audio. I'm still not sure why you would install Linux on it though, I have 4 computers running Linux in my apartment all of which I got for free. Can't get any cheaper than free.

Re:Cheap? Hardly. (2, Insightful)

m50d (797211) | about 9 years ago | (#12194689)

That page is talking nonsense. I'm not saying you're wrong, but that's not the way to show it. 32mb of 256mb ram is not a huge difference. Having two separate optical drives is BETTER, it means you can copy discs on the fly. Add in the price for the separate cd burner, it's less than the monitor and keyboard/mouse, so the dell still comes out over $100 cheaper. If you're really worried about the ram, stick a 128mb stick in the dell as well, then the dell has three times the advantage, and it's going to be what, $30-50 for that ram stick? Ignoring the fact that you can't buy a 32mb stick for a reasonable price, the extra video ram in the mini is only worth about $10 more. $334+10+53 for the cd burner means it's still $100+ cheaper. The only other advantage is in software, but you can get all of that free off the internet. The article makes a big fuss about no antivirus, but getting a free scanner is easy as that. If the OS's limitations are a big problem, who cares when you can get a full OS better than either of them for the time it takes you to download, or $5. (Mepis from cheeplinux or similar)

Text inclase we /. an IBM server(not likely)!!!!!! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194385)

An embedded view of the Mac Mini, Part 2: Free software on a cheap computer
e-mail it!

Backups and system partitions
Yellow Dog Linux on Power
NetBSD on Power
About the author
Rate this article
Related content:
An embedded view of the Mac Mini, Part 1: Apple's new PowerPC BSP
Reduce compile time with distcc
New to Linux page
Windows-to-Linux roadmap
IBM Migration station
dW newsletters
Running Linux and BSD on the Mac Mini

Level: Introductory

Peter Seebach (crankyuser@seebs.plethora.net)
Freelance writer
05 Apr 2005

NetBSD and Yellow Dog Linux have both begun to support the Mac Mini. Peter Seebach looks at open source operating system options on this new contender in the embedded PowerPC platform space.

Apple's native operating system software offers you the best hardware support on Apple hardware, and the Mac Mini is no exception. Some of the hardware works just fine under open source systems; some isn't supported at all, or works only partially.

This article looks at the current state of Linux(TM) and NetBSD support on the Mini. If you need all the hardware and options fully supported, these open source options won't do it for you ... yet. But, if all you need is a stable kernel, a C compiler, and network support, the code is high-quality and the price is unbeatable.

Before you even think about installing a new operating system, make backups. Conveniently, the Mini's hard drive will be 80GB or smaller, so it's easy to back up everything on the disk. An external FireWire bay and a large enough disk to make backups is a very good investment here. Make backups. Really! Even if you're not going to install another operating system, please make the tech support workers of the world happy and make an extra set of backups right now, just in case.

Backups and system partitions
One of the nuisances of Mac OS X is that the partitioning program takes a very all-or-nothing approach to partitioning. If you alter any aspect of the partition table using Disk Utility, all of the partitions on the disk will be wiped. In the Mac OS 9 days, there was third-party software to let you move, copy, and even resize partitions. For Mac OS X, you have to use Disk Utility or pdisk. For more information about partitioning, see Resources.

As a result, repartitioning your disk to make room for a new operating system will require a reinstall. The only way around this is to make space on a second disk, or move your Mac OS X operating system to the second disk. There's a program called Carbon Copy Cloner which can make a proper and bootable copy of your Mac OS X system disk on an external disk (see Resources). Once you've done that, you can boot from that disk, and repartition the internal disk.

The Mac OS X install disc that comes with the Mini won't let you install directly to an external disk. It says this is because the computer can't boot from an external disk, but in fact, it can. Simply copying files over from your boot disk generally won't give you a bootable disk. This is where a utility like Carbon Copy Cloner can be useful. The Mac is friendly about letting you specify which of several partitions to boot from, once you have installed the OS on them.

The partitioning scheme that will work for you depends a little on what operating systems you want to load, and how much you'll be using each of them. If you're going to run the machine as a dedicated BSD or Linux system, it's a little simpler than if you're planning to dual-boot: you can just dedicate the disk to your operating system of choice. For dual-boot, you'll want multiple partitions, and you may end up reloading a couple of times figuring out how much space to allocate to each system.

Formatting disks on the command line
Partitioning and formatting can also be done from the command line. (DOS/Windows® users will be comfortable thinking of partitioning as what FDISK does, and formatting as what FORMAT does.) Partitioning can be done using the pdisk utility program. Many other things can be done using the diskutil program. The Disk Utility application performs the same kinds of tasks as diskutil; diskutil is less restricted, but Disk Utility is easier, and often safer. No matter what, you will need to boot from another disk (the install CD will work) to repartition the hard disk in your Mac, and you will lose all data on the disk when you do so. Did I mention that you should make backups?

