Repurposed an old Mac Mini

In the process of getting a Hadoop cluster running on many of the machines around my household (made possible and relatively uniform thanks to virtual machines running in VirtualBox and VMWare), I ran across issues with getting an old Mac Mini to help the cluster out.  It was of the first Intel Mac Mini’s from 2006 and was a 32-bit processor only (a 1.83 GHz Core Duo, to be precise).  New Cloudera deployments only go 64-bit.

Luckily, I had an old Core 2 Duo lying around from another Mac Mini that bit the dust a year ago, so I was able to put the processor in.

In the process, I rediscovered the plastic push pins that hold the cpu heatsink in.  In short, these things were never meant to come out again, and invariably break.  Again, luckily, some 4-40 machine screws and nuts from Lowe’s helped replace those pieces of plastic junk.

Finally, 64-bit is good, but 2GB of max RAM by default isn’t that much.  The firmware on the 2006 Mac Mini was limited to 2GB, but it’s the same hardware as the 2007 Mac Mini, which supported 4GB of RAM (3GB addressable).  So I found the user hack to get the new firmware on there … and voila … a 2GB + 1GB config installed and the machine sees 3GB of RAM … which gives me a little bit of breathing room to put VM’s on the machine.

As a side note, I really dislike the OS obsolescence being forced on some of this perfectly working hardware.  There isn’t much good reason to stop updating these machines.  In fact, I rather like the Mac Mini’s because the idle power consumption lets you run them 24/7 without burning money.  Even as old hardware, they end up still being useful to host apps and background services.  I suppose if push comes to shove, I will probably find a way to hack Ubuntu onto the native hardware.

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2 Responses to Repurposed an old Mac Mini

  1. Jordan says:

    I’ve got an old Mac Powerbook 190. Wonder how I can upgrade that 25mHz chip….hmm.

  2. Lucas says:

    I’m in the same situation right now with my Intel Mac Mini as well! I’ve already updated the ram to 2gb, hdd to 320gb 7200rpm, and the cpu from a T5600 to a T7400. The performance increase was great.. it’s really a shame that I’m now being forced to install Windows on it in order to keep using it. You are right about the forced obsolescence of the OS on this machine; I’m actually quite upset about it. I’m looking into upgrading to Lion right now, but I’m not sure that it’ll work… 😦

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