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Hardware Hacking Desktops (Apple) Hardware

Mac mini to PC Hack 692

Posted by michael
from the squeeze-play dept.
DiZASTiX writes "Kevin Rose, the ever so popular host of G4/TechTV's The Screen Savers, has managed to fit a PC inside the Mac mini. 'I've seen a ton of articles around the web lately comparing the Mac mini to the near full size desktop PC. What they fail to compare is the amount of computing power per square inch you get with the Mini. So, I decided to take it upon myself to create the fastest PC possible with the size constraints of the Mini's small form factor.' The article covers most everything he did and includes pictures."
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Mac mini to PC Hack

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  • by Paolo DF (849424) * on Sunday January 30, 2005 @07:09PM (#11523507)
    Well, fun would be in hiding a McIntosh motherboard inside an nonymous PC case. Now, *that* would puzzle the standard user. "Hey, how may I lower-right-side-button double-click with this mouse?" ;-)
  • by LittleGuernica (736577) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @07:13PM (#11523546) Homepage
    Seems like Slashdot has the Mac mini-news-o-matic up and running at full speed. Not that I blame them, it's so hip it can barely see over it's pelvis...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 30, 2005 @07:16PM (#11523567)
    Not that I don't think that's a cool or challenging thing to do, but how exactly is that a hack?
  • Why bother? (Score:5, Funny)

    by spungo (729241) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @07:16PM (#11523571)
    There are some people in this world who should be removed in order to spare us their crushing banality.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 30, 2005 @07:22PM (#11523633)
    power per square inch you get with the mini

    That's what I keep trying to tell her. But it's all about size, size, size...
  • faster?!? (Score:5, Informative)

    by ecloud (3022) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @07:23PM (#11523640) Homepage Journal
    No way is a 1 GHz Via Nehemiah going to be faster than a 1.25 GHz G4. The mini is already one of the fastest PCs (personal computer, this includes macs by the way) that has been fit into such a small space.

    I have an Epia system; to me it feels pretty anemic for its clock speed in comparison to say a PII or better.
    • Re:faster?!? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by timeOday (582209) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @07:53PM (#11523872)
      The mini is already one of the fastest PCs (personal computer, this includes macs by the way) that has been fit into such a small space.
      Really? I think there are scores of laptops out there that would spank it.
      • Re:faster?!? (Score:4, Informative)

        by colmore (56499) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @08:34PM (#11524182) Journal
        Have you *seen* a Mac Mini? The thing is small. Sit it on the palm of your hand, you'll have trouble believing it. You really need to be in Sony Picturebook territory to compare.
      • Re:faster?!? (Score:3, Informative)

        by Zoop (59907)
        I think there are scores of laptops out there that would spank it.

        I dunno. I just saw the thing in person today for the first time. It's small, and its internal space would be about the same as a small notebook (not a subnotebook, as they usually rely on external CD-ROMs). And the smaller notebooks have not been speed demons, even in raw MHz.

        Certainly none of the desktop-replacement Wintel laptops I've seen have that little volume--they're gargantuan. In fact, the only thing that would equal it is, well,
    • No way is a 1 GHz Via Nehemiah going to be faster than a 1.25 GHz G4.

      The VIA unichrome video chipset using shared memory is a poor substitute for a Radeon 9200 with dedicated memory.
  • So.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by beelsebob (529313) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @07:24PM (#11523646)
    It's lacking a CD drive, it's probably gonna overheat because he trimmed down the heat sync provided and it's a slower CPU... I say that the phrase we're all looking for is:

    macMiniScore++;
    • Re:So.. (Score:5, Funny)

      by indianropeburn (669243) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @07:41PM (#11523790) Homepage Journal
      not to mention he rested his HD on top of the modified heat sink. i'm waiting for the update on this article which demonstrates video footage of accessing a folder, watching the hard drive spin up, then burst into flames.
    • Do you think this will void his Apple warranty?
  • Summary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pan T. Hose (707794) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @07:25PM (#11523657) Homepage Journal
    From the article: "Additional thoughts: Due to size restrictions, fitting a CD-ROM drive in the mini enclosure would be impossible with this motherboard. Luckily, this motherboard supports pretty much every external bootable device, including bootable CD-ROM and USB thumb drives."

    You should not only fit a CD-ROM, but actually a DVD-RW combo. In other words, you have failed to fit a PC in Mac Mini, so comparing its speed or price is quite pointless. I hate to say it as a PC user, but the result of this experiment is clear: Mac: 1, PC: 0.
    • Naaah. (Score:3, Funny)

      by Faust7 (314817)
      the result of this experiment is clear: Mac: 1, PC: 0.

      Nonsense. Give Dell or HP a little time and motivation, and I'm sure they could pull it off. Hell, maybe IBM has a patent rotting in a drawer somewhere to help this kind of thing.

      The result of this experiment is more like:

      Lame tinkerers with way too much time: 0
      Everyone else: 1
      • Re:Naaah. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Dominic_Mazzoni (125164) on Monday January 31, 2005 @12:15AM (#11525604) Homepage
        Nonsense. Give Dell or HP a little time and motivation, and I'm sure they could pull it off. Hell, maybe IBM has a patent rotting in a drawer somewhere to help this kind of thing.