Yellow Dog Linux on Power
Yellow Dog Linux (YDL) is based closely on RedHat's Fedora Core 2 operating system; the installer will be immediately familiar to users who have loaded Fedora recently (and easy to follow even if you haven't). YDL comes on eight CDs: four install CDs, and four source CDs. That's a lot of CDs! There isn't a DVD distribution available, and anyone who is used to the modern Apple single-DVD distributions will find this a little frustrating. Still, the install is easy, simple, and quick. Assuming, that is, you've prepped the disk with some free space for the installer, or plan to overwrite the whole disk. You can install YDL to an external drive, but it requires more configuration and setup. It may be easier to install it on the internal drive, and let Mac OS deal with booting from the external drive. Either way, you're going to be doing some shuffling if you want to keep your Mac OS X install.

If you find yourself thinking that your Mini isn't cute enough, and you want extra cute, YDL provides instructions for repartitioning an iPod and using it as the boot disk (see Resources). This is awfully cool. It's worth noting that Yellow Dog Linux supports HFS+ file systems. This makes it easier to move files around, access your Mac OS X backups, and so on. So, if you don't mind losing a chunk of your iPod's disk to a Linux install, you can use it to test drive Linux. But before you do this, again -- make backups. On the iPod, that means make sure you've backed up all your songs, the firmware, and so on. The instructions on the Yellow Dog site give more information about this (see Resources).

YDL has a bit of experience improving Linux support for PowerPC®, and some Mac-specific fixes as well. These will presumably make it back into the main Linux tree, but they often show up in YDL first. The company has been producing PowerPC Linux for quite a while, and also has versions for the G5 and a number of non-Mac PowerPC boards. As is often the case with non-x86 Linux distros, the source tree is not always completely current, and there's a little bit of drift. But for anyone who is concerned about PowerPC Linux keeping up with other branches, rest assured that the situation has improved a great deal since the first PowerPC patches were made available.

Hardware support
For a machine built from unusual parts, some of them laptop parts, the Mini was surprisingly functional before developers even had time to write any code for it. For instance, the Yellow Dog 4.0 release, which didn't officially support the Mini, installed and booted successfully, although it had some video quirks. On February 9th, Terra Soft announced a new release with support for the Mini. Even without this new release, the Mini was mostly functional. The things lacking were Airport Extreme and audio. The video worked, although it was stuck at 640x480. The hardware support is suspiciously similar to what you get on some laptops.

Support is rapidly evolving. Announcements of test boots and driver patches came out within days of the release of the Mini; the limiting factor seems to have been limited hardware availability, not developer interest. Current releases of Yellow Dog, as well as of Debian and Gentoo (both of which run on the Mini), are stable enough for use.

Of interest to potential desktop users, the 4.0.1 release of Yellow Dog Linux, while it doesn't add support for the Mini's onboard audio, does add support for a USB audio adapter, the Griffin Technologies iMic. Given that the Mini doesn't have an audio-in plug to begin with, this is a reasonable investment. 4.0.1 does fix the video stuff.

The point is, Linux support isn't perfect yet, but it's actively being worked on. It can be fun being a part of an evolving platform; it can also get in the way of work. You will want to base your decision on whether to go with Linux now or wait for later, based on your needs.

The quick summary at the time this article was going to press was that Bluetooth may work (but is not much tested), Airport Extreme isn't supported, audio isn't supported (some people report limited success with audio support, details in Resources).

Unfortunately, Airport Extreme support is probably not coming any time soon, to Linux or any other open source system. Broadcom has not chosen to make the necessary documentation available to open source driver developers, and this leaves developers with no way of providing drivers for the underlying chipset used in the Airport Extreme card.

It's quite possible that a future patch will add audio support. As I found when messing with NetBSD, partial support might be fairly easy. I'd have attempted it on the YDL install as well, but I'm not as experienced with hacking on the Linux kernel. Once audio support happens, YDL will be a pretty reasonable Linux workstation. It's already a perfectly reasonable development platform, or host for compiling PowerPC Linux executables.

Development tools
YDL, assuming you install the developer tools, comes with a fairly large collection of programming tools: Python, Perl, Tcl, and of course GCC (version 3.3.3). No big flashy IDE, but the basic UNIX® development tools are all there; Linux users coming from an x86 background will find it familiar. Mac users will find the underlying tools familiar, but may miss Xcode. Windows developers will want to look at online resources about Linux development. The additional control over the machine is wonderful once you've gotten over the shock, but it takes some getting used to. See Resources for links on getting started with Linux.

