Months with a Mini 9

Since Dell has discontinued the Mini 9, now seems like a good to to share some observations on two months of living with Mac OS X running on Mini 9 hardware. My friend’s living with it, I mean. In no particular order:

  • Dell’s suggested replacement for the Mini 9, the Mini 10v, has a screen that, in spite of being physically larger, contains fewer pixels. The Mini 9’s screen is 1024×600, while the Mini 10v’s is 1024×576.
  • I’d guess that those who were thinking about getting a Mini 9 will now buy the just announced EeePC 1008HA (Seashell), which looks a lot like a smaller version of the MacBook Air, done in plastic. It haven’t seen a post of anyone installing OS X on it, but it’s just a matter of time.
  • The battery on the Mini 9 can handle playing about three hours of DVD quality video ripped into MP4 or AVI or what have you. Supposedly the latest OS release (10.5.7) improves this by an hour or so.
  • Being only 600 pixels high, the screen of the Mini 9 isn’t large enough to handle HD video. If you rip video at it’s native resolution, though, it looks pretty dang good.
  • The OS X 10.5.7 update is tricky to install. Likely all such OS updates are. My friend has yet to do this successfully. When he, not thinking about it that clearly, ran the standard updater, all seemed to go well, but once completed, when the boot process should have drawn the menubar and the desktop, the video went wiggy.
  • It is possible to do a full Time Machine restore on an Mini 9. This starts off like installing OS X the first time, where you boot from a bootloader CD, then throw in a Leopard install disk. Instead of doing the install, though, one of the menu choices allows you to restore from Time Machine. This largely works, with two caveats. First, even if you are connected with Ethernet, you need to connect to a wireless network before starting the restore. Seems like this is the only way to get the networking to set up properly. Secondly, once the restore is done, the machine may not boot until you reinstall the DellEFI, similar to as described here.
  • Consequently, the mydellmini project is your friend.
  • The keyboard layout on the Mini 9 is insane. So much so, that some kibosh the whole idea just because of the keyboard. Swapping the Alt and Cmnd keys (taking off the chicklets and moving them) is a necessity, and most will probably want to swap the semicolon and quotation keys as well.
  • The lack of scrolling on the trackpad remains a problem. All posts on the topic seem to be obsessed with two-finger scrolling, but even something like what SideTrack does would be useful. Update: done!.
  • You can apparently buy clunky multi-cell batteries that would probably allow watching video the whole way across the Atlantic. These don’t fit inside the case entirely, so act a bit like a riser.
  • The Mini 9 apparently fits in the back pocket of 511 Tactical Pants.
  • The built-in Secure Digital card reader is more useful than expected, particularly on trips, where it allows you to access your pictures without a bunch of extra crap.
  • As mentioned in the previous post, Spaces adds more to a machine like this that it does to others. The free iTerm makes this even better, because it offers a full screen mode for terminals.
  • The AC adaptor that comes with the Mini 9 can handle European current, so all you need is a little adapter, rather than a voltage converter.
  • The machine works really well for tabletop RPGs, particularly if you get used to using PDFs in full page mode (which requires remembering some keyboard shortcuts, particularly for searching and switching display modes). Software like Yep can also help in finding what you need quickly.
  • Still haven’t tried Warcraft on the thing.

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