        You've got to be kidding. IBM just sold its PC hardware division. Dell doesn't make motherboards, they just put things together - and there aren't ANY shipping motherboards that fit into a Mac mini case...the only one found in this article was a pre-release unit, and even with that one, there was no room for a CD-ROM drive of any type.

        I'm sure there will eventually be an equivalent PC this size, but the fact is that it's impossible with any existing technology, and Apple has a huge head start. It will be at least a year before PCs catch up in this particular niche market, and Apple will continue to innovate...
  • by Faust7 (314817) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @07:25PM (#11523663) Homepage
    So he takes everything inside the case that makes a Mac a Mac, guts it, and puts in everything that Apple hopes people are leaving behind for the Mac.

    I have to admit, it has a kind of black symmetry to it.
  • by onelin (116589) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @07:26PM (#11523671)
    The http://www.cappuccinopc.com/ [cappuccinopc.com] has been out long before the Mac Mini, and the original was even a smaller form-factor, with modern P4 variants just slightly larger.

    Anyway, this whole article is missing the point. Cheap OS X is good for everybody! I wouldn't buy a PC that small even though there's the option...

  • Coincidence? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Greger47 (516305) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @07:26PM (#11523672)
    The Mac mini box is 16.5 cm along the edges. Compare that to the mini-ITX PC boards that are 17x17 cm.

    I guess Apple decided to give all those nerds that insist on "upgrading" their Macs with a PC mobo a challenge. :) /greger

  • by teeheehee (12647) * on Sunday January 30, 2005 @07:28PM (#11523683) Homepage
    Call me Rip Van Winkle, because I must have taken a nap for too long and missed out on the beginning of perhaps the most annoying, selfish comments to hit blogdom. It's like the freakin' Avon of the Internet on that page with everyone trying to get referrals for their own mini Mac.

    Give the man props for his work on his site, don't be a smarmy pissant and use the popularity of his work to increase your chances at winning a Mac mini. If it's so precious and you have to have it, sell your current machine, get a part time job, and actually make the $500 it takes to buy the thing.

    I am curious as to how many blog sites have a commenting community with so much self-zeal. I feel sorry for the frequent site visitors, who must find it necessary to wash themselves vigorously with soap and scalding hot water.
    • I'm with you (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SuperKendall (25149) * on Sunday January 30, 2005 @07:56PM (#11523899)
      I would like a Mac mini myself, but my plans are pretty much to buy one when budgets allow I cannot believe how many people are suckered into this weird pyrami scheme and then flail around wildly seeking other victims to torment.

      I would say that time would be better spent hawking things you really do not need on eBay in order to raise funds.

    • ...don't be a smarmy pissant and use the popularity of his work to increase your chances at winning a Mac mini

      Although I agree with you, this Kevin Rose chap seems to be actively encouraging [kevinrose.com] exactly those comments.

      Pyramid schemes provide benefits to

      <acronym title="suckers">participants</acronym>

      in inverse proportion to the expontentially growing userbase. There's a finite number of people who will follow you into these things, and only those who get in very early stand a chance of attrac

  • by asv108 (141455)
    Is still on the air? Before the Comcast merger, I did tivo the Screensavers. I have never seen a product or company turn to such complete and utter crap, so quickly almost instantly, after a merger.
    • I agree. The Screensavers said goodbye to most of the truly knowledgable members of the staff. Now looks like MTV for the dork generation. While this only slightly peeves me, they then killed Unscrewed, which honestly was the second best show they had behind X-play. The only real benefit I've seen is they seem to only show Robot Wars half as much as Tech TV did before the merger.
  • Look (Score:5, Funny)

    by chia_monkey (593501) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @07:31PM (#11523709) Journal
    Look everyone! I've figured out how to put my Ford engine, stereo, and electrical system into my Porche! Read all the details at www.whywouldiwanttodothis.com
    • It exists, it's called a "kit car", and they have been popular for years.
  • by lax-goalie (730970) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @07:33PM (#11523721)
    I thought this was cool, until the "can't fit a CD-ROM" part.

    All this proves is you can fit a lower-powered nano-ITX mobo in the same case as a Mac Mini, and power it up. But it's not the same, nor even complete...

    It was a cool experiment, but not a sucessful one... Hat's off to the Mac design team for shoving that much stuff into such a small box.
  • No CD/DVD (Score:3, Informative)

    by jonbrewer (11894) * on Sunday January 30, 2005 @07:35PM (#11523743) Homepage
    Due to size restrictions, fitting a CD-ROM drive in the mini enclosure would be impossible with this motherboard.

    I'd say his project failed. The whole idea of such a device is to not have all sorts of other bricks (like external media) plugged in. Esp if it is to sit next to the nice 36" LCD TV (of course using DVI connector) and act as a media box.
  • Good lord, every other entry in the discussions below that linked story were "click me for free mac mini". Idiots and their pyramid schemes...
  • I think it's cool [mirrordot.org], but there are significant caveats acknowledged in the linked story not mentioned in the article above.