This suggests a possible niche for a Mini, as a PowerPC compilation server (or even as a member of a compilation farm -- Resources has more). The Mini is not a dual processor G5, but it's plenty fast to build PowerPC binaries of Linux applications. For instance, a build of the entire gdb+dejagnu package took 11 minutes, 32 seconds, of wall-clock time. That's not incredibly fast, but it's certainly fast enough for building the sorts of applications people normally build. (These numbers were done on a 1.42Ghz Mini. It goes without saying that this is far enough from a meaningful benchmark that any light it sheds won't reach a meaningful benchmark within the next few years.)

NetBSD on Power
NetBSD is, as the name suggests, one of the BSD family of UNIX-like systems, based on the code released by the University of California, Berkeley. It has been active on multiple platforms for a fairly long time. NetBSD is an interesting choice to run on a Mac, simply because there's a lot of NetBSD code (as well as the more widely acknowledged FreeBSD code) in Mac OS X. NetBSD comes both in stable releases (NetBSD 2.0 being the current release) and in the less-stable, but generally usable, NetBSD-current.

From the point of view of a developer, NetBSD's big strength is simply that all NetBSD ports are part of the same source tree. The macppc port of NetBSD isn't tracking the "main" tree -- it's just another part of the main tree. This isn't a branch or a development effort copying in patches.

The NetBSD install doesn't give you much help with partitioning. Open Firmware doesn't know about, and can't boot from, NetBSD's native version of the Berkeley FFS (fast file system). The good news is, NetBSD-current (but not the 2.0 release) supports Apple's UFS, which Disk Utility calls "Unix File System," but which is really just a slightly different version of FFS. You can use such a partition as your NetBSD root file system, and share files with Mac OS X. Or, you can use the native FFS for your root file system. Either way, you will need an HFS+ partition to hold the boot loader. Users coming from x86 platforms will be familiar with the concept of a boot partition used only to work within boot firmware limitations, as will some users of older Macs which could only boot from the first 8GB of a larger disk.

On the downside, NetBSD will require some hackery to get its partition map configured. NetBSD uses a thing called a "BSD disklabel," which is an entirely different way of describing disk partitions than the standard Apple partition map -- but it's the same from one system running NetBSD to another, even on different hardware platforms. NetBSD needs to have its root file system as partition a, and swap partition (if any) on partition b. That means going into the partition editor. By default, it'll have a copy of the Apple partition map. What you need to do is find the partition you chose for your root file system, and change partition a to use the same start and end addresses as that one. Also, mark partition b as unused, unless you're actually making swap space. (You can always create a swap file later, if you didn't allocate a partition.) The installer builds a partition table from the Apple partition map, by default. This behavior is probably the best compromise, although it guarantees that you'll have to do some work.

If you aren't running NetBSD-current, you have to make a new file system in unused space on the disk. If you're running -current, you can use Apple UFS for your NetBSD space. You still need an HFS+ boot partition to hold the actual boot program, ofwboot.xcf, but that program can find the kernel even if it's on a different partition.

This is a nuisance. It's not nearly as bad if you don't have to dual-boot, because then you just need an HFS+ boot partition and your choice of layouts of FFS partitions for your operating system and files.

Hardware support
NetBSD-current runs on the Mini without modifications. The first reports of this said to add the ehci driver, but it was added to the default GENERIC kernel in January, so it works beautifully now. All this does is allow USB 2.0 devices to work at high speed instead of in compatibility mode, so if you don't have that support right away, you can still use the system.

As with Linux, NetBSD has no support for the Airport Extreme card or built-in modem. The video card shows up; the audio does too, if you build a kernel with support for the snapper driver. In a convenient coincidence, the driver doesn't support audio input, but the Mini doesn't have an input plug. NetBSD doesn't automatically configure and start X -- it boots to a console prompt. You can configure XFree86 yourself (run X -configure, which will create a new configuration file, which you can then edit and copy into place) and start it when you log in.

The snapper should work fine. But in case it won't attach to your hardware, go to the the /sys/arch/macppc/dev/snapper.c file, and look for snapper_match(). The last check in that routine is a comparison between the Open Firmware property compatible of the device, and the string "snapper." Remove the check, and the device will start working. If you get error messages trying to use /dev/sound0, try the nearly equivalent /dev/audio0.

Development tools
NetBSD ships with the GNU C compiler. Unlike Linux and Mac OS, it doesn't ship with Perl, Python, and other third-party languages installed. Instead, you build the ones you want from the packages collection. This makes the core system install much, much, smaller, and is one of the reasons that there's not a special "embedded NetBSD" project. On the other hand, you can reasonably expect to spend a while installing "fundamental" utilities after you get the system installed. Of course, which utilities you find fundamental may vary from one person to another, which is why this scheme remains popular.

The package system used on NetBSD is very similar in style and scope to the Fink system popular on Mac OS X (if you are not familiar with Fink, it will be discussed in greater detail in a future installment of this series).

