Monday, March 17, 2008

The Mac Mini as a Laptop and VMWare Fusion

I needed a new laptop because the one I had borrowed had disk errors in the Windows registry, as disks do after too long running Windows. Since I find laptop screens, keyboards and mice uniformly awkward, I bought a laptop without the keyboard, mouse or screen - a Mac Mini. (Frys, US$750)

The upsides, apart from being less than half the price of a decent Mac laptop, are that it really is compact and there are some decent virtualization choices (Bootcamp, Parallels and Fusion). I went with VMWare Fusion and overall, it behaves as you might wish. Easy to install, cheap at $100 and runs most VMWare images.

The downsides of not buying a laptop are that power outages become more significant without a battery, and perhaps the disk drive isn't mounted in a suitable manner for carrying the box in a bag every day? Swapping from VM to VM, or VM to host OS sent the swap rate soaring, so I installed an extra 1GB of RAM to help with that. While installing the extra memory, I took a good look at the hard disk and it seems to be mounted just as it would be in a laptop, so I'm hoping that the disk will survive being moved every day. If anyones else has experience with mac mini hard disk lifetimes, I'd be interested to hear from you.

And so today, I had another "virtualization is great" moment. The server that I had traveled an hour to work on was busy having its motherboard replaced. Since I actually wanted to work on was the OS configuration, so I booted the Windows server image with Fusion on my little Mac Mini, did the necessary work, and moved right along. Very neat.