Sunday, August 22, 2010

Magic TrackPad & Mac Mini Server

The Apple Magic Trackpad brings the power of the mobile trackpad’s gestures to the Mac Desktop. For years users have struggled with pointing devices on portable machines from the little eraser in the middle of the keyboard to a small trackpad in the palm rest of the keyboard. Many of us carried USB or Bluetooth mice so we could get some work done while we were on the road. Finally in late 2009 when Apple introduced the Unibody Macbook Pro we got a larger trackpad and it was made of glass to make it more pleasant to touch. The buttons were done away with and the whole surface gained a mechanical click. Apple also added gestures beyond just the mere two finger scroll up, down, left, and right. We were treated to pinch, stretch, rotate, and given extra options based on how many fingers were touching the surface just like our iPhones and iPads.
With this leap forward in touch technology many portable Mac users started ignoring the mouse and started enjoying the touch pad and what it could do. Sometimes sitting at a desktop machine we started feeling limited. So just a couple short weeks ago Apple solved that problem by building a stand alone trackpad. The Magic TrackPad is 80% larger than the trackpad built into current laptops. Measuring a whopping 5.2” x 4.3” it gives the user much more surface area to work with. The Magic TrackPad requires OS X 10.6.4 or Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7 and works in both 32 and 64 bit versions.
Windows drivers currently only support left and right clicking, as well as scrolling. No other gestures or inertial scrolling support seems to be available at this time. On the Mac I have no problem using the trackpad on the Windows side the control doesn’t feel quiet as fine and I switched back to the Magic Mouse on my Windows PC.
With all of our devices like the iPhone, iPad, and MacBook/Macbook Pro all supporting multi-touch it was just a matter of time before the technology made it to our iMacs, Mac-Mini’s and Mac Pros. The one thing that still feels like it is missing is the ability to use a pen with the Magic TrackPad. This would be a great device to sketch or sign your name if they support pressure sensitivity. Currently there is software for the Macbook Pro allowing you to use the Trackpad as a signature pad with a Pogo Stylus. This should work with the Magic TrackPad as well. I know Steve Jobs isn’t a fan of pens but there are some instances when it might be convenient for using the iPad or Magic TrackPad as a tablet for drawing or signing documents or any other application where fine detail control is required.
Overall I recommend the Magic TrackPad for 99% of tasks. I do sometimes still like to reach for the Magic Mouse as well so having them both hooked up is a perfectly valid choice as well. With Bluetooth we can hook a number of keyboards and other devices and not add extra cables to our setup. Currently on my desktop machine I have an Apple Apple Bluetooth Wireless Keyboard, Apple Magic Mouse, and Apple Magic TrackPad. I am considering adding a SMC Bluetooth Calculator/10 key in case I have to type large amounts of numbers.

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The Mac Mini Server is the newest edition to our network. It is the same size as the older Mac Minis but missing the optical drive. In its place is an extra 500 GB Hard Drive. Allowing the user to use the extra drive as separate storage, a RAID mirror, or concatenate the drives together to make a 1 terabyte drive. We will go into these options in a future post and why you would or wouldn’t want to choose them.
The Mac Mini Server is just as easy to hook up as a traditional Mac however, make sure you have a USB keyboard and mouse handy for the initial setup. The Setup Assistant on OS X 10.6 Server doesn’t work with any bluetooth devices. Hopefully Apple will fix that issue in the near future. Also the Server addition requires the user to type in a long registration key which is not very Apple like at all. I have always enjoyed the fact that I never had to type a serial number to install a copy of OS X. Something Windows users have always had the hassle of dealing with.
The Setup Assistant walks you through all of the things you might like to do with your server like File sharing, email, iCal, Address Book, DNS, Open Directory, Podcast Production, Quicktime Broadcasting, web services, iChat, Software Update, etc. With each one you check off it ads to the questions you will be asked so when you are finished your server is 99% of the way setup. Most users will not need this much power or these services at home. This is more meant for the small business. If you run a small to medium sized business this can get you up and running with your own internal MobileMe services for the price of one server instead of $99.00 per year per user. Plus it gives you the control of your own servers.
The cost to entry for a small business is reasonable at $999.00 with unlimited licenses. A similarly equipped Dell server costs about $800.00 before you add in the cost of the OS which is about $276.99 on Amazon for a 5 client license. For each extra 5 clients you want to add tack on another $166.23.
Snow Leopard server in addition to providing Apple File Protocol (AFP) it also supports Windows SMB sharing, and Unix NFS sharing. OS X also supports Open Directory authentication and Windows Active Directory Authentication so it will play nice with your Macs and your PC’s. The remote admin tools also allow you to totally manage your Mac Mini server from your desktop. This particular feature is of course Mac only.
The Mac servers aren’t quiet the server for the rest of us like the rest of Mac line. It does take some knowledge and experience to set it up. If you are a small business I highly recommend seeking out an experienced Mac consultant or contact your local Apple Store Business Group for assistance. It may take a little more effort to setup up initially but the long term benefit of stability, security, and reliability are worth it.
The Mac mini server is a platform that can grow with your small business and with multiple Mac Minis support clustering of services to give even small users a robust configuration that includes the ability to fail over to a backup server. For larger businesses and more critical systems Apple also makes an XServe that is built for larger corporations to use with redundent power supplies and extra NICs.
For a small business one or two Mac Mini servers with a Drobo file storage solution is a great scalable solution with good redundancy to help reduce downtime and data loss if a drive were to go bad.

Apple Mac mini MC408LL/A Snow Leopar...

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