As of this writing, the hardware support in Linux and BSD isn't complete. Some of it (for instance, Broadcom drivers for Airport Extreme) may never happen. Some of it is coming along swimmingly. In fact, I had to revise substantial chunks of this article after I worked on another project for just three days. The support work involved is often not difficult, and the Mini has attracted a lot of attention.

If you want a friendly graphical install and no hassles with drivers, run the proprietary Mac OS X. If you can live without drivers for some of the hardware in the Mini and want to have complete source for everything you're using -- or insist on an Open Source system -- Linux and BSD are offering real and viable alternatives for getting the most out of your Mini. And, for those following along with the Zork test, it works out of the box on both Linux and BSD.


* The first installment of this series was An embedded view of the Mac Mini, Part 1: Apple's new PowerPC BSP.

* Carbon Copy Cloner might help you shuffle files around to make space for a second OS.

* Excellent links about partitioning Mac OS X can be found in this forum thread.

* Alack, the YDL instructions are no longer online, but setting up the iPod as a boot drive goes something like this. Note that Apple advises against this use of the iPod's delicate drive; using the pod to boot often would be a grave mistake. But for emergency recovery and impressing guests it is more than viable.

* Yellow Dog Linux 4.01, which supports the Mac mini and iMac G5, is purported to have more than 70 updates over v4.0.

* One of those updates is support for the Griffin iMic USB audio adapter.

* Terra Soft's Yellow Dog Linux is based on Fedora Core 2.

* Terra Soft also sells 64-bit high-performance Linux solutions.

* Yellow Dog Linux is not the only Linux distribution that runs on the Mini. Read about Debian Linux on the Mac Mini and about Gentoo Linux on the Mac Mini.

* Linux attracts a great deal of attention, but it is not the only mature open source operating system out there. BSD systems differ from Linux in many ways, but two of the most obvious are the license (a BSD license instead of the GNU GPL) and that BSDs are not, like Linux, merely UNIX-like -- they actually are UNIX.

* Answers.com has an overview of differences between BSD and GPL licenses.

* BSD comes in many flavors. The three most popular (in random order) are OpenBSD (supporting everything from Alpha to Vax -- and including PPC), FreeBSD (x86 and SPARC only), and NetBSD home page (used by Peter in this article, and supporting many platforms including ARM, MIPS, PPC and more).

* The first successful boot of NetBSD on a Mac Mini was posted to a mailing list two days before the machine shipped.

* NetBSD's package collection is actually supported on other OSs now, including Mac OS X.

* Mac OS X has something similar to the NetBSD package system. Fink provides easy access to open source software.

* This message board thread discusses why there are no open source drivers for Airport Extreme.

* Audio still isn't fully supported on Linux yet, but some people have reported at least limited success with audio support on Linux on the Mac Mini so far.

* Interested in the Mini's insides? Peruse the Mac Mini specs at Apple's site, then view its insides at mini-itx.com.

* Set up your own compilation farm on the cheap with distcc: a fast, free distributed C/C++ compiler. distcc does not require all machines to share a file system, have synchronized clocks, have the same libraries or header files installed -- or even to have the same processor. Some time ago, the developerWorks Linux zone featured an article on how to Reduce compile time with distcc (developerWorks, June 2004).

* New to Linux? Here are some good starting points:
o To learn more about Linux, see the New to Linux page at the IBM developerWorks Linux zone.
o The nine-part Windows-to-Linux roadmap offers a roadmap for developers making the transition to Linux.
o Said developers will also find the IBM Migration station a great aid.

* Have experience you'd be willing to share with Power Architecture zone readers? Article submissions on all aspects of Power Architecture technology from authors inside and outside IBM are welcomed. Check out the Power Architecture author FAQ to learn more.

* Have a question or comment on this story, or on Power Architecture technology in general? Post it in the Power Architecture technical forum or send in a letter to the editors.

* The Power Architecture Community Newsletter includes full-length articles as well as recent news about members of the Power Architecture community and upcoming events of interest. Learn more about the Power Architecture Community Newsletter and how to contribute to it. Subscription is free.

* All things Power are chronicled in the developerWorks Power Architecture editors' blog, which is just one of many developerWorks blogs.

* Find more articles and resources on Power Architecture technology and all things related in the developerWorks Power Architecture technology content area.

* Download a Power Architecture Pack to demo a SoC in a simulated environment, or just to explore the fully licensed version of Power Architecture technology. This and other fine Power Architecture-related downloads are listed in the developerWorks Power Architecture technology content area's downloads section.

About the author
Peter SeebachPeter Seebach has been using Macs since the Macintosh SE, and thinks this is the cutest one ever. He denies that his Mac Mini was ever lost in the couch. You can reach him at developerworks@seebs.plethora.net.

