Mac Mini Mini

The Mac Mini has been roughly the same size and shape for 12 years, as the current design was released in June 2010. However, despite being the same general form factor, the internals has shrunk over the years. [Snazzy Labs] took advantage of this to make a miniaturized Mac Mini.

With a donor Mac in hand, they cracked it open and found an oversized power supply, a diminutive logic board, and a good bit of space. Unfortunately, the logic board attaches to a wide IO shield. He removed that, and the fan attached to the heatsink (checking to ensure it still booted). Relocating the WiFi antennas was the trickiest part of the whole build. Given that he wanted to shrink the power supply and the Mac Mini accepts just 12 volts, he devised a clever solution to use MagSafe as a connector. However, Magsafe negotiates over a complex protocol when attached. So, rather than smarten his port up, he dumbed the charger down by replacing it with a Microsoft Surface power supply spliced into the MagSafe connector.

With his mini Mac Mini board ready to go, he began designing a case to fit what was now a single-board computer. A fan of the channel offered a design reminiscent of the 2019 Mac Pro. Unfortunately, FDM printing struggled with the cheese-grater pattern, so [Snazzy Labs] printed it in resin with some mica powder. As a result, the mini mini looks fantastic while taking up just 28% of the volume of the original.

They’ve posted the STL files online with detailed instructions and a parts list if you want to recreate it at home. Perhaps with the smaller motherboard, it might be worth revisiting the Mac Mini inside a PowerBook hack from a few years ago. Video after the break.
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Desktop Performance In A Custom Mac Laptop

Most of us either own or have used a laptop at some point. For traveling, as a student, or even for browsing Hackaday on the couch in front of the TV, they are pretty much indispensable. They do tend to have a sharp performance reduction compared to a desktop though thanks to the thermal and battery limitations of a portable form factor. [Scott Yu-Jan] wanted to solve that in his own life by building a custom Mac laptop with none of these downsides.

Noticing that a modern iPad Mini has exactly the same width of his Mac Mini, [Scott] set about combining the two devices into a single unit that he could assemble when traveling. A 3D printed case with a traditional laptop clamshell design takes care of physically combining these two devices, and a USB-C cable between the two takes care of combining them in software thanks to Apple’s Duet program. While this has better performance than a Macbook Pro it might actually have some perks, since Apple continues to refuse to make a laptop with a touchscreen.

There are some downsides, of course. The price is higher than a comparable Macbook Pro for the iPad and Mac together, plus it doesn’t include a keyboard or mouse. It also has no battery, so it needs to be plugged in. In the follow-up video linked below, though, [Scott] notes that for him this still made sense as he uses the Mac and iPad individually already, and only works remotely at places that have power outlets readily available. For the average person, though, we might recommend something different if you really need an esoteric laptop-like machine.

Thanks to [Varun] for originally sending in this tip!

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A Single SSD’s Journey From System 7 To High Sierra

With some time to kill and an array of old Apple computers on hand, [Pierre Dandumont] wondered if he could continuously upgrade a single OS drive from the oldest system he had, System 7.1 on a Performa 630, to the latest version of MacOS on a MacBook Air. He recalled watching an old video which demonstrated a continuous upgrade from DOS to Windows 10 (we think this video from 2016 may be the one), which gave him the inspiration for this journey. [Pierre] documents his efforts on his blog (in French; English translated link is here).

Along the way, he installed 24 different operating systems

  • System 7.1.2, 7.5
  • Mac OS 7.6
  • Mac OS 8.0, 8.1, 8.5, 8.6
  • Mac OS 9.0, 9.1, 9.2
  • Mac OS X 10.0 – 10.11
  • macOS 10.12, 10.13

on seven Mac computers

  • Performa 630 (ca. 1994, Motorola 68040)
  • Power Mac G3 Beige (ca. 1997, Motorola PowerPC 730)
  • Power Mac G3 Blue (ca. 1999, Motorola PowerPC 730)
  • Power Mac G4 Digital Audio (ca. 2001, Motorola PowerPC 7400)
  • Mac mini G4 (ca. 2005, Motorola PowerPC 7447)
  • Mac mini 2009 (Intel Core 2 Duo Penryn)
  • MacBook Air 2012 (Intel Core i5/i7)

across three of the four processor families spanned by the Macintosh line of computers since their introduction in 1984. You can see in the lead photo the success, where the Mac OS 8 search tool Sherlock is shown in the dock of a MacBook Air running High Sierra.

