Breathing New Life Into an Old Machine

January 21, 2021 Off By JR

Nope not me. Although maybe that could be a post for another time. I am blogging to you today from my freshly refurbished Mac Mini, 2012! Apparently this was the last Mac Mini that could easily have its internal parts swapped out, and I was lucky enough to bump into a tutorial that pitched the idea of replacing the hard drive as well as the ram. I bought this machine shortly after finishing grad school in 2013. I’m never one to buy the latest and greatest when it comes to, pretty much anything. My first laptop was used, 2007 Macbook that I bought just before my internship for teaching in 2008. When a lightning storm disabled my 17″ iMac (yeah the little white plastic one) in 2008, I picked up a used 2007 aluminum one. This 2012 Mac Mini was a refurbished model I bought at a local Apple reseller.

This attitude doesn’t stop with computers. When I was in highschool I was desperate for a Sega Dreamcast, and super fortunate to have gotten one, at the end of 2002, a full year after they ended production. To be honest, it’s still one of my favourite things to play games on. I pickedup a WiiU at the end of its lifespan in 2014/15 and co-incidentally, that is what I’m playing these days (a game originally released in 2010, and the next one I’ll start is from 2014). Going beyond electronics I have this same tendency when it comes to vehicles.

I think it would be a fairly common experience where I’m from that if you get your first vehicle in high school it might be as old as you are. In my case, it was a Mercury Cougar from the mid 80s. I loved the heck out of this car for lots of reasons, but I also learned a lot from it. I went to a highschool that had a mechanics program which I enrolled in every year I was there. In those classes we learned about everything from cooling systems, to fuel systems, to brakes and suspension. There were project cars in the shop owned by the school, but once you hit that driver’s license age and had your own vehicle, the classes ended up being play and explore time to figure your car our and fix things. It was at this time that I really enjoyed taking cars apart and putting them back together, I rebuild the upper-engine in that Cougar and considered going to the local polytech to become a mechanic. Life has a funny way of taking you on paths you don’t expect, and I ended up with tendinitis in high school bad enough I couldn’t even hold a pen. Eventually I came around to the idea of teaching so that I could still do crafts and trades work without the risk of ending up with something worse than tendinitis, which ironically put me in the category of “those who can’t, teach”.

Over time though, I worked on other vehicles, either mine or for friends and family and I slowly came to hate it. Hate is the wrong word. Irritable. Too many times of something going wrong, or getting into something that should be a 10 minute job and it turning into two hours. I still do quite a bit of the work on my own vehicle now, but am really lucky to be in the position of knowing others who are more skilled than me who are quite happy to take my money for the work. But what does this have to do with the Mac Mini JR? Ok, ok, I’ll get there.

So, this Mac Mini I’ve had for nearly ten years and has been so good to me became unusably slow. Even moving the cursor back and forth on the screen was laggy. Writing this post, I would have typed a whole paragraph, could have gone and poured a drink, and come back to the paragraph finally displaying. I had thought about upgrading the RAM for years, which I’d done on a previous laptop, but just never got around to it. Finally, I got annoyed enough and found the perfect walkthrough article. The article mentioned that the harddrive could also be easily replaced. So I ordered up two RAM chips and a new SSD, found a good deal on a screw driver kit and all things came together on the same day from different resources. I might have left it to the weekend, but I couldn’t wait. It felt a bit like those feelings I had working on cars. I’m just replacing solid parts. All that’s involved is cap screws. This should be simple, but there’s always the risk of messing up (or having left over screws!)

Lucky for me the parts swap took about 40 minutes (10 minutes longer than the estimate). I also got to learn about creating a bootable USB drive with terminal, which made me think of the Command Line stuff I learned a bit about this summer thanks to the Reclaim Cloud beta testing. Restore from backup and I couldn’t be more blown away by this machine. It reaffirms in my mind that more things we have should be upgradable instead of having to buy new. So, here’s to blogging at faster speeds!