Forcasting DUPE ... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194387)

I submitted the story too .. Just wait for the DUPE in few hours ..

Sadly the support isn't complete (Airport) (4, Interesting)

CdBee (742846) | about 9 years ago | (#12194391)

To my knowledge and confirmed by TFA, no distro of Linux or BSD (well, apaprt from OSX) supports Airport cards (either version)

They lay the blame at Broadcom's door for keeping the spec a secret, but lots of manufacturer's don't publish specs but still end up being supported, either through reverse-engineering or emulation + non-native-driver

Can any informed person comment on why this is taking so long?

Re:Sadly the support isn't complete (Airport) (1)

paulatz (744216) | about 9 years ago | (#12194423)

Can any informed person comment on why this is taking so long?
Because linux hackers got tyred of reversing drivers of junk hardware.

Seriously: apple hardware is less common than intel compatible hardware even for linux users.

Re:Sadly the support isn't complete (Airport) (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194473)

Actually, the ordinary (802.11b) airport cards are supported quite well as they use the popular orinoco chipset. Monitor mode is even supported for all your sniffing needs.

Airport Extreme (802.11g) cards remain unsupported for the same reason other broadcom chipset based cards are - no information was released on how to actually use these chips.

Cheap? (0, Redundant)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | about 9 years ago | (#12194394)

"cheap computer"?

The Mac Mini starts at $499. You can get a brand new computer from Dell for $250. Now the Mac Mini is pretty inexpensive, but its not THAT cheap.


Re:Cheap? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194525)

You're absolutely right. The Dell is cheap, quality-wise, whereas the Mac Mini is just inexpensive.

Debian too (3, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 9 years ago | (#12194395)


"Current releases of Yellow Dog, as well as of Debian and Gentoo (both of which run on the Mini), are stable enough for use."

What's wrong with the Debian running on the Mini platform? Is there any reason Ubuntu couldn't run, too?

Really... (2, Interesting)

DavidNWelton (142216) | about 9 years ago | (#12194558)

I don't get why these articles always seem to push some one-off distribution that someone has scrounged together for their particular architecture. With Debian/Ubuntu, Gentoo or whatever, you get the same basic OS you use everywhere else, modulo a few tools that are specific to that architecture. That makes your life easier, so you can spend more time on interesting things, be it watching movies, kernel hacking or whatever...

Re:Debian too (1, Offtopic)

l3v1 (787564) | about 9 years ago | (#12194566)

What's wrong with the Debian running on the Mini platform? Is there any reason Ubuntu couldn't run, too?

What should be wrong with it ? I guess you're just one of those Ubunbu fanboys who think Ubuntu should be run everywhere. Why should the above listings start with some minor distros: if they say some big and well etablished distros can do it, then probably the derived others also can. This is a better formulation than the other way around.

Re:Debian too (0, Flamebait)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 9 years ago | (#12194665)

Why should something be wrong with it? I just asked whether anything was wrong with it, given that the article we're discussing conspicuously ignored it in the Slashdot summary, and gave disproportionate coverage to NetBSD and YDL, given the much larger distros mentioned running on the Mini. Where do you get off calling me an Ubuntu "fanboy", you clueless jerk? This is a technical discussion, and you've turned it into a misguided flamewar.

Why? (1, Redundant)

vijayiyer (728590) | about 9 years ago | (#12194400)

Or, if you want full hardware support along with a stable kernel, a C compiler, and network support, you just leave it alone. What's the advantage of switching to a free OS when you've already paid for the Mac OS?

Free software (4, Interesting)

eumaeus (733945) | about 9 years ago | (#12194401)

Doesn't the Mac Mini come with a stable kernel, a C compiler, and network support, all implemented in "high quality code" at the right price? And, OS X comes with excellent support for Java, in contrast to the last time I experimented with Linux on PPC (about a year ago) and found that there was no up-to-date JVM or SDK. (But perhaps I missed something.)

Re:Free software (0, Offtopic)

bersl2 (689221) | about 9 years ago | (#12194671)

in contrast to the last time I experimented with Linux on PPC (about a year ago) and found that there was no up-to-date JVM or SDK. (But perhaps I missed something.)

Whose fault is that? Is it ours for not petitioning Sun hard enough to do something which probably (correct me if I'm wrong) requires no more than a simple recompile? Is it our fault for not being able to reverse engineer everything in sight?

Cheap? (-1, Flamebait)

stratjakt (596332) | about 9 years ago | (#12194407)

For a Mac, it's cheap. There have been Book PCs in the sub-500$ range for years.

Does the Mac Mini not ship with an OS?

I mean, I know that monitor, keyboard, mouse, and speakers aren't included. I'd figure they'd at least ship with some sort of crippled version of OSX.

