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  • Another Ancient Mac Resurrected




    This week I finally got around to upgrading the 13 year old Mac Mini that Ann Shelbourne brought over from B&H for me on our first trip to Sabi Sabi. 


    When I got my 27" iMac I gave the Mini to my younger son to use as a music production computer. This was around 7 years ago. It sat unused on his desk until I decided that it might make a decent media server, or a test environment for building websites. I don't think he even noticed it was missing. :) 


    Anyway, it worked very well as a media server, but then I thought I would try to use it as a tethering computer since it could still run both the Lumix and OM Systems tethering software. Obviously it is no speed demon being a 2,4Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo with 8GB of 1067MHz RAM, but it worked very well with tethering. 


    Recently I decided to use my 13" MacBook Pro as my tethering computer because of the additional screen (nice to see the live view and the image just taken on a different screen), so I moved the old Mini next to my 2018 Mini, plugged it into the equally old 27" Apple Cinema display and have been using it purely for instant messaging and as a second browsing screen. I use the excellent Synergy app to share my mouse and keyboard from my current Mac Mini on the old one too. But... recently I was getting warnings from Brave browser saying that it couldn't get any more upgrades since the macOS was too old (this was Sierra). It was only a matter of time before the computer became completely redundant. 


    So I bought a cheap 128GB SSD and following the instructions on a few You Tube channels I set about installing this hard drive to the Mini. It's not terribly difficult to do, but it isn't as easy as working on the MacBook Pro I have. You have to take a lot of stuff out of the way to gain access to the place where the drive is installed. 


    The plan was to install the blank SSD, then with the use of a dock I have and Apple's Disk Utility, copy over the contents of the original HDD. For some strange reason the Disk Utility program refused to do this saying that there wasn't enough space on the destination drive (the 128GB). The entire contents of the old 320GB spinning drive were only about 55GB, so this didn't make much sense. 


    At this point I thought that maybe the best option would be to simply follow the internet recovery process that Apple has. There wasn't anything I needed on the original drive anyway, so why not start with a fresh install. This vintage of Mac originally shipped with Lion as the OS, so it would be interesting to see what that looked like compared to what we currently have. 


    I did the required reboot and holding down the CMD+R soon discovered that Apple would not let me install that OS to my now blank Mac Mini. I just got some cryptic message on the screen. 


    It was at this point that the cursing started. 


    As it turns out Apple do not have the Lion OS available on the recovery system, so if you have a Mac that shipped with that one (or earlier) you need to make another plan. Ok, I thought, I will just get the last supported OS, which was Sierra. And this is where things got really frustrating. 


    Apple have a link on their support pages to the older OS versions, but for Sierra they do not provide this as an upgrade app like they do for all the later OS versions. They provide you with a DMG, which they ask you to unpack and then run as an install pkg. Except that when you do that this is what you get greeted with: 




    You can't make a bootable USB with the supplied file from Apple. 


    So, what to do? At this point I was thinking the only way back would be to re-install the original HDD but with that being such a mission I thought I would have to try something else. Fortunately I had to go out to a property shoot which let me clear my head and think about the problem while stepping away from it. 


    What I decided to do was just go straight for the jugular and install Monterey OS fresh onto the Mini. I didn't know if this was even possible with Open Core Legacy Patcher, but apparently it is. I followed all the instructions on this video and in spite of this taking an inordinately long time, by 8.30pm I had Monterey installed and working on my 13 year old Mac Mini. I had started the job 12 hours earlier! 


    I have to say that the work these folks who make OCLP available to us are doing is just wonderful. The Mac Mini is now running perfectly on Monterey and barring any attempts at scuttling it with over the air updates from the money grubbing Apple Inc. company it should go on being useful for a few more years. 


    The only thing I can't get to work properly is Universal Control, which is where you can use the same keyboard and mouse / trackpad on more than one Mac. It will work with iPads, but not with other Macs. This is a bit disappointing but I think it has something to do with the Bluetooth modules. 


    One of the cool features with OCLP is that now you can also add the non-Metal GPU patches to the system and pretty much get the same visual experience as a native Monterey machine. 


    I would like to try and build out a Mac Pro cheese grater tower with OCLP as a project. Those were wonderful computers. 

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    It's been almost a week since I got this old girl updated to Monterey and so far it's been (mostly) OK. 


    It's definitely nowhere near as responsive as I would have hoped it would be with the SSD. I think that the old spinning HDD was probably about the same speed in terms of opening apps. But it is stable. 


    Things that have improved are the use of the Synergy mouse and keyboard sharing app. On the old system the mouse movements were pretty jerky and the computer wouldn't always reliably find the server. On this OS I am using the same version of Synergy on both platforms and it somehow seems to always pick up the right IP address of the server. No fiddling with that every morning on start up. 


    Speaking of start up, I have it set to verbose mode, so you can see what is happening while the machine boots up (if you can read that fast!), but it still takes a fair amount of time to get to the login screen. Not too long but compared to the other 2018 Mini on my desk it's very much the tortoise (2010) and the hare (2018), where the hare doesn't stop for a cuppa. :) 


    Things that are not working properly are the sleep / screensaver. They don't kick in when they are supposed to. Surprisingly the scheduled power down I have set for 19:45 daily does seem to work, but then the scheduled power up at 06:00 doesn't. 


    Another very strange quirk is the audio out. This seems to randomly flit between headphones and display audio which can be quite annoying, especially when listening to Apple Music on my desktop stereo system via the 3.5mm jack. I will look into fixing this one because I really need it to work since the audio out from the 2010 Mini is several orders better than the one coming out of the 2018 Mac Mini on the other side of the desk. Don't know why that would be? Must be a better DAC, I guess. 


    Other than those niggles, it seems to be running smoothly. :) 

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