I received my second Macintosh a couple of weeks ago and thought I’d share some photos and thoughts regarding the new arrival.
Why did I buy a second Macintosh, you might ask? No really overwhelming practical reason, but lots of rationalization. I bought an Apple TV several months ago: basically, it is a set top media streaming device with a small hard drive- if you want to create a large library of media, you “feed” the Apple TV with a computer somewhere in your house running iTunes and acting as a stream server. I had been using my MacBook Pro for this purpose: the MacBook Pro is great, but I keep picking the silly thing up and carrying it around, it being a laptop and all. That means I’m putting it into standby all the time… and disconnecting/reconnecting an external drive. Then there is all that transcoding necessary to take movies and make them usable on the Apple TV: you don’t want to be powering off and on in the middle of that. These factors all mean that it doesn’t provide the “always there” streaming / storage that a normal desktop would.
I could have set up a machine running Windows as my iTunes server. But… to be honest, I just can’t work up any enthusiasm for running Windows. I power on my Vista PC, play a game, and power it off as soon as I’m done- I really don’t get much pleasure from running Windows lately. But I have lots of fun with my Macintosh: I could probably write a long article explaining why, with words like “elegant” and “well-engineered”, but really it just boils down to a personal preference at the moment. I could have also hacked my Apple TV to add more storage… but I was kind of wanting a good excuse to get another of Cupertino’s finest anyway. So here I am, adding another shiny new Macintosh to my family
Removed from the box
Adding another Macintosh is one thing, but why an iMac? I contemplated getting a Mac Mini ($700-$850), but when I concluded (rightly or wrongly) that I’d probably want a display, keyboard, and mouse hooked up to it more often than “rarely”. Re-using one of my existing displays might be possible, but only one of them would has multiple display inputs, and currently all of those are in use… so I probably would have eventually wanted another display. As soon as I started thinking about another display, any cost advantage the Mac Mini has started to dwindle- add to that the fact that the iMac comes with a 3D video card, a larger hard drive, a faster CPU, and more RAM… the $500 difference in price seemed reasonable.
The iMac is basically about the size of a slightly over-weight LCD panel- stuffed in there is a dual core Intel processor, an ATI video GPU, a 320 GB hard drive, 2 GB of RAM, and a DVD burner. It comes with a keyboard and mouse and has a nice aluminum bezel and stand.
I also bought a custom adapter that allows the non-VESA compliant iMac to be attached to a VESA compliant monitor arm from imacmount.com. This is a first-rate piece of burly, finely finished aluminum that fits together exactly as advertised. When I first read about the iMacmount, I was skeptical- how could it firmly hold the iMac simply by attaching to the round hole in the stand? The secret is a couple of pins or bumpers that “embrace” the iMac’s stand, and a massive nut and bolt assembly hewn from a block of solid aluminum. If you really want to mount your iMac on a monitor arm, this is the bracket to buy. With the bracket attached, I hung the monitor on my second Ergotron LX monitor arm (and my third Ergotron overall: I also have a Neoflex, but it isn’t sturdy enough or flexible enough for a heavier display). Now my iMac basically “hovers” two or three inches above my desk- enough to provide useful space for papers and such, and I can raise it higher if I don’t need to be working on the computer while seated.
The iMac is working out really well- I can remote control it while sitting on the couch from my MacBook Pro with OSX’s screen sharing features, and for the most part it just quietly does its work, serving up content for my Apple TV and performing transcoding duties when I’m importing new videos. My timing was pretty good as well- Apple has now opened up access to movie rental and purchase via iTunes in Canada.