I really don't get Apple zealots. I mean, that big aluminum G5 "mini" tower (mini? wtf?) is about the ugliest thing I've ever seen. That's my opinion, not a troll.

A friend of mine just plunked down about 5 grand for a G5 and one of those super cinerama displays.

Man was he ever pissed off when he found out he can't display a movie fullscreen on his nearly two thousand dollar monitor.

Re:Cheap? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194460)

...since when could apples dvd player software not play a movie fullscreen.

if you are reffering to quicktime, yes, they charge for fullscreen, but they do the exact same on windows. download vlc or mplayer osx if you want, its as simple as that.

Re:Cheap? (-1, Troll)

NotoriousQ (457789) | about 9 years ago | (#12194595)

they charge for fullscreen

That would be a hilarious joke.

they charge for fullscreen

You know they might just something stupid like that.

they charge for fullscreen

It will be utterly idiotic to not include this in a player.

they charge for fullscreen

Wait. I think you are being serious.

they charge for fullscreen

Wow. I actually believe you now.

they charge for fullscreen

BWAHAHAHAHA. Silly apple, shafting their non-paying customer base. The idea of buying a mac has been on my mind for a few years now. (since OSX became stable). But each time I always reconsider, and things like these are the reason. It is like the entire computer is full of shareware, and I have heard of people spending hundreds to make their desktops feel right, and their little tools functioning. Seriously...there are things in the mac world which cost thirty bucks, while they are a simple checkbox/app in the linux world. Virtual desktops / focus follows mouse come to mind.

And people wonder why some want to install linux on a mac.

Fullscreen in QTP (5, Informative)

Monx (742514) | about 9 years ago | (#12194639)

if you are reffering to quicktime, yes, they charge for fullscreen

They just charge for the menu item:

tell application "QuickTime Player"
enter full screen display 1
set the scale of movie 1 to screen
play movie 1
end tell

Re:Cheap? (2, Interesting)

mmkkbb (816035) | about 9 years ago | (#12194500)

I'd figure they'd at least ship with some sort of crippled version of OSX.

With the full version, even.


I mean, that big aluminum G5 "mini" tower (mini? wtf?)

mini, because a full tower is taller.

Man was he ever pissed off when he found out he can't display a movie fullscreen on his nearly two thousand dollar monitor.

Then he should try mplayer or VLC, or shell out for Quicktime Pro.

Re:Cheap? (2, Insightful)

NotoriousQ (457789) | about 9 years ago | (#12194504)

Man was he ever pissed off when he found out he can't display a movie fullscreen on his nearly two thousand dollar monitor.

Huh? Does it not have hardware scaling? I thought G5 came with a radeon. With almost any accelerating videocard, the CPU is not involved when scaling, which means same performance windowed/fullscreen.

Or is your friend trying to play 1080p/i movie or possibly at obscene framerates.

In that case I demand to know where you got the video.

I don't understand (0, Redundant)

CypherXero (798440) | about 9 years ago | (#12194409)

So you buy a Mac Mini, and want a free OS alternative? Why? First off, you already paid for OS X (which, BTW, is a damn good OS), so tell me again why would you need to install NetBSD or Yellow Dog Linux?

What's the point of that?

Re:I don't understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194439)

Because I can ...

I can survive on vitamin pills as well which are BTW damn healthy. I just need more fun and want to eat steak or nachos at times as well.

Re:I don't understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194468)

Because some people don't like OSX. Got a problem with that?

Re:I don't understand (3, Insightful)

gilesjuk (604902) | about 9 years ago | (#12194520)

..and some people don't like the archaic x86 platform.

PowerPC is a nice platform.

Re:I don't understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194532)

And Linux is a nice kernel.
Sounds like a perfect match. ;)

Why not OS X? (2, Insightful)

po8 (187055) | about 9 years ago | (#12194510)

One possible point---you don't want to pay again, every 12 months or so. Another---you don't want to pay for apps, which can be way more expensive than the cost of the OS anyhow. A third---you want some of the things that are better than in OS X, such as modern X font rendering or Mozilla Firefox. A fourth---you want to be able to repair and upgrade your operating system; better yet, to have those fixes and changes integrated so that everyone can use them. A fifth---you're afraid of vendor lock-in, and want to make sure that your OS and apps are supported into the future. Shall I go on?

I think if I was willing to pay 1.5--2x for Mac hardware, I'd just run OS X. But some folks just like Apple hardware. I don't think the folks who choose to run a free OS on this hardware are insane: they have many viable reasons.

Re:Why not OS X? (1)

dankelley (573611) | about 9 years ago | (#12194615)

you want some of the things that are better than in OS X, such as ... Mozilla Firefo So Firefox is better than Safari? Is that the same firefox that doesn't display its menus until I click outside of its window, and then click again inside it? Your point about not having to pay for new versions of the OS is valid, but I can't agree on the application quality.

