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Dave H

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Mar 2, 2008
344
4
California
Hi, our previous Mac is mostly gathering dust. I would like to make it useful again. I have been looking into it for a while and not sure where to go from here. It also has 16GB RAM and a "fast" 7200RPM 500GB hard drive. Recommendations and voice of experience welcome. Thank you.
 

Dave H

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Mar 2, 2008
344
4
California
What do you want to use it for? Ubuntu would probably work pretty well.
Thank you for your reply. What would I use it for? Most likely trying out an alternate OS that is getting updated, and web browsing and email.
I'm typing this on the one in my sig if that would be a better candidate.
 
Last edited:

izzy0242mr

macrumors 6502a
Jul 24, 2009
670
479
Thank you for your reply. What would I use it for? Most likely trying out an alternate OS that is getting updated, and web browsing and email.
I'm typing this on a 2012 Mac Mini i5/16GB/500GB SSD if that would be a better candidate.
If you're just wanting to "try something new," Ubuntu is a good option. There may be other Linux distros that are better, but Ubuntu is pretty widely supported. I would maybe just google a bit, look on this site and others like reddit, for "Ubuntu on 2011 Mac mini" and see if you can find good guides or success stories. I don't know which would be the better candidate, but both are old and in theory Ubuntu would work well on either.
 

Dave H

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Mar 2, 2008
344
4
California
If you're just wanting to "try something new," Ubuntu is a good option. There may be other Linux distros that are better, but Ubuntu is pretty widely supported. I would maybe just google a bit, look on this site and others like reddit, for "Ubuntu on 2011 Mac mini" and see if you can find good guides or success stories. I don't know which would be the better candidate, but both are old and in theory Ubuntu would work well on either.
Thank you again. I have also been looking into other uses, if they would make practical sense. For example, if I used either Mini as a router, it would be much more powerful than my existing 802.11AC-capable ASUS, but with two catches. Being limited to 802.11n and needing a compatible dongle, IIRC.
 

Yael-S.

macrumors member
Nov 1, 2022
64
74
7200RPM 500GB hard drive
If you want it to boot quickly on this HDD, you better choose Void Linux than Ubuntu. Void Linux often boots 22 seconds faster on HDDs than Ubuntu. It's a bit less focused on user-friendliness, but if you want to learn, Void Linux is easier rather than difficult if you can read and understand a manual. I don't know which arch your hardware is exactly, but one of the following options should work:


Are you planning to use the device for music/films/series?
In that case I would rather recommend helloSystem/GhostBSD/OpenBSD/FreeBSD instead of Linux.
The reason is that BSD has the best sound architecture of all operating systems, and Linux just the worst.

I can tell you my impressions with pulseaudio on Linux, I have used Linux for a long time on five different laptops/netbooks/desktops. A first impression I have is that the audio quality differs on Linux depending on which app and what type of connection you use (analog/HDMI/SPDIF etc.) I found the audio on Clear Linux terrible out-of- the-box on the analog (green) connection of my PC. With Ubuntu on other hardware I did an experiment with Quod Libet. You can easily get bitperfect sound through the settings of this audio player. I then compared this sound in bitperfect mode with FreeBSD's sound in bitperfect mode on the same hardware. And the sound sounded distorted on Ubuntu, quite noticeably distorted I mean. Other people could also hear this so it's not my imagination. On Arch Linux I found the audio better than on Ubuntu and Clear Linux, but not on the same level as FreeBSD either. I've used Arch Linux for a long time on several different types of hardware. In the end there is only one Linux setup where I managed to get decent sound out of Linux. This was a laptop with Fedora that I connected to the TV with HDMI, but I used an HDMI splitter that also had a SPDIF output to the 5.1 DTS Sony amp in combination with fancy Infinity speakers. Then in mpv media player I used the SPDIF passthrough option, and when I played movies that had DTS sound the sound was really impressive. But this is the only setup out of many different setups that accidentally delivered decent sound in Linux. So the overall picture is really not good, and I think windows usually has better audio than Linux.