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Retro PowerBook Gets A Mac Mini Transplant

Around these parts, seeing a classic laptop or desktop computer get revived with the Raspberry Pi is fairly common. While we’re not ones to turn down a well-executed Pi infusion, we know they can be controversial at times. There’s an impression that such projects are low-effort, and that the combination of old and new tech gains little in the way of usability due to the usability quirks of the Pi itself.

But we think even the most critical in the audience will agree that this build by [Tylinol], which sees the internals of a circa 1993 PowerBook 165c get replaced with that of a 2014 Mac Mini, is something else entirely. For one thing, there’s no question that packing a modern (relatively) desktop computer motherboard into a laptop’s body takes a lot more planning and effort than hot gluing the comparatively tiny Pi into the same space. Plus as an added bonus, anyone who counts themselves among the Cult of Mac will be happy to see the vintage machine retain its Cupertino pedigree.

So how do you get a Mac Mini inside of a PowerBook? Very carefully. As explained by [Tylinol], the inside of the PowerBook’s case was coated in graphite and conductive enough to be a problem. So after the original hardware was removed, a layer of tape was added to insulate it; though we imagine a suitably thick spray-on coating could be used as well if you don’t have that kind of patience.

Once the case was gutted and insulated, [Tylinol] added new stand-offs to mount the Mac Mini motherboard and hard drive. For anyone wondering, the 2014 model was used because the shape of the board almost perfectly fits around the trackball PCB. A board from a newer Mac could be used, but it would likely mean using an external mouse.

Which would have been a problem for [Tylinol], because one of the main goals of this build was to get the original input working. That meant adapting the Apple Desktop Bus (ADB) devices to USB, which turns out to be something of a Dark Art. But with the help of some contemporary information about the long-forgotten protocol and a Teensy 3.5, both devices are now picked up as standard USB HID.

But of course, that’s just scratching the surface. [Tylinol] also had to figure out how to swap the original display out for a modern panel, and then get the whole thing running on internal battery power. Even if you’re not particularly interested in retro Apple hardware, this is really a phenomenal build that deserves a thorough read-through.

For those of you who don’t mind getting a Pi in a PowerBook, we recently saw a recreation of Lord Nikon’s laptop from Hackers that went that route.

Mac Mini Teardown Late 2018

What’s Inside That New Mac Mini Anyway?

It’s been four long years since Apple has refreshed their entry-level desktop line. Those that have been waiting for a redesign of the Mac Mini can now collectively exhale as the Late 2018 edition has officially been released. Thanks to [iFixit] we have a clearer view of what’s changed in the new model as they posted a complete teardown of the Mac Mini over on their website.

Mac Mini Teardown Late 2018 RAM Slots

One of the most welcomed changes is that the DDR4 RAM is actually user upgradeable this time around. Previously RAM was soldered directly to the motherboard, and there were no SO-DIMM slots to speak of. The 2018 Mac Mini’s RAM has also been doubled to 8GB compared to the 4GB in the 2014 model. Storage capacity may have taken a hit in the redesign, but the inclusion of a 128GB PCIe SSD in the base model fairs better than the 500GB HDD of old. The number of ports were flip-flopped between the two model generations with the 2018 Mini featuring four Thunderbolt ports along with two USB 3.0 ports. Though the biggest upgrade lies with the CPU. The base 2018 Mac Mini comes with a 3.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i3 as compared to the 2014’s 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5.

Although Apple lacked “the courage” to drop the 3.5mm headphone jack this time around, they did retain the same footprint for Mac Mini redesign. It still provides HDMI as the default display out port, although the additional Thunderbolt ports provide additional options via an adapter. A quick overview of the spec differences between the 2018 and 2014 base Mac Mini models have been summarized below.