Re:Why not OS X? (1)

gmccloskey (111803) | about 9 years ago | (#12194655)

(1) You're not forced to upgrade, and the apple cycle is getting longer as the OS matures - currently running at about 16 months. (2) Free OS != free apps. You can get paid-for apps in OSS and free-beer apps - including linux ports - for OSX (3) please explain how X rendering is better than the font rendering technology apple helped develop. You can get Firefox for OSX. OSX has some of the most advanced gfx and font rendering (with colour accuracy built-in for free) in any OS. Even Longhorn won't match some of it's features. http://developer.apple.com/documentation/MacOSX/Co nceptual/OSX_Technology_Overview/MacOSXTechnology/ chapter_4_section_3.html#//apple_ref/doc/uid/TP400 01067-CH207-TPXREF156 [apple.com] (4) not everyone wants/needs this, but if it floats your boat go ahead. You have the opportunity at least with the Darwin core. (5) Apple has been dying for the last 20 years, you're right to be concerned. Apple and OSX are not perfect but the points you raise are not their major failings. Rant about the Finder interface, SAMBA networking, thread locking and MP performance and you'd have a point.

Re:Why not OS X? (4, Insightful)

FLAGGR (800770) | about 9 years ago | (#12194672)

You do realize most apps that run on linux work in OSX? Right now I'm running X11 along with OSX's window server (quartz or something), so you have plenty of free apps you cheap basterd. What do you mean Firefox is better when its not in OSX? I'm failing to see a difference, I've had my mini since it came out, and my PC runs Gentoo (which means its up to date ;)) and the only difference I can see is the close/max/min buttons are on the left in osx :) Modern X font rendering? I prefer OSX's thank you very much. They both look equally nice, but in OSX I don't have to spend hours getting things working. You can repair and upgrade OSX - it's still a BSD. For example, you can still get all that scrolling boot text ala *nix by changing a setting in the BIOS to remove the bootup framebuffer. You can do anything in OSX that you can in BSD. Just some of the things aren't open source, like Aqua. If that bothers you, you can switch to only X11 and use KDE. Oh, and show me a PC that is 1.5--2x cheaper than a Mac Mini, with equivelent hardware (That rules out the Dell knock off pc's) and with the same software bundle. (I hate to tell you, but some open source apps aren't as good as their closed source counterparts. iLife just plain rocks.)

Re:Why not OS X? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194687)

One possible point---you don't want to pay again, every 12 months or so.
Then don't. Steve Jobs won't show up at your house and kick your dog if you don't upgrade. Also, Apple has said that OS development is going to slow down a bit - a new release every couple years.
Another---you don't want to pay for apps
Good thing that they'll have Fink, Portage, Darwin Ports, etc. to get access to all those great open source apps. And just in case Mom want's to use Microsoft Excel to catch up on work, she'll have access to that too.
you want some of the things that are better than in OS X, such as modern X font rendering or Mozilla Firefox.
Quartz renders text pretty nicely in firefox now.
you want to be able to repair and upgrade your operating system; better yet, to have those fixes and changes integrated so that everyone can use them.
OpenDarwin.org and developer.apple.com will get you started
you're afraid of vendor lock-in, and want to make sure that your OS and apps are supported into the future.
Considering that applications written for System 7 and M68k will still run on a Dual G5 with OS X 10.4, that sounds like a good reason to use OS X.
Shall I go on?
Certainly, right after you start. Posted anonymously because I already clicked that stupid moderate button.

Re:I don't understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194577)

I don't want to pay 129.00 a year for updates.

I want to run a free OS, not an OS that I'm forced to purchase with the hardware.

Fine for us, but . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194426)

. . . but free software will always play second fiddle to Microsoft in the consumer market. It's not about price, or quality for the average 'Joe Email' user. It's about advertising, distribution, and familiarity. The only way anyone will ever take the crown is to get a serious distribution deal with someone like Walmart, who can promote a non-Microsoft technology, and get it quickly and easily into consumers homes.

You can get a PC for $89US at geeks.com (2, Informative)

saskboy (600063) | about 9 years ago | (#12194461)

It comes with the Case, MB, and Hard drive.

Then add a monitor = $100
Video Card = $40
Peripherals = $40
CPU = $40

Now THAT'S a cheap computer. If you're looking to save money, why buy a Mac?

Re:You can get a PC for $89US at geeks.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194539)

You've got it the wrong way round.

If your looking to buy a Mac, the mini is cheap enough to be affordable to most of us.

Re:You can get a PC for $89US at geeks.com (1)

the_2nd_coming (444906) | about 9 years ago | (#12194570)

maybe because you are doing PPC development? maybe because you want a PPC computer because you like PPC processors? maybe because you have x86?

the cheapest is not the reason here... it is because it is a Cheap ppc computer.