It may be that Linux's audio is 'good enough' for you personally. But based on many other sources I can say it's not on par with FreeBSD's sound:
Why do people dislike PulseAudio?
https://www.reddit.com/r/linux/comments/6h2rvk Why is audio still so awful on linux?
https://www.reddit.com/r/linuxquestions/comments/bxo4uk So fast forward to 2007, when PulseAudio is actually unleashed upon the computers of everyone else except Lennart and his friends as it's adopted and enabled by default in Fedora 8. To put it mildly, nothing worked anymore. Very literally -- when we installed it at the crufty place where I held a part-time job there, it broke sound on every single one of the 10-15 different configurations we had, from laptops to desktops.
Why OSS sound quality is superior vs ALSA
OSS
Open Sound System (OSS4) superior to ALSA
 
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Dave H

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Mar 2, 2008
344
4
California
Are you planning to use the device for music/films/series?
In that case I would rather recommend helloSystem/GhostBSD/OpenBSD/FreeBSD instead of Linux.
The reason is that BSD has the best sound architecture of all operating systems, and Linux just the worst.
I used to do a little video editing with iMovie on a G4 many years ago.
In a nutshell, and trying to keep away from TMI, I'm in a rut, and I'm looking to do something interesting/useful with what I have on hand, spending as little as possible.
 

Yael-S.

macrumors member
Nov 1, 2022
64
74
I used to do a little video editing with iMovie on a G4 many years ago.
In a nutshell, and trying to keep away from TMI, I'm in a rut, and I'm looking to do something interesting/useful with what I have on hand, spending as little as possible.
You can also do that with helloSystem/GhostBSD/Dragonfly BSD/OpenBSD/FreeBSD
Here are the most commonly used open source video editors:

I would first try one of the above BSD systems and if you don't like them then I would advise you to test Void Linux.

Now I don't know what your technical knowledge is either. Suppose if you want to invest very little time in your learning curve then Nobara Project (or Fedora), Mint, MX Linux, Artix Linux, EndeavourOS and Devuan might be the best.
 

Yael-S.

macrumors member
Nov 1, 2022
64
74
FWIW I've used ubuntu desktop and am currently running ubuntu server on a mid 2010 mini and did not have any issues getting it set up.

This is the model:
The reason I first recommended BSD and then systems like Mint instead of Ubuntu has several reasons.

BSD's file systems are more mature and more integrated, and there are few parts of an operating system more important than a file system. With ZFS you have less chance of corrupt files in case of power loss, even if you don't use ECC RAM.

File system aside, BSD is more robust than Linux in other areas as well. I've been using Linux for over 10 years and with many distros it's not rare that you have a complete system crash. By that I mean you can no longer properly shut down or make the system respond, your only option is to turn off power to the system while the system is running. This is one of the worst things you can do with a PC.

On FreeBSD, I've never seen a full system crash. The session may crash on FreeBSD, but then you can press the power button briefly to get it to shut down properly. Or, for example, you can also switch to another virtual terminal, close the problematic session, and open a new one without restarting the computer.

These are not small or insignificant differences, but are actually about 'basic stability'. BSD fares much better there than Linux, macOS and windows.

Then there are also several reasons why I recommended Mint instead of Ubuntu. Snap apps use more space on your file system than any of the other options. They also start the slowest of all the options out there. And once they are opened it turns out that they also usually give slightly lower performance than Nix, Guix, Flatpak, AppImage, deb/rpm, ... Furthermore, Mint has also been putting more effort into polishing their desktop for years than Ubuntu. Mint has years of refinements to the default Cinammon desktop, while Ubuntu uses a slightly modified version of Gnome. For newcomers, Cinnamon is usually more familiar than Gnome, and Mint's file manager is also better than Ubuntu's. These are just some of the many subtle changes Mint has made over the years, which Ubuntu has not made because Ubuntu only recently switched from Unity to Gnome.
 
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