Model 2018 Mac Mini 2014 Mac Mini
CPU 3.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i3 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
Storage 128GB PCIe SSD 500GB HDD
RAM 8GB DDR4 @ 2666MHz 4GB DDR3 @ 1600MHz
Graphics Intel UHD 630 Intel HD 5000
Ports Thunderbolt 3 (x4), USB 3.0 (x2) Thunderbolt 2 (x2), USB 3.0 (x4)
Card Slot N/A SDXC
WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Audio 3.5mm Headphone Jack 3.5mm Headphone Jack
Video HDMI HDMI
Price from $799 from $499

Source [MacWorld]

Custom Media Center Maintains Look Of 70s Audio Components

Slotting a modern media center into an old stereo usually means adding Bluetooth and a Raspberry Pi to an amp or receiver, and maybe adding a few discrete connectors on the back panel. But this media center for a late-70s Braun hi-fi (translated) goes many steps beyond that — it fabricates a component that never existed.

The article is in German, and the Google translation is a little spotty, but it’s pretty clear what [Sebastian Schwarzmeier] is going for here. The Braun Studio Line of audio components was pretty sleek, and to avoid disturbing the lines of his stack, he decided to create a completely new component and dub it the “M301.”

The gutted chassis of an existing but defunct A301 amplifier became the new home for a Mac Mini, Blu-Ray drive, and external hard drive. An HDMI port added to the back panel blends in with the original connectors seamlessly. But the breathtaking bit is a custom replacement hood that looks like what the Braun designers would have come up with if “media center” had been a term in the 70s.

From the brushed aluminum finish, to the controls, to the logo and lettering, everything about the component that never was shows an attention to detail that really impresses. But if you prefer racks of servers to racks of audio gear, this media center built into a server chassis is sure to please too.

Thanks to [Sascho] and [NoApple4Me] for the nearly simultaneous tips on this one.

44 Mac Pros Racked Up To Replace Each Rack Of 64 Mac Minis

We were delighted at a seeing 96 MacBook Pros in a rack a couple of days ago which served as testing hardware. It’s pretty cool so see a similar exquisitely executed hack that is actually in use as a production server.  imgix is a startup that provides image resizing for major web platforms. This means they need some real image processing horsepower and recently finalized a design that installs 44 Mac Pro computers in each rack. This hardware was chosen because it’s more than capable of doing the heavy lifting when it comes to image processing. And it turns out to be a much better use of rack space than the 64 Mac Minis it replaces.

Racking Mac Pro for Production

single-mac-pro-rack

Each of the 11 R2 panels like the one shown here holds 4 Mac Pro. Cooling was the first order of business, so each panel has a grate on the right side of it for cold-air intake. This is a sealed duct through which one side of each Pro is mounted. That allows the built-in exhaust fan of the computers to cool themselves, pulling in cold air and exhausting out the opposite side.

Port access to each is provided on the front of the panel as well. Connectors are mounted on the right side of the front plate which is out of frame in this image. Power and Ethernet run out the back of the rack.

The only downside of this method is that if one computer dies you need to pull the entire rack to replace it. This represents 9% of the total rack and so imgix designed the 44-node system to deal with that kind of processing loss without taking the entire rack down for service.

Why This Bests the Mac Mini

3 racks - Linux. Mac Min, Mac Pro
3 racks – Linux. Mac Min, Mac Pro

Here you can see the three different racks that the company is using. On the left is common server equipment running Linux. In the middle is the R1 design which uses 64 Mac Minis for graphic-intensive tasks. To the right is the new R2 rack which replace the R1 design.

Obviously each Mac Pro is more powerful than a Mac Mini, but I reached out to imgix to ask about what prompt them to move away from the R1 design that hosts eight rack panes each with eight Mac Minis. [Simon Kuhn], the Director of Production, makes the point that the original rack design is a good one, but in the end there’s just too little computing power in the space of one rack to make sense.

Although physically there is room for at least twice as many Mac Mini units — by mounting them two-deep in each space — this would have caused several problems. First up is heat. Keeping the second position of computers within safe operating temperatures would have been challenging, if not impossible. The second is automated power control. The R1 racks used two sets of 48 controllable outlets to power computers and cooling fans. This is important as the outlets allow them to power cycle mis-behaving units remotely. And finally, more units means more Ethernet connections to deal with.

We having a great time looking that custom server rack setups. If you have one of your own, or a favorite which someone else built, please let us know!

[Thanks to drw72 for mentioning R2 in a comment]