You forgot some stuff... (2, Insightful)

MP3Chuck (652277) | about 9 years ago | (#12194625)

RAM, CD-R, sound card, speakers. They're pretty essential these days. But at that point, you're approaching what it would cost to get a cheap-o Dell...

Enough already. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194497)

The Mini is not cheap. It is relatively cheap compared to the other overpriced offerings from Apple. It is still expensive for what you get. If you want to run Linux, don't waste your money on that crap.

Nothing new... (2, Insightful)

IBeatUpNerds (827376) | about 9 years ago | (#12194503)

Computers have been getting cheaper and cheaper. I'm mainly citing PCs, since Macs have always one-upped PCs in price and advertising. Sure, cute little machines are nice.

My point: two years ago I put together a 1.8ghz machine with 512 megs of RAM, decent video card, decent hard-drive, for 300 dollars. No OS included. Toss in some FreeBSD and I'm up and runnning for 300 bucks. So, again, someone please tell me how a 500 dollar computer is news these days? Just because it's a Mac? Just because Joe-sixpack can pick one up and doesn't need to know how to assemble parts? If so, why assume he would give a hoot about NetBSD or Linux?

Re:Nothing new... (1)

ciroknight (601098) | about 9 years ago | (#12194666)

What's new is that Apple is "getting it". I agree with you, the article makes the Mini Mac out to be a great panacea for all Linux/NetBSD users, but in reality, it's just great hardware in a small box for very cheap.

Also, I cannot stress enough that Apple's Mini Mac probably costs $300 to build as well, the operating system sells for $129, and the rest of the cost is profit margin (albeit small). Every company's gotta make money, and this happens to be a good way to do it. Besides, if you don't use the OS, you still bought it, Apple's still happy, you're free to resell it (if it has a transferable license, which I doubt), or sit and pout while tinkering away with your favorite BSD/Linux.

Apple is a software company; buying their hardware is just the best way for them to insure their software runs exactly the way it was planned.

hardware support (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194509)

Until Airport Express is supported by Yellowdog (or any other Linux for PPC), OSX is the only option.

Then again, can someone remind me why the UNIX under OSX is not good enough? 4 years, and no problems from me.

Free software with Mac Mini already... (0, Redundant)

WIAKywbfatw (307557) | about 9 years ago | (#12194528)

Last time I checked the Mac Mini shipped with MacOS X included, so you've got free (as in beer) software with it already. Apart from being free (as in speech), just what do NetBSD and Yellow Dog Linux have that the pre-installed software doesn't have? Can someone please enlighten me?

Buying a Mac Mini specifically to install another less polished OS onto it (NetBSD and Yellow Dog Linux may be many things, but neither is polished to MacOS X's standards) seems like really flawed logic.

Mac Mini - Install Fink (1)

alfredo (18243) | about 9 years ago | (#12194667)

and get all the free software you desire.
I have Scribus, Inkscape,, Xephem in my Fink installation.
I have also GIMP, Links, and NeoOfficej.

Why do I need Linux?

FINK [sourceforge.net]

Haven't I Heard this Before? (1, Insightful)

mojowantshappy (605815) | about 9 years ago | (#12194530)

"If you need all the hardware and options fully supported, these open source options won't do it for you ... yet."

Oh really? Then when?

Re:Haven't I Heard this Before? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194596)

When Broadcom grows a heart and releases the specs to its 802.11g chipset.

Linux or OS X? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194575)

OS X is massively superior to Linux in all departments, and it's much better suited to the hardware in this instance. I can't see why anyone would want to run Linux on the mini unless they're some kind of zealot; OS X is the only OS to use on it.

not the point (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194588)

the point here isn't the fact that its rediculously cheap. its the package. it's true, you do buy OSX when you buy the mini, so the article itself is somewhat flawed/obsolete. but to all who bash the mac mini's price, your just plain wrong.
the price point of 500 dollars is an excellent alternative to any of Apple's more expensive computers.

They're all more expensive than windows-boxes, but thats the fucking point.

you can buy a 300 dollar p.o.s. that will run WINDOWS. nasty. consumers have never before had such a low-priced option to run an OS as stable as OSX.
youre missing the point. yes, 500 bucks is more than 300 bucks. but why pay 300 in the beginning if it's gonna come with windows.

not to mention the included software (garageband, iMovie, appleworks) that makes the mac mini worth the price, and the amount of time/money you must throw into that 300 dollar PC to keep it as secure as the unix-based OSX comes already.

Re:not the point (3, Informative)

the_2nd_coming (444906) | about 9 years ago | (#12194616)

how about the fact that 300 dollar computers do not come with firewire, dvd drives, cd writers, modems, and all the good software that comes with OS X,

mod dOwn (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12194673)

another charnel very distractingy to
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