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The headless horserider.. er... mac mini

My mac mini finally arrived last friday. First impressions: man, that's mini!

I convinced myself I'ld need a mac mini to testdrive my panoramic viewing engine. Unfortunately the 32 Mb of video RAM is really the lower end of the range of what's acceptable on OS X for my stuff. OS X also takes up quite some video memory to achieve it's spiffy Exposé etc tricks. However, other hardware accellerated panorama engines are starting to appear for OS X, and they have a bit better performance even on this mac mini, so I should be able to squeeze a bit more out of it myself...

Since I barely have room for my old 17" CRT display and my Tablet PC, and I gave my KVM switch to my brother some time ago, I plan to use the mini headless untill I buy a new TFT with dual inputs. I'll be using OS X VNC to operate it over the network. As some people have noticed, the mac mini detects if you are running headless and somewhat logically gives you a different, limited set of resolutions to chose from. While this may be a nuisance to some, I didn't mind running at 1024*768. But other than limiting the display resolution to 800*600 or 1024*768, running headless also seems to put the ATI graphics chip in some sort of low-power mode. All 3d heavy applications, not just SPi-V, completely locked the machine up. I guess this shows the close relation of the mini to it's notebook past. Interestingly, OS X's Aqua Extreme doesn't seem to be affected.

The solution is to use a VGA dummy; ie: soldering 3 resitors to a VGA conenctor, and fooling the mini into thinking there's a monitor attached. This solves the resolution problem and the 3d problem (and I didn't even blow up my computer this time...)

As an aside, when I used the mac mini directly with the CRT, I too had the impressions the screen was overly dark, and even a bit blurry. This morning I tried again with a DVI to VGA port adapter I got with the Geforce 5700 in my new PC, and while I could not do a real site-by-side comparisson, the picture seemed to be brighter and sharper. So it seems Apple does have a bit of a problem on it's hands, but it's probably in the DVI to VGA adapter, not in the mac mini motherboard...