Desktop system update: Mini -> iMac

Back in November 2008, I acquired a Mac Mini to use as my home desktop computer. At the time, I raved about the little machine with its 1.83 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, 1 GB of RAM, and an 80 GB Hard Drive.
Over the next year and a half, I became less enchanted. The 80GB disk was far too small, and I resorted to a variety of external USB drives to hold my music, photos, and videos. (Right now I’m using the 1TB drive that was originally installed in my ill-fated Time Capsule.) More serious was the 1GB of RAM. Over the last year, the footprint of application and OS software seems to have exploded, and multitasking even a few major apps has become incredibly frustrating. Alec posted an excellent analysis of the brain-dead paging and swapping strategy in OS X, but I couldn’t bring myself to try the radical surgery he proposed. And so I soldiered on, resigned to the appearance of the spinning beach-ball (or pizza?) whenever I tried to switch from iTunes to Safari, and to the fact that MS Word would take minutes to load if Safari was busy. Etcetera.
What made all this worse was that my other Mac is an original MacBook Air: wonderfully light, but with the smallest and slowest hard disk known to mankind. It’s a sealed unit, with no way to upgrade anything. I briefly considered adding some memory to the Mac Mini, but watching a video of the procedure persuaded me that I shouldn’t even try. I had to face the fact that I didn’t have a usably fast Mac. I did have the cursed (replacement) HP laptop, which showed what an Intel i5 with 4GB could do, but that beast runs Windows 7 and is mostly used for games and various experiments using VirtualBox.
A few months ago, I decided that I’d had enough. I was either going to buy a new Mac Mini (and upgrade it to 4GB RAM), or get one of the new iMacs. I went back and forth, and procrastinated, and eventually decided to take the plunge. There wasn’t much price difference between the Mini (plus RAM) and iMac, but the relatively low resolution of my existing LCD display finally tipped it. I would buy an iMac, my first. “Obviously” I was going to buy it from Amazon, taking advantage of free shipping and avoiding sales tax. I waited for Amazon to show that it had units in stock…
…and then Sarah Palin changed my mind. I watched that ignorant poseur rolling her eyes at the teacher in Alaska, and read the attacks on teachers by Republican the Party of “No” legislators over the last few days, and decided that I wanted to pay my sales tax. Maybe a few bucks from the $110.91 tax would make its way into a teacher’s paycheck. So yesterday evening, I headed over to the Apple store in Palo Alto, and bought myself an Apple iMac MC508LL/A 21.5-Inch Desktop, with an Intel i3, 4GB RAM, and a 500GB 7200rpm HD. I brought it home, unpacked it, plugged it in, and pushed the power button.
Nothing. Repeatedly, nothing.
You know what’s going to come next, don’t you? Today I packed it up, took it back to the store, and it booted up just fine. So I made a “Genius Bar” appointment for Saturday morning (just in case), came home, and set the machine up. I planned to transfer the data and apps from the Mini using FireWire, but I found that I didn’t have a suitable cable. So I wound up doing it over WiFi, which took about 8 hours.
The machine is sweet. Very fast, a beautiful 1920×1080 display, nice wireless keyboard and mouse. I launched a dozen tabs in Safari and started sync’ing my iPad, and then fired up MS Word. It opened even faster than on my Windows 7 machine.
For now, I’m simply replacing the Mini with the iMac. All of the peripherals from the Mini are plugged in to the iMac, and it’s acting as print and scan server for all our computers. Eventually I plan to run the Mini, headless, as a print and media server, but I’ll take the opportunity to do a clean reinstall of OS X beforehand. And with any luck I’ll be cancelling that date with the “Genius Bar”.