    The Nano-ITX motherboard used is not commercially avalible - and it will not be avalible for general sale for some months yet. The author points outs that even using this yet-to-be released motherboard, there was no room for a CD/DVD drive. It also does not feature a built in modem or a 'Firewire' port (but I don't think that's a big deal). It doesn't appear to feature WiFi or Bluetooth
  • by Rob Wilco (640187) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @07:44PM (#11523819)
    Wow. Now all he has to do is cram a SPARC inside the PC inside the Mac Mini and he'll have Electronic Turducken.

    --
    Free iPod Photo: http://FreeiPodPhotos.com/index.php?referral=2546
    Free Mac Mini: http://www.FreeMiniMacs.com/?r=13941255
  • You could even set up darWine or some other sort of emulator on it and tell people its a prototype for the XBox 2. Nah..., that's just too evil!
  • by mrbrown1602 (536940) <mrbrownNO@SPAMmrbrown.net> on Sunday January 30, 2005 @07:55PM (#11523888) Homepage Journal
    You know, the last time somebody gutted a Mac and put a PC motherboard in it, and had the gall to post it to Slashdot... I believe that person was lynched, if I'm not mistaken.
  • by Trogre (513942) * on Sunday January 30, 2005 @07:57PM (#11523906) Homepage
    I assume they mean "computing power per cubic inch".

    Otherwise what area are they talking about? Footprint? In that case my 1.5 metre tower case would have more computing density than your desktop G4.

  • by System.out.println() (755533) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @08:00PM (#11523928) Journal
    What did it cost him to put a PC into the space Apple engineers er...engineered so precisely for their own hardware?

    - Wireless
    - Bluetooth
    - Optical drive
    - Probable heating issues later
    - SODIMM slots = more expensive RAM
    - OS X, iLife, etc.

    Also, Rose doesn't mention the cost of his parts, but I'd guess that, for the specs of the baseline mini even without the optical drive it would likely come to WELL over $500. That mobo in particular looks to be fairly pricey.

    I'm not asking "What's the point?" but rather, saying "There is no point." This is just a geek's homebrew project, and a waste of a perfectly good Mac mini.
  • by nickovs (115935) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @08:14PM (#11524014)
    None of the pictures on the page show the PC mobo going into the case. The picture called fit.jpg shows the mobo sticking out at the bottom left. The last couple of shots show no indication that the case has anything in it other than a normal Mac Mini.

    I'm not saying that these guys haven't done what they said they've done but it would have been good to have some pictures of the back of the machine with the ports or perhaps some re-assembly shows so we could see just how tight the fit is.
  • by reiggin (646111) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @08:18PM (#11524046)
    Kevin's first slashdotting... Sara must be so proud!
  • Mac Mini v2? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lux55 (532736) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @09:21PM (#11524568) Homepage Journal
  • by b-baggins (610215) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @09:52PM (#11524794) Journal
    The heat sink was too large for the case...

    I'll bet that thing sounded like a wind tunnel when you turned it on.
  • by Halo5 (63934) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @11:53PM (#11525499) Homepage
    I sold my Mini ITX (1Ghz Nehemiah) setup on eBay so that I could purchase my Mini Mac without losing any money. After having used both, I can state this difinitively: In no way does the Nehemiah come close to coming close to being as fast as the G4.

    Never mind the media encoding/decoding capabilities of the G4. It doesn't even come close in regular desktop use. Not even with Linux installed. To even do half what the G4 can do encoding/decoding wise, you'd have to add a PVR card (which won't fit in that case).

    If the guy is doing this to build the "fastest PC possible with the size constraints of the Mini's small form factor," he should have left the G4 in there (unless PC=Intel/AMD in this case).

    I'm all for hardware hacking, but I hate to see a perfectly good machine go to waste. I hope at least that he retrofitted in a non-destructive way so that he can put the original machine back together again. Some people just have too much money... :)

    BTW, If I was a VIA executive, there's no way that I would loan out a Nehemiah for review so that it could be pitted against the G4. Nothin' but bad news there. Somebody outta get fired over that one!
  • Mac Mini PC (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PhaxMohdem (809276) on Monday January 31, 2005 @02:12AM (#11526096) Homepage
    Looks like a fun project but to me, a 400 mhz slower... inferior processor and no optical drive doesn't seem like a design win to me.

    On another note, about building one of these with high end graphics.... People get so focused on off the shelf cards they forget about a whole nother breed of integrated chips.... for laptops..

    While I highly doubt the mini-itx standard will suffice in powering an x86 counterpart to the mac mini, a custom designed board with perhaps a radeon mobility 9700 or 9800 chipset would run most of the games Lan partiers play at playable framerates.

    To acheive this type of miniaturization with the level of performace as Apple has done, it will NEED a company willing to custom design a laptop board varient to fit a case, that supports such mobile chipsets. Perhaps even the ability to upgrade the mobile graphics card via a slot in the bottom of the unit.

    A dothan and a high end mobility graphics card would prove to be a nice little LAN party animal. but then the issue of $$$ comes into play a PC system outperforming the mini for $499 or less??? I highly doubt it.

    Apple Mini - 1
    PC mini - 0 & Currently TKO'd

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