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Mac Mini to the rescue

with 7 comments

In teaching, I had a problem because my students have different base operating systems, like Windows 7, Windows 8, Linux, and Mac OS X. I needed a teaching and lecture platform that would let me teach it all (not to mention support their environments). That meant it had to virtualize any of the following with a portable device:MacMiniConsole

  • Windows 7 or 8 hosting natively an Oracle Database 11g XE, 11g, or 12c and MySQL Database 5.6
  • Windows 7 or 8 hosting a Fedora or Oracle Unbreakable Linux VM (3 or 4 GB) with Oracle Database 11g XE, 11g, or 12c and MySQL Database 5.6
  • Mac OS X hosting a Fedora or Oracle Unbreakable Linux VM (3 or 4 GB) with Oracle Database 11g XE, 11g, or 12c and MySQL Database 5.6
  • Ubuntu hosting a Fedora or Oracle Unbreakable Linux VM (3 or 4 GB) with Oracle Database 11g XE, 11g, or 12c and MySQL Database 5.6

I never considered a manufacturer other than Apple for a laptop since they adopted the Intel chip. Too many of the others sell non-hyperthreaded laptop machines that they market as i5 or i7 64-bit OS machines when they’re not. Some of those vendors disable the hyperthreading facility while others provide motherboards that can’t support hyperthreading. The ones I dislike the most provide a BIOS setting that gives the impression you can enable hyperthreading when you can’t. All Apple devices, MacBook, MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, and Mac Pro do fully support a 64-bit OS and their virtualization.

A MacBook Pro came to mind but the disk space requirements were 1 TB, and that’s too pricey. I went with the Mac Mini because with 16 GB of memory and a 1 TB drive it was only $1,200. Add a wireless keyboard and mighty mouse, and an HDMI and mini-DVI connections, and I had my solution. Naturally, my desktop is a one generation old Mac Pro with 64 GB of memory and 12 TB of disk space, which supports all the virtual machines used for testing. Note to Apple marketing staff: The prior version of the Mac Pro let you pay reasonable (3rd party) prices for the additional memory and disk drives.

The Mac Mini means I can travel anywhere and plug into the console and demo tools and techniques from a myriad set of platforms without the hassle of moving on and off to frequently VM images. It’s a great solution with only one downside, HDMI to DVI sometimes creates purple toned screens. It’s unfortunate because some venues have monitors that don’t support HDMI).

Written by maclochlainn

February 6th, 2014 at 12:17 pm

7 Responses to 'Mac Mini to the rescue'

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  1. If you are concerned about wondering or not the Intel Processor you are getting is 64 bit with the ability to do all the visualization you need you could just go to lintels website.

    This is the highest end processor that Apple offers currently for the mac mini.

    Intel has all of the details on all of their processors that they sell on their website.

    I can sort of understand why you would suggest Apple for convenience purposes but at the same time I don’t quite understand it.

    If you can build a better system than Apple why wouldn’t you.

    Marcus Norton

    7 Feb 14 at 3:34 pm

  2. Marcus,

    One of my test case environments requires a Mac OS X hosted environment. How would you propose that I virtualize the Mac OS X without making it the principal platform? Aside from that, why would I want to run Windows as a principal operating system? From my perspective, the Windows’ OS has only one use: to host a friendlier version of Microsoft Excel.

    If you use Intel processors to run Linux, you’re left with a pricey license to run Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Moreover, Apple’s Mac OS X is the least expensive and most effective solution. Though I understand it ruffles the feathers of Microsoft Windows fans. 🙂


    8 Feb 14 at 1:22 pm

  3. Perhaps another footnote on the fate of Windows laptops, is that Sony is selling the Vaio division …


    8 Feb 14 at 10:15 pm

  4. Ok well I suppose if your test case environments require such things there isn’t much to say because of Apples EULA which make Hackintoshing pretty much out of the question.

    I didn’t say anything about Windows. There are plenty of free Great Linux alternatives that are FREE and that IT students should be exposed to at college.

    Scientific Linux is one good example off the top of my head.


    24 Mar 14 at 2:17 pm

  5. Marc, all my use cases host Linux systems. Specifically, I host Fedora, Red Hat Enterprise Server, and Oracle Unbreakable Linux. The problem is that I don’t have any control over the systems that students own. About 35% have MacBook Pro machines, and that compels a Mac OS X solution as the base platform.

    It’s also convenient because I actually prefer Mac OS X over Windows or Linux as the base OS because I don’t have to fuss with driver compatibility. After all, OX X derives from Darwin, Darwin from NeXTSTEP, NeXTSTEP from BSD, and BSD from UNIX.


    24 Mar 14 at 11:26 pm

  6. OK well..after I have contemplated on this I think I understand why. Thanks for taking the time in answering my questions / arguments! 🙂

    I still have an idea for you though and I thought you may of sort of done something like this in the past. I thought you offered it more of a challenge to prove you wrong vs. anything worth credit.

    The idea I have is that you offer as extra credit to anyone that creates a system that is better than the Mac Mini.

    It is a win-win scenario. You get to learn about different options and students get to experience building a system from scratch and think about all the parts to a system.

    marcus norton

    25 Mar 14 at 10:49 am

  7. Marcus, Any solution hosting Mac OS X on a non-Apple machine violates the EULA as you mentioned. 😉


    26 Mar 14 at 